Authorities inspect the scene where a dismembered body was recently discovered

A recent spate of violence on the border between Brazil and Paraguay suggests a battle for control of drug trafficking routes in the area, but it remains unclear whether the killings are related to a wider gang war that has roiled Brazil in recent months.

Following the murder of a jailed drug boss's brother on March 14, two further assassinations in the Brazil-Paraguay border region are raising concerns about an escalation of a battle for control over lucrative drug trafficking territory.

On March 22, a resident of the Brazilian border town of Ponta Porã discovered the dismembered body of a Paraguayan man with a criminal record in both Brazil and Paraguay, Última Hora reported. Ponta Porã was also where the March 14 killing of imprisoned Brazilian drug boss Jarvis Pavão's brother, Ronny, took place, reportedly in response to the murder of rival drug boss Jorge Rafaat Toumani last year.

On March 23, another Paraguayan man with suspected criminal ties was murdered outside his home in the city of Pedro Juan Caballero, which lies directly along the border with Ponta Porã.

Paraguayan news outlet ABC Color reported that underworld sources spoke about the existence of a list of people slated for assassination in the coming days and weeks as part of a battle between rival crime groups in the area.

SEE ALSO: Brazil News and Profiles

The governor of the Paraguayan state of Amambay, where Pedro Juan Caballero is located, blamed the recent violence on Brazil's two main prison gangs -- the First Capital Command (Primerio Comando da Capital - PCC) and the Red Command (Comando Vermelho) -- both of which are known to maintain a presence in the border region.

"Pedro Juan is an appendage of the violence between those groups, like other cities of the region," said Gov. Pedro González in comments reported by EFE.

Former Paraguayan Interior Minister Rafael Filizzola echoed González's statements.

"Much of the violence we have on the Paraguayan side is due to that war for power in Brazil," he said, referring to conflicts between the PCC and the Red Command that have left dozens dead across Brazil since the two groups broke a long-standing alliance last year.

InSight Crime Analysis

Despite the assertions of local officials that Brazilian prison gangs are to blame for the recent killings in the border region, there are some plausible alternative explanations for the violence.

Brazil-based analyst Lloyd Belton of the consulting group S-RM told InSight Crime via email that linking the recent violence in Ponta Porã and Pedro Juan Caballero to the PCC-Red Command conflict is "a bit of a stretch."

"Without any substantial evidence available, it's a bit hasty to cite two murders as somehow indicative of the spread of the [Red Command]-PCC war to Paraguay," he wrote.

Belton also noted that "a myriad of drug trafficking groups" operate in Pedro Juan Caballero and the surrounding border region, which has long had a reputation for criminal activity and violence.

"Overall, it does strike me as suspicious that Amambay's governor would blame the city's violence on Brazilian organised crime groups," Belton wrote. "It would seem like he is far too quickly shifting the blame and responsibility here from local security lapses and police corruption to external forces."

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Paraguay

Indeed, the murder of Jarvis Pavão's brother suggests a conflict between local groups competing for territorial control in the strategic border region. But many of the trafficking groups operating in the area in question are known to maintain ties to Brazilian groups like the PCC and the Red Command, for whom controlling drug routes is an important source of criminal revenues.

Journalist Laurie Blair, who has reported on Paraguay's drug trade, told InSight Crime that the recent violence "does look like a score-settling between PCC and [Red Command]," suggesting it could perhaps reflect "a battle for control of marijuana-smuggling routes."

"The fact that these are execution-style killings, and taking place both in Ponta Porã and [Pedro Juan Caballero], supports this interpretation," he wrote in an email.

However, Blair acknowledged that the publicly available evidence leaves some questions about the level of possible coordination between the Brazilian prison gangs and the criminal actors on the Paraguay border.

"Maybe these are just local chapters taking each other on, albeit perhaps on orders from higher up. So far the names of those killed don't seem to be huge, and the methods, while professional, aren't heavy on numbers or firepower," he wrote.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network. The BACRIM's roots lie in the demobilized paramilitary umbrella group the United Self-Defense...

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power. In rural sectors, uniformed BACRIM armed with assault rifles still patrol in...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Olfato. It is a term used quite often in law enforcement and judicial circles in Central America (and other parts of the world as well). It refers to the sixth sense they have as they see a crime scene, investigate a murder or plow through the paperwork...