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Janes sees risk of new law in Bolivia


The Bolivian House of Representatives approved the Law of Security and Defence of Airspace on 16 January. The Senate is expected to approve the legislation before the end of January. The legislation authorises the Bolivian Air Force (Fuerza Aérea Boliviana: FAB) to intercept aircraft that stray from their notified flight plans, are suspected of illegal activity, or enter Bolivian airspace without authorisation, requiring them to land. 

The FAB will be authorised to shoot down any aircraft that does not comply with instructions to land. This legislation reflects increasing political pressure on Bolivia from a number of countries, most notably Brazil, to improve its anti-drug-trafficking capabilities since the expulsion of the US Drug Enforcement Administration by President Evo Morales in 2009.

Drug trafficking-related flights originating from Peru typically enter Bolivian airspace through the department of La Paz, while flights leaving Bolivia towards Brazil and Argentina typically exit through the department of Santa Cruz.


The FAB's ability to track and intercept aircraft is limited, given the absence of an effective radar system, increasing the risk of shoot-down through misidentification. In 2011, the Brazilian National Development Bank offered to lend Bolivia USD200 million for the purchase of a number of Orbisat Saber radars. 

The purchase never materialised. In December 2013, Deputy Minister of Social Defence and Controlled Substances Felipe Cáceres said the government could not afford to invest in radar equipment. However, in January 2014 President Morales expressed his ambition to have a network of radars monitoring Bolivia's borders to prevent drug trafficking, suggesting that the purchase of a radar remains on the government's agenda.

In the meantime, the FAB is likely to rely on intelligence provided by Peru and Brazil, as well as intelligence on low-flying aircraft movements gathered through ground observation. The FAB has a number of Lockheed Martin AT-33AN fighter jets capable of intercepting and shooting down aircraft.

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