Paraguay destroyed 242 tons of marijuana seized during a 10-day operation, a reminder that the country is a major supplier of the plant to other consumers in South America, especially Brazil.

According to ABC, anti-narcotics agents found and destroyed 79 hectares of marijuana as part of the ten-day “Ñepyrû Porâ” operation in the northeastern department of Amambay, which borders Brazil (see map below). The fields, located in the densely wooded hills of Capitán Bado, were divided into 22 land plots and grew an estimated 237 tons of marijuana.

This seizure alone represents about 65 percent of the marijuana seized by anti-narcotics police over the course of 2011. According to the US State Department, SENAD seized 369 tons of marijuana, eradicated 825 hectares, and destroyed 253 production camps in 2011.

During the operation, officials also destroyed eight encampments that served as marijuana storehouses, where they discovered 5,415 kilos of processed and packaged marijuana. In all, authorities destroyed 242 tons of marijuana.

Anti-narcotics agency the National Anti-Drug Secretariat (SENAD) estimates that the seizure represents a loss of $7.26 million dollars. The agency's 2011 report stated that Paraguayan marijuana sells for $1,000 per kilogram in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Chile.

The SENAD is reportedly set to carry out other massive raids elsewhere in Amambay, as well as another state on the Brazilian border, Canindeyú, and the department of San Pedro.

InSight Crime Analysis

According to the UNODC 2010 World Drug Report, Paraguay is the largest producer of marijuana in South America. The enormity of SENAD’s recent seizure is a reminder that asides from feeding the domestic market, Paraguay is also a top supplier of marijuana to the Western Hemisphere.

One of the biggest recipients of Paraguay's marijuana is Brazil, where criminal groups the Comando Vermelho (the Red Command) and the First Capital Command (PCC) are heavily involved in the trade. SENAD Director Miguel Chaparro has said that 80 percent of the marijuana grown in Paraguay ends up in Brazilian markets, and that the Red Command and the PCC have killed off and intimidated Paraguay's small-time drug producers and dealers, allowing the Brazilian groups to take control of the industry.

Paraguay is an attractive site for mass marijuana cultivations thanks to its weak police force -- the SENAD relies on just 360 agents to monitor the entire country. Sharing borders with Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia, the impoverished country also offers convenient access to some of South America's biggest consumer markets.


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