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The war on drugs: less inspections and more results

With the opening of the Port Control Unit, Bolivia joined the countries in the region that are strengthening their customs controls through the Global Container Control Programme to fight against drug trafficking.


Nara María Romero


Resources from the European Union, Germany and the Bolivian Government, through the Support Programme of the United Nations Office on Crime and Drugs (UNODC), allowed the installation of portable X-ray equipment, distance metres and videoscopes to intercept cocaine, marijuana, synthetic drugs and precursors.

In an interview with Prensa Latina, Bob Van Den Berghe, regional coordinator of the Global Container Control Program, explained that profiling and identifying recipients of high-risk cargo is the objective of this strategy in Bolivia.

Van Den Berghe said that the port of Tambo Quemado, on the border with Chile, was the premises chosen to apply it, because it processes 80% of the goods that enter the country. He defined the fundamental pillars of the programme as security, avoiding contamination of containers and facilitating trade with customs authorities and more trained police, so as not to unnecessarily open up cargoes and delay port operations.

“We will reach a point where we will perform fewer inspections and obtain more results,” he said.

Straight Edge ahora en Bolivia. Photo
Eneas De Troya.

He stressed that the modern equipment delivered to the unit in Bolivia will help identify open sources, signs of risk, as well as aiding cooperation with the team of fixed programme coaches who return to the countries every two or three months to update working methods.

He reported that the Global Container Programme is present in the main ports of 16 countries in the region, not only focused on the seizure of drugs, but also on the smuggling of intellectual property, protected wildlife, wood and timber and counterfeits of well-known brands, among other things.

Since its creation in 2004, it covers 60 nations worldwide, connected to an encrypted communication network belonging to the World Customs Organization, and reports can be consulted by its members for possible investigations. Furthermore, the Bolivian head of Government, Carlos Romero, defined the opening of the Port Control Unit as a qualitative and technological leap in the fight against drug trafficking.

Romero recalled cases such as the concealment of controlled substances inside newborns in Colombia, tanks with false bottoms, vehicles with adaptations and other methods that, with the new equipment, will be able to measure densities and advance in control measures.

Photo: Youtube

An important fight

The political will of the Government to implement multiagency and international operational procedures based on criminal analysis and intelligence, beneficial in terms of security, was highlighted by Thierry Rostan, representative of the UNODC in Bolivia.

He stated that the opening of the Port Control Unit will allow for the exchange of information, police and judicial cooperation and human resource training, as well as favouring lawful trade.

“Worldwide, it is estimated that the movement of global maritime cargo is equivalent to 600 million containers per year, of which only 2 % is inspected. Control must be more rigorous because criminals use increasingly sophisticated methods to bring in illicit goods,” he said.

He reminded that Bolivia, due to its geographical location, is strategic for the passage of goods from Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay to the Pacific Ocean, as well as from Chile and Peru to Atlantic ports.

Photo: Pixabay

He specified that the priorities for the Andean nation and the region were reviewed during the first operational-technical meeting held in the eastern Bolivian city of Santa Cruz last December, where the plan of action to strengthen the fight against drug trafficking in the area was presented.

Romero confirmed at that time that the Regional Centre for Antinarcotics Intelligence (Cerian) was strengthened by establishing new technical and operational actions defined in its strategy.

The minister declared that the vision, procedures and commitments of Cerian’s empowerment were improved, and future results would be more effective.

This centre, which is initially considering joint actions with Brazil, Peru, Argentina and Paraguay, is described by UNODC as a “made in Bolivia” model to be imitated in other parts of the world, he commented.

As one of the most important conclusions of the multinational event, he emphasised that the fight against crime cannot be dependent on political-ideological conditions, because being a joint action, it should not be used for other purposes than the fight against drug trafficking.

Evo Morales – Foto Wikimedia Commons

He also commented that the centre and other applied procedures are inclusive to all countries that wish to be part of the project.

The first technical-operational meeting to fight against drug trafficking was attended by representatives of the European Union, UNODC, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico and Paraguay, while Brazil will host the second such meeting in April.

Bolivia is showing internationally recognised results thanks to the application of different strategies, according to its characteristics, and not allowing external models such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), expelled by President Evo Morales in 2008 for political espionage, conspiracy and financing of criminal groups. (PL)

(Translated by Hannah Phelvin – Email:

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