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Bolivian general sentenced in Miami

General Sanabria in happier times

Former Bolivian general Rene Sanabria this week was sentenced to 14 years in prison for a drug trafficking case with possible ties to president Evo Morales.

The retired chief of Bolivia’s anti-narcotics unit plead guilty to charges of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine to the United States.

Sanabria and a partner were detained this year in Panama while awaiting a connecting flight, as the result of an operation in which undercover DEA agents posed as Colombian narcotraffickers.

At the time of his arrest Sanabria was director of an anti-drug intelligence unit reporting to the Bolivian interior minister.  The case resulted in political fallout in Bolivia including a reorganization of top security posts early this year.

Morales, a fierce critic of US policy, expelled the DEA from Bolivia in 2008 and accused that agency of spying and conspiring against his government.

According to prosecutors, Sanabria offered protection to his accomplice Marcelo Foronda in order to ship cocaine from Bolivia to the United States.  Last year a test shipment arranged with him by undercover agents brought 144 kilos of cocaine to Miami via Chile.  Prosecuters alleged Sanabria and another Bolivian police official demanded  US$260,000 for their services.

Foronda received a lesser sentence of nine years from a federal judge in Miami.