The head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, or UNODC, in this Andean nation said in an interview published Sunday by the La Paz daily Pagina Siete that Bolivia was now the largest supplier of cocaine to the South American market.

Cesar Guedes said Brazil, Argentina and Chile had become the "most important emerging drug consumer markets in the world" in recent years.

"Bolivia is now a transit country, Bolivia is the beachhead for drugs from Colombia and Peru that are bound for the emerging South American markets," Guedes said.

"Before, the drugs that passed through Bolivia were destined for Europe, but in recent times their destination is these new consumer countries, which are now potential clients," the U.N. official said.

Most of the drugs produced in Colombia and Peru are smuggled into the United States and Europe, while Bolivia "is the net supplier for the South American market," Guedes told Pagina Siete.

Drug consumption fell "markedly" in recent years in the United States, but it rose in Europe and South America, which now consume 30 percent and 20 percent, respectively, of the narcotics produced in the world, the UNODC official said.

Bolivia is the world's No. 3 drug producer, trailing only Colombia and Peru.

President Evo Morales's administration says that at least half of the cocaine seized by the security forces comes from Peru.