LA PAZ – A Bolivian anti-drug agent was shot to death by presumed drug traffickers on the Tipnis nature preserve, located in the central regions of Cochabamba and Beni, authorities said.
The police officer was identified as 2nd Lt. Diego Coarite Catacora, who was part of a FELCN anti-drug force patrol that entered the Isiboro Secure National Park Indian Territory, or Tipnis, to conduct an anti-drug operation.
In remarks to the media in the eastern Santa Cruz region, Interior Minister Carlos Romero said that Coarite died after the alleged drug traffickers opened fire on the patrol.
“There are two people (who were) apprehended, both of them of Bolivian nationality ... We’re going to collect all the (evidence) to determine what this organization is, what links it has and the operations that have been performed in this zone in Beni province,” Romero said.
FELCN national chief Col. Santiago Delgadillo told Channel ATB that the agency had intelligence information about the drug traffickers’ activities in Tipnis, and so on Thursday morning it sent a patrol into the preserve, but it was ambushed.
The body of the dead officer will be transported to La Paz in the coming hours, while the anti-drug force will continue searching for other alleged drug traffickers who were at the ambush site but were able to flee.
So far in September, FELCN has undertaken a dozen or so operations throughout Bolivia in which it has seized 800 kilograms of cocaine and 3,500 kilograms of marijuana valued at $7 million.
During the same period, the anti-drug force has arrested about 20 drug trafficking suspects and seized two small airplanes, 28 weapons, more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition and 11 vehicles.