LA PAZ (Reuters) – A former Bolivian interior minister known as “Minister for Cocaine” for his role in turning the impoverished nation into a narco-state during a military dictatorship in the 1980s has died after decades in prison, local media said on Tuesday, citing a Bolivian government minister.
Luis Arce Gomez, reported by local media to be 82, was interior minister in the Andean nation’s 1980-81 dictatorship of General Luis Garcia Meza. He was accused of presiding over the deaths and disappearances of more than 100 political prisoners, as well as the detentions of 4,000 more who alleged human rights abuses.
Arce Gomez famously warned foes of the regime to “walk around with their wills tucked under their arms” and recruited the Nazi Klaus Barbie, the “Butcher of Lyon” who fled to Bolivia after the World War Two, as an adviser.
Arce Gomez served 20 years in a U.S. prison for drug trafficking before being deported to Bolivia in 2009 to serve a 30-year sentence for a conviction in absentia of genocide and political assassinations.
Bolivian Police Minister Javier Issa told local newspaper Los Tiempos that Arce Gomez, who suffered from diabetes, poor kidney function and hypertension, was transferred to a hospital on March 22 and died on Monday afternoon of generalized septic shock. He said the state would assist with burial preparations.
Reuters was unable to immediately confirm the reports with the Bolivian government.
(Reporting by Danny Ramos and Aislinn Laing; Editing by Dan Grebler)