From top drug cop to accused cocaine smuggler. That's the story of Retired Gen. Rene Sanabria. From 2007 to 2008 he ran Bolivia's anti-narcotics police, and since 2009 has been a top adviser to Evo Morales' Interior Minister. Now he stands accused of trying to smuggle up to 315 pounds of cocaine into Miami.The arrest comes after suspicion that some Bolivian police officials have been shipping cocaine to Miami out of neighboring Chile since at least 2009.
Sanabria was arrested Friday in Panama by U.S. agents and Panamanian police and quickly deported to Miami for trial. Sanabria and his associates met with undercover agents posing as Colombian drug traffickers back in August and cut a deal with them in which they would be paid $2,500 per pound. Sanabria's group would also get half the profit of another 96 pounds of cocaine to be sold on the streets of Miami.
Sanabria's group put a test run of 220 lbs of cocaine in a shipping container that was driven from Bolivia to a port in Chile. The container arrived in Miami in November, and DEA agents seized the load.
Sanabria appeared in a Miami court house yesterday and plead not guilty. If he is convicted on the charges he could face life in prison.
The arrest has set off a scandal in Bolivia. Officials in the country are cooperating but believe the arrest is America's way of extracting revenge on Bolivia for kicking DEA agents out of the country.
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Felipe Caceres, Bolivia's top antidrug official, told The Wall Street Journal that Sanabria's security unit "was riddled" with corruption. 15 other police officials are being detained for their part or complicity in the smuggling operation.
Cacares told a rally of Cocoa workers on Monday, though, that America "took Sanabria to the U.S. because the DEA is hurt that we had the sufficient capacity and political will to expel them."