TITLE:(Spanish coming) (04/02/92)
*ARF432 04/02/92*

(Spanish coming)
(Operation 3/26, expected to last 6 months) wsr  (710)
By Wendy S. Ross
USIA Staff Writer
WASHINGTON -- The government of Bolivia has detained more than 300
persons suspected of narcotics trafficking in a large antidrug campaign
underway in the Chapare region of the country.

The operation is being conducted largely by Bolivians with support from U.S.
personnel and equipment.

"We congratulate the Bolivian government on the successes it has had in this
operation," said U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia Charles Richard Bowers.  "It's
a demonstration of their commitment to rid their country of the scourge of
drug trafficking."

"This is an operation that the Bolivians have undertaken, and the U.S.
contribution has been to share intelligence with them," he said.

The campaign began March 26 and is to continue at least six months,
according to Donald Ferrarone, the senior U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA) agent in Bolivia.  Ferrarone made the comments in an
April 2 telephone interview from La Paz.

"This is one of the biggest operations ever in South America and our largest
operation here," he said.  He made clear the U.S. role in the operation "is
very much an advisory" one.

About 700 people are involved in the operation, mostly Bolivians from the
navy, air force, and police, Ferrarone said.

The project is "totally comprehensive," covering air, land, and river routes
in and out of the Chapare region, he said.  It is part of an overall
strategy to "target the major traffickers" while helping the people of the
region through U.S. aid and "a very strong institution-building concept."

"There are very few Americans on the ground" in the Chapare, Ferrarone said,
and most of them are involved in institution-building programs.

He said a "vastly improved" intelligence-gathering capability in recent
years has given the United States and Bolivia a better understanding of the
size of the narcotics problem in the Chapare and the means to root it out.
"We now believe we know what it takes to defeat this problem," Ferrarone

The Chapare region of Bolivia grows about one-third of the world's coca, the
source of cocaine, and is second only to Peru's Upper Huallaga Valley.

1rug traffickers in the Chapare are under increased pressure, Ferrarone
said.  There is "an exodus of the traffickers out of the valley, hoping
they can sit us out," he said, "but that's not going to happen."

"Our target is the professional drug trafficker and his infrastructure," he
said.  "At the same time there is a very strong series of programs built in
to ease the farmer out of the coca business."

Coca is chewed by farmers and made into tea, and thus may be legally grown
for traditional purposes in Bolivia.  Growing coca in the Chapare on a
commercial level for conversion to cocaine has been going on only since the
1970s, Ferrarone said.

"It's not as if we are talking about removing the farmer from the
traditional coca growing crop outside of the Chapare region.  The type of
leaf that is in that valley is not used for chewing.  It is a completely
different leaf, it is strictly grown to produce cocaine, and that is our

Coca grown in the Chapare is "very high in alkaloid content, which makes it
ideal for refining into cocaine, but extremely bitter for the traditional
uses of chewing and tea," said USIA Public Affairs Officer Robert Callahan
in a separate interview from La Paz.

Most of the coca paste leaving Bolivia now, Ferrarone said, is going to
Colombia's Cali cartel.

He noted that as part of the antidrug campaign so far, an aircraft carrying
250 kilograms of cocaine was intercepted over the Chapare and captured
April 1.

Another incident resulted in the capture of Tiburcio Herrada, leader of a
new leftist group, the Tupac Katari Guerrilla Army, which is reportedly
tied to Peru's Maoist insurgent group, the Shining Path.

Bolivia and the United States, Ferrarone said, are making "a conscious
effort not to do anything that will in any way target the farmer.  We are
after the professional drug traffickers, period."