A report by Paraguayan newspaper ABC details the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel's unsuccessful attempt to establish a precursor chemical trafficking network in the country in 2008.

The report, published on August 3, outlines how the Sinaloa Cartel attempted to set up an Asuncion-based operation to smuggle ephedrine to Mexico in 2008. Ephedrine is one of the principal precursor chemicals used to make methamphetamine.

Work began in September 2008 when Mexicans Juan Jesus Preciado (pictured, center) and Juan Sevilla arrived in Paraguay, visiting several of the country's cities posing as businessmen wanting to set up a chain of restaurants. They eventually settled in a hotel in Asuncion where they were joined by Jorge Almanza Guzman (right in photo) and Leobardo Gaxiola Lopez (left), also from Mexico.

Preciado had smuggled ephedrine over the border from the Argentine city of Clorinda in a laptop, according to ABC. The men then packed the substance in plastic bags and hid it in a shipment of Argentine tea. However, on the first run, on October 1, 2008, Gaxiola was arrested at Asuncion's Silvio Pettirossi International Airport with just over five kilograms of ephedrine. He confessed to being part of a larger network operating out of the Asuncion hotel, leading to the arrest of Preciado and Almanza, along with a Paraguayan who had been complicit in the smuggling ring. Juan Sevilla had left the country one day before Gaxiola's detention, thus evading capture.

Preciado was later extradited to Argentina, where he had earned the nickname "King of Ephedrine," thanks to his prominence in the illicit trade. Gaxiola and Almanza were sentenced in July this year to 12 years in a Paraguayan prison.

InSight Crime Analysis

The trafficking of ephedrine from Argentina to Mexico has been on the rise since Mexico made the drug illegal in 2007. According to a 2009 MSNBC report, Mexican cartels exploit the comparatively lax regulations in Argentina, setting up front companies to import ephedrine and send it on to Mexico for methamphetamine production. Between 2006 and 2007 Argentina's ephedrine imports rose from 5.5 tons to 28.5 tons.

The Sinaloa Cartel is believed to have a presence in Argentina, with their leader, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, even rumored to have lived there for a time until March last year. This has, to date, not been replicated in Paraguay, though the 2008 arrests show that the cartel views the country as an important transhipment point for moving precursors. Another Mexican national was arrested in Paraguay in 2010 with some 30 kilograms of ephedrine, which he was reportedly planning to ship to Mexico.

Part of the reason Paraguay is a useful transit hub is due to the country's high level of corruption in the police and military. Two former officials have been detained this year for involvement in cocaine smuggling and there have been reports of Paraguay's military allowing Brazilian traffickers to operate with freedom, even supplying them with weapons.

In June, Paraguayan authorities made their largest ever seizure of drug precursors, confiscating 27,650 liters of sulfuric acid, enough to produce 8 tons of cocaine.

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.

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

In the photograph, they are both smiling. In the foreground, on the left hand side, a man in a short-sleeved buttoned white shirt, jeans and a metal watch, holds a bottle of water in his right hand. He laughs heartily. He is Herbert Saca. On the right...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

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...

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

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...

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...

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...

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...