Police and U.S. drug agents raided and destroyed a huge jungle cocaine laboratory that produced at least $50 million worth of drugs each week, Bolivian and U.S. officials said Friday.
“This is definitely the biggest cocaine lab ever discovered in Bolivia,” said a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Interior Minister Juan Carlos Duran said the lab produced 3.5 tons of pure cocaine a week. Under a formula established by U.S. agents, the wholesale worth in the United States of the cocaine produced at the plant is at least $50 million a week--or $2.6 billion annually.
Copter Discovers Lab
Twelve Bolivian police officers and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents discovered the lab Wednesday on a helicopter sweep over sparsely populated jungle 400 miles northeast of La Paz, the Interior Ministry said.
The Interior Ministry said the lab belonged to Jorge Roca Suarez, 36, who is wanted on a Bolivian warrant for cocaine trafficking.
The DEA considers Roca Suarez the biggest cocaine processor in Bolivia, which produces a third of the cocaine that reaches U.S. and European markets.
The camp known as La Ramada included generators, bunk beds for 20 people and sophisticated drying and processing facilities to convert cocaine paste and base into cocaine hydrochloride, Duran said.
The lab was in full operation and was processing at least 1,100 pounds of cocaine, he said. Officials said they destroyed the plant and the liquefied cocaine found at the site.
Police and the DEA delayed comment on the raid for fear of jeopardizing other operations taking place in the same area.
Officials said the facility received at least two tons of cocaine paste a day, which is reduced to a quarter of its original weight through processing.