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GIs, Bolivians Start Raiding Cocaine Dens

July 18, 1986|Associated Press

LA PAZ, Bolivia — U.S. soldiers and Bolivian narcotics officers today began raiding cocaine processing dens hidden in the tropical flatlands of northeast Bolivia, U.S. and Bolivian sources said.

The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the raids--using six U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopters--began late this morning.

The operation was based at the Josuani Ranch, which was once operated by a prosperous cocaine trafficker and was shut down last year by Bolivian authorities. The ranch is about 140 miles northwest of the city of Trinidad, capital of the Beni region.

The sources said they had no immediate details on the raids.

Bolivian sources said Thursday that portable radar units were being installed as part of the joint U.S.-Bolivian campaign to smash this nation's giant cocaine industry. The radar units are intended to intercept planes used to ferry coca paste out of the jungle to secret drug factories, the sources said.

Interior Minister Fernando Barthelemy denied the radar units were being installed.

But the Bolivian sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the units were being set up in the Beni region, where U.S. soldiers and Bolivian narcotics police have set up camp.

At least 100 U.S. troops arrived in Trinidad on Thursday to begin preparing with Bolivian police for the operation, aimed at crushing Bolivia's $600-million-a-year cocaine industry that officials say is the major supplier of the drug to U.S. and European markets.

The U.S. soldiers' arrival raised to 160 the total American military presence in Bolivia.

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