LatinNews Daily - 03 February 2022

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BOLIVIA: US requests extradition of former counter-narcotics chief

On 2 February, Bolivia’s Foreign Minister Rogelio Mayta announced that the US has requested the extradition of Maximiliano Dávila, a former director of Bolivia’s counter-narcotics agency (FELCN) who is accused by US prosecutors of drug trafficking.

Analysis:

The extradition request for Dávila, who is in custody in Bolivia, is an embarrassment for the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) government led by President Luis Arce, which has repeatedly accused Arce’s predecessor, Jeanine Áñez (2019-2020), of overseeing a culture of corruption. The charges will heighten scrutiny of MAS’s drug policies and prompt calls for wider investigations into high-level corruption in Bolivian law enforcement.

  • Dávila directed the FELCN in 2019, during the final months of the Evo Morales administration (2006-2019). He was arrested on 22 January while trying to cross the border with Argentina, charged with illicit enrichment and drug trafficking offences, and placed in pre-trial detention for six months.
  • Yesterday, Mayta announced that the government is considering a US extradition request in response to charges filed in the US Southern District Court of New York accusing Dávila of “work[ing] in partnership with Bolivian drug labs… to send more than a thousand kilograms of cocaine to the United States.” The US court’s statement adds that Dávila “further abused his position by using Bolivian law enforcement officers, armed with machine guns, to guard and transport cocaine shipments.”
  • Further details of Dávila’s alleged crimes became apparent on 26 January, when Interior Minister Eduardo del Castillo revealed that intelligence from Interpol indicated that he had held a series of meetings in 2020 with a Dominican cocaine trafficker and one of Bolivia’s most notorious drug traffickers, Jorge Roca Suárez (‘Techo de Paja’). Del Castillo said that in these meetings Dávila boasted of his access to cocaine laboratories and illegal runways in an attempt to strike a deal with the Dominican, who Del Castillo only named by the initials DRC.

Looking Ahead: The government and MAS have denied that the charges against Dávila are symptomatic of wider corruption in law enforcement, with Del Castillo arguing on 26 January that the Bolivian investigation, based on the Interpol reports, concerns events that took place in 2020, after Dávila had left his post and Morales had been replaced by Áñez. However, the US claims that Dávila “abused his position” suggest a longer-running conspiracy, and are likely to be weaponised by the opposition.

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