LatinNews Daily - 3 August 2023

BOLIVIA: Authorities accused of helping drug trafficker escape

On 2 August the director of Bolivia’s counter-narcotics agency (FELCN), Ismael Villca, denied assisting in the escape of a suspected Uruguayan drug trafficker.


Sebastián Marset, the suspected leader of the Uruguayan drug trafficking organisation (DTO) Primer Cartel Uruguayo (PCU), has cultivated relations with government officials in several South American countries that have enabled him to assume numerous false identities over the past decade. He was tracked down to a mansion in Bolivia’s eastern city of Santa Cruz on 29 July but escaped, and later released a video to the media claiming that he had received a tip-off from the director of the FELCN. These allegations, whilst unconfirmed, have intensified the dispute between President Luis Arce’s government and the leadership of the ruling left-wing Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), which is now openly hostile to the government and has repeatedly accused it of protecting drug traffickers.

  • Marset, who is accused of shipping cocaine from South America to Europe, is also under investigation by the Paraguayan authorities for possible involvement in the murder of Paraguay’s special prosecutor against organised crime, Marcelo Pecci, who was assassinated during his honeymoon in Colombia last year. Arrest warrants have been issued for Marset in Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay, and the US.
  • On 29 July Bolivian police attempted to arrest Marset at his mansion in Santa Cruz. However, Marset evaded capture, fleeing by car with his wife and children after one of his bodyguards took a police officer hostage, according to police commander Yumor Justo Condori.
  • The Bolivian television channel Unitel yesterday released a video supposedly sent by Marset after he fled, in which he said: “thanks to the help of the director of the FELCN, I managed to get away, because he advised me that the minister had given the arrest order against me”. Marset said that the FELCN director “took some money and told me to go”.
  • Whilst he was not directly named by Marset, the FELCN’s national director, Villca, denied any communication with the fugitive, accusing him of “disinformation operations” aimed at driving a wedge between the FELCN and the national police.
  • The MAS leadership, which has grown openly hostile to President Arce over the past year and which has repeatedly accused high-ranking officials of involvement in drug trafficking, was quick to pounce on the allegations. In a statement, it called for “the immediate arrest of this alleged uniformed accomplice,” but also added that “the recording corresponds to a coordinated attempt to save the interior minister [Eduardo del Castillo], the main man responsible for the inexplicable residence, wealth, and later escape from Santa Cruz of a man identified as the leader of one of the most powerful cartels in the region”.
  • Leading figures within the MAS, including former president Evo Morales (2006-2019), have repeatedly accused Del Castillo of corruption, and secured his removal in a no confidence vote in June before he was controversially reappointed by Arce.
  • Questions have also been raised about how Marset was able to live so luxuriously in Bolivia without drawing the attention of the country’s financial investigations unit (UIF), given that he owned a second-division football team as well as numerous properties and high-end cars.

Looking Ahead: Amid a massive ongoing manhunt, Del Castillo said yesterday that 17 people have been arrested in relation to the search for Marset. These include officials from the government agency responsible for issuing identification documents (Segip) who are accused of issuing false documents for Marset in 2018 and 2019.

Intelligence Research Ltd.
167-169 Great Portland Street,
5th floor,
London, W1W 5PF - UK
Phone : +44 (0) 203 695 2790
You may contact us via our online contact form
Copyright © 2022 Intelligence Research Ltd. All rights reserved.