Ex-Bolivian anti-drug chief pleads guilty in Miami

MIAMI, (Reuters) – A former top Bolivian anti-drug  official pleaded guilty yesterday to charges of conspiring to  smuggle cocaine into the United States in a case that has  proved a major embarrassment for Bolivia’s President Evo  Morales.

Retired General Rene Sanabria was head of Bolivia’s leading  counternarcotics unit when he was arrested in February in  Panama and deported to Miami, where he faced a life sentence if  found guilty in a trial. Sentencing was set for September 2.

U.S. prosecutors accuse Sanabria of providing safe passage  for cocaine shipments from Bolivia, the world’s No. 3 producer,  to the United States through neighbouring Chile.

Sanabria pleaded guilty along with an associate, Marcelo  Foronda, Sanabria’s lawyer, Sabrina Puglisi, said.

Sanabria’s arrest followed a sting operation by the U.S.  Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) where undercover agents  posed as Colombian drug traffickers.

According to American officials, a test shipment was  arranged last year and a group led by Foronda shipped up to 315  pounds (144 kgs) of cocaine to Miami hidden in a cargo  container containing zinc rocks.

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