- BBC World News
When there were almost no coca leaf plantations in Colombia, the Bolivian Jorge Roca Suárez was one of the suppliers of cocaine base paste for the Medellín Cartel.
Nephew of Roberto Suárez, who became known as the “King of Cocaine” in the 1980s, Roca was identified as being a strategic partner of the Colombian Pablo Escobar.
He spent almost three decades in prison in the United States for his links with drug trafficking and, after returning to Bolivia for a few years, he was recently detained again in Peru.
Nicknamed “Techo ‘e paja” for his auburn hair, Colombian and Bolivian authorities point out that he is part of an organization that sought to send huge amounts of cocaine to the United States.
That country is demanding his extradition once again, according to his defense lawyer, who assures that he is innocent.
“I’m not Pablo Escobar”
“There was not a coca plant in all of Colombia,” Pablo Escobar said in reference to the birth of the cocaine business, according to an account made by his hitman boss, “Popeye.”
Therefore, at the beginning of the path that would lead him to be one of the best known drug traffickers and bloodthirsty of history, the head of the Medellín Cartel had to import the raw material of the illicit drug from Bolivia and Peru.
Tons of the leaf were processed in those two countries to become base paste that was then sent to Escobar’s laboratories, which finished making cocaine hydrochloride.
Jorge Roca was one of the Bolivian suppliers, according to what a 1994 US file indicates.
“He made a deal with ‘Los Pablos’ (as Escobar’s group was known at the time), the drug trafficking organization. Roca would supply cocaine base paste and ‘Los Pablos’ would convert it into hydrochloride, the powdered form of cocaine. . ‘Los Pablos’ would then export the cocaine to the United States, where Roca would receive the payment in cash, “says the document published in Justia, a portal specialized in documentation on legal processes in the US
According to different testimonies, the incursion into drug trafficking of the detainee came from the hand of his uncle, Roberto Suárez, who gained enormous notoriety when he offered to pay Bolivia’s foreign debt in exchange for immunity.
But in December 1990, Jorge Roca was arrested at his Los Angeles home and jailed in California to serve a 35-year sentence. He left the US 27 years later to finish serving his sentence in Bolivia, where he was paroled in 2020.
In the United States, they seized numerous departments and in Bolivia some land and cattle that, according to what he told the newspaper El Deber in an interview in 2016, were actually his parents.
In that interview he also said that he had taken advantage of his years in prison to graduate in Political Science and International Criminal Law.
“They made a myth, a fantasy with my name (…) I’m not Pablo Escobar, I don’t even know him (…) or about the life of ‘Chapo’ Guzmán ‘, “he said in that conversation about the boss of the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico.
Since his return to Bolivia then he had kept a relatively low profile until this year, when his daughter, Rocío Roca, won the mayoral elections of the town of Santa Ana, in the department of Beni.
But, according to the Interpol red notice cited by Peruvian media after his arrest, Roca Suárez had returned to drug trafficking during the months of the pandemic and operated from that country.
Roca was arrested with false documentation in mid-March in Lima, where according to his family he was suffering from health problems.
In that operation, five Peruvians were arrested in Colombia and Roca, the only Bolivian, fell in Peru.
Since his arrest, he has been detained pending judicial decisions that define whether he is to be extradited again, as requested by a New York judicial court.
Milton Andrade, Roca’s defense attorney, maintains that the accusation “has no basis“.
“It is a totally illogical accusation and impossible to sustain,” the lawyer told BBC Mundo.
Andrade details that his client’s charges speak of an attempt to send drugs from Bolivia to the United States in 2020 and that at that time Roca was in quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The lawyer assures that it was on his property located in Santa Ana, a town in the northeast of Bolivia.
“He did not carry out any illegal activity and remained in his capacity as a cattle rancher,” says the lawyer.
In Bolivia he was under the figure of probation from 2020 until his capture in Lima.
“He has already paid his debts with the courts, he does not want to know anything about something illegal,” says the lawyer.
However, the Colombian police have a different opinion.
“These subjects formed an international organization dedicated to moving large shipments of cocaine from Bolivia and Peru using high-end aircraft that left clandestine runways in northern Bolivia to Central America with a final destination in the United States and using official officials to facilitate the entry and exit of said aircraft “, assures the Anti-Narcotics Directorate of the South American country.
And he adds that “Techo ‘e Paja” was the leader of the organization and adds his “partnership” with the capo of the Medellín Cartel.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.