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Bolivia

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In today’s pictures, a young passenger gets a lift at a Miami airport, ultraorthodox Jewish men transfer sins to chickens, referees make a controversial call in Seattle and more.

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I was the personal photographer of Bolivian general Hugo Banzer during his 1997 presidential campaign. After he won, I asked him to send me somewhere to document something exciting. He selected the Chapare Province of Cochabamba, where I embedded with Bolivia’s Mobile Police Unit for Rural Areas (UMOPAR) from 1997 to 2001. In its heyday, the unit was a highly specialized and DEA-funded subsidiary of Bolivia’s Special Antinarcotics Force, and my assignment was to document its efficiency and success. 

At the time, the region produced more coca leaf than almost anywhere in the world. This era is now known as the epoca negra—the dark age—because of the danger and bloodshed experienced on both sides. I had a lot of respect for the men tasked with cleaning up the jungle; we shared sweat, blood, and gunshots, and I lost some friends over there.

I want to make it clear that these photos have nothing to do with the reality of the antinarcotics forces in Bolivia today. The funding for these types of operations has been greatly reduced since Evo Morales—a former pro-coca activist—came into power. Of course, the flip side is that higher production has lowered the cost of the final product, and it seems that the current situation is reaching a dangerous apex. Based on my experience, I think it’s very possible that the area will see an upsurge in violence over the next few years. Let these photos serve as a reminder of the destruction it may bring. 

The Bad Shit - Photos from the dark days of Bolivia’s war on cocaine

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David Mercado / Reuters

People walk on a destroyed road after a landslide in the Kupini and Valle de las Flores districts in La Paz, Bolivia, on Monday, Feb. 28. Heavy rains triggered landslides in the area on Sunday, leaving two people dead, dozens injured and destroying hundreds of houses.

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Jonathan Woods writes:   See more of the latest weather images from around the world here.

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AFP - Getty Images

A Bolivian Air Force helicopter rescues locals during floods in the Chapare region, in Viloma, central Bolivia on Tuesday, Feb. 22. The Bolivian government declared national emergency flooding that has killed four and left three missing.

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