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Bolivia downplayed magnitude of links between mexican drug gang Los Zetas and bolivian drug clans.

Bolivia Deputy Social Defense Minister Felipe Caceres

LA PAZ – President Evo Morales’s administration acknowledged that Bolivia’s drug clans have links to Mexico’s violent Los Zetas cartel, the official ABI news agency reported Thursday.

Los Zetas has established links to the families that control the drug trade in the Andean nation, but the Mexican cartel and other foreign gangs are not operating directly in Bolivia, said the Deputy Social Defense Minister Felipe Caceres.

The Bolivian clans also have links to Brazil’s First Capital Command, or PCC, which controls drug and weapons trafficking in the slums of Sao Paulo and other cities, and Comando Vermelho (Red Command), Rio de Janeiro’s largest gang, Caceres said.

“We have intelligence information that there are connections between the family clans and drug traffickers who have links to the PCC in Sao Paulo and the Comando Vermelho in Rio de Janeiro. There is some information about the Mexican Zetas cartel, its connections, they have contacts and operate,” Caceres said.

Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano deserted from the Mexican army in 1999 and formed Los Zetas with three other soldiers, all members of an elite special operations unit, becoming the armed wing of the Gulf drug cartel.

The Zetas broke with the Gulf cartel several months ago and the two criminal organizations are at war.

The armed group is now in the drug business on its own and controls several lucrative territories in Mexico.

The governments of Bolivia and Mexico agreed late last month on new strategies for fighting international drug trafficking organizations.

Bolivia is the world’s third-largest producer of coca and cocaine, trailing only Colombia and Peru.

Members of international drug cartels have started turning up in Bolivia, engaging the security forces in shootouts and infiltrating the police and judicial institutions.

Efforts to fight drug trafficking have improved, the Morales administration said Wednesday

Drug enforcement agents seized 17 tons of cocaine and 923 tons of marijuana in 7,766 operations conducted during the first half of 2010, officials said.

Police also eradicated 3,434 hectares (8,479 acres) of coca, coming close to achieving the annual eradication goal of 5,000 hectares (12,345 acres) established in the …READ MORE HERE.

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