This article first appeared in Sputnik on January 25, 2022.
Arce launched his exhortation at a graduation ceremony at the National Police Academy, in the midst of a political scandal over the recent dismantling of a drug trafficking protection network led by former police chiefs of the past governments of Evo Morales (2006-2019) and Jeanine Áñez (2019-2020).
“To honor the police uniform is to comply with and enforce our Constitution, to assume that the institution is historically destined to its defense, that it cannot lend itself to adventures or to activists who attempt against democracy,” Arce said in an apparent allusion to police riots in 2019 that contributed to the overthrow of Morales.
In that crisis, police officers removed from their uniforms the images of the indigenous flag wiphala, which is a national symbol, provoking a wave of protests from peasant and indigenous sectors.
Arce described as “facts that compromise the image of the Bolivian Police” the recent arrests of two former anti-drug chiefs, Omar Rojas in Colombia and Maximiliano Dávila, in La Paz, who according to the Government were part of a drug trafficking network also denounced by the United States.
The Ministry of Government maintained that this network was set up during the transitory administration of Áñez, but Dávila and others allegedly involved suggested “narco-links” with the Government of Morales, which the opposition demands to be investigated by the Parliament.
The new police officers must “make the maximum effort to comply with the values and principles of the Constitution and honor their institution by exposing bad elements and decisively denouncing bad police officers who, out of ambition, allow themselves to be seduced by the temptation of crime”, said Arce.
Former Colonel Dávila was arrested over the weekend when he tried to flee to Argentina and has been in preventive detention since January 24 awaiting trial on charges of cover-up and laundering drug trafficking money.
Upon entering the jail, he was defiant and said he was the victim of a plan by the Minister of Government, Eduardo del Castillo, to “incriminate” former president Morales with drug trafficking.
So far, the former president has not commented on this case.