ACCESSION NUMBER:222075 FILE ID:AR-432 DATE:04/02/92 TITLE:(Spanish coming) (04/02/92) TEXT:*92040232.ARF *ARF432 04/02/92* (Spanish coming) *MAJOR ANTIDRUG OPERATION UNDERWAY IN BOLIVIA'S CHAPARE (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 said. 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 target." 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." NNNN .