Bolivia: arrest of “big fish” in Santa Cruz cocaine mafia leaves trail of intrigue

The arrest last month of Robin Rosales Agreda, an accused narco-trafficker considered the “big fish” (pez gordo) of Bolivia’s cocaine trade, has left a trail of intrigue in its wake. Rosales was apprehended by National Police on July 14 in the community of El Tuná de San Matías, Santa Cruz department. Already sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison in Bolivia, he is also wanted by Brazilian authorities. He is said to be boss of the Rosales family, one of the most powerful in the oligarchy of Santa Cruz, a right-wing opposition stronghold. Authorities hope his arrest will be a final blow to what is believed to be an extensive criminal machine in the region. Five days after Rosales’ arrest, the family’s attorney, Denver Pedraza, was shot at twelve times outside the Ministry of Justice building in Santa Cruz. He was hit five times, and only survived because a bullet hit his cell phone in his breast pocket. The National Police Special Anti-Crime Struggle Force (FELCC) has opened an investigation into the attempted slaying, and the Rosales family’s network of informants and collaborators.

In 2008, national authorities seized about $7 million of the family’s assets, including 12 properties, satellite equipment, two aircraft, and a fleet of trucks and luxury vehicles. But a judge in Santa Cruz ordered everything returned. Authorities say the Rosales family has forged an alliance with Brazil’s leading crime syndicate, the First Capital Command (Primer Comando Capital—PCC), to smuggle Bolivian cocaine to Brazilian markets. The most renowned member of the family is William Rosales Suárez , who was kidnapped in May 2010, in a violent ambush that left six of his bodyguards dead, including two Serbians. (InSight Crime, Aug. 11; Opinió, Cochabamba, July 19; Opinió, July 14)

See our last posts on Bolivia and Brazil.

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