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Bolivian President Pardons Thousands as Prison System Surpasses 250 Percent of Capacity



Just as in the U.S., Bolivia’s prison system is mushrooming with ‘criminals’ tossed in jail for drug-related charges.  Since 2008 the prison population in the country has more than doubled, and with Bolivia’s controversial pre-trial detention, many are jailed without due process. To address a prison system that now surpasses 250 percent of its capacity, with a wave of prison violence spreading due to overcrowding, Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales pardoned 1,800 prisoners held in facilities across the country.


The pardons were issued on Christmas Eve and included single mothers (whose children are usually sent to jail with their parents), inmates with sentences of less than five years, first-time offenders, and a number of people sentenced for drug-related, minor crimes.

It can be argued that Bolivia’s ‘drug problem’ is largely fueled by its relations to the United States political elite. For many years it has been considered the new drug hub for trafficking in South America and a free-for-all space for members of organized crime syndicates; however, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been trafficking cocaine through Bolivia and other South American countries for decades.

This also means, that indirectly, our corrupt government is responsible for the incarceration of thousands of Bolivian people.

Bolivia’s current drug problem can be linked to a tie between Roberto Suárez Gómez, a Bolivian drug trafficker known as the “King of Cocaine”, who offered to pay off Bolivia’s entire foreign debt to the U.S. in a letter to Ronald Reagan, for the release of his oldest son who was arrested by drug trafficking agents of the DEA in 1982.

Though Morales’ actions to pardon criminals being held in Bolivian prisons was motivated by over-crowding, at least it has freed many who have been caught in the political cross-hairs of a failed drug war the DEA has waged for decades.

Perhaps our new president can address similar issues in the U.S. prison system. More than 50 percent of inmates currently in federal prisons are there for drug offenses according to information released by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. This percentage has steadily risen for the last 30 years.

U.S. Prison Population as of 2014


Chart, Courtesy of HuffPost

Image credit: BoliviaDiary

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