Bolivian druglord escapes custody via La Paz medical clinic

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By Daniel Ramos

(Reuters) – A 67-year-old Bolivian man considered to have been one of the largest drug traffickers in South America in the 1980s has escaped from a private clinic in the country’s capital La Paz, police said on Saturday.

Jorge Roca Suarez had been back in Bolivia since April after a U.S. judge ordered his early release, 28 years into a 36-year sentence for drug trafficking.

On his arrival in La Paz, he was ordered to serve another 15-year sentence handed down locally on the same charge, but in early December was admitted to a private medical clinic for treatment for an unspecified condition.

Overnight between Friday and Saturday he escaped, police said, leaving the clinic without being detected.

“The Bolivian Police has activated all its intelligence apparatus,” Fernando Rojas, the deputy director of the Special Force to Fight Crime in La Paz, said. “We are helping in the search tasks to recapture this person.”

Roca Suarez, who is known in Bolivia as “Roof of Straw”, was an associate of Colombia’s Pablo Escobar and is the nephew of Roberto Suarez Gomez, the so-called “King of Cocaine”, who offered to pay Bolivia’s external debt with his ill-gotten gains in the 1980s.

In July, lawyers obtained the conditional release of Roca Suarez on medical grounds, but in mid-November a judge revoked that benefit and ordered him back to prison.

The police did not give more details about the escape. Roca Suarez’s lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.

(Reporting by Daniel Ramos, writing by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Susan Thomas)

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