As Drug Threat Grows, Paraguay Approves Shoot-Down Law

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Paraguay’s Senate has approved a shoot-down law for unauthorized planes in an effort to combat drug trafficking, just as a reporter is murdered by suspected drug traffickers, but the country lacks the necessary resources to enforce any shoot-down policy or protect its journalists.

On October 16, the Senate passed a law that, if approved by the House of Representatives, will allow security forces to shoot down unauthorized planes suspected of transporting drugs and contraband, reported ABC Color.

However, Senator Roberto Acevedo, the president of the congressional anti-drug trafficking commission — and the victim of a 2010 assassination attempt believed to have been ordered by drug traffickers — told InSight Crime the country lacked the necessary equipment to enforce the measure.

“The drug traffickers are going to laugh at us because Paraguay isn’t in a position [to enforce the law],” he stated. Acevedo said the law also violated due process and the presumption of innocence, as well as international treaties. He told InSight Crime Paraguay should focus on other aspects of the fight against drug trafficking instead, like tackling impunity and corruption.

On the same day the Senate approved the law, ABC Color correspondent Pablo Medina was assassinated in the eastern province of Canindeyu. Medina had reportedly received numerous threats due to his coverage of the marijuana trade. Luis Rojas, the head of the National Anti-Drug Secretariat (SENAD) said it was possible drug traffickers may have been behind the murder, reported Ultima Hora.

InSight Crime Analysis

Both Medina’s assassination and the approval of the shoot-down law underscore the seriousness of the threat posed by drug trafficking in Paraguay, which is South America’s largest marijuana producer and a transit point for Brazilian-bound cocaine. As Senator Acevedo stated, however, Paraguay lacks the airplanes and radar coverage necessary to enforce a shoot-down law, and may find its resources better spent elsewhere.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Paraguay 

Meanwhile, John Otis, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) Andes correspondent, told InSight Crime that Paraguay was becoming increasingly dangerous for journalists. According to the CPJ, four journalists have been killed in Paraguay since 1992 in addition to Medina, in cases in which the motive was confirmed — two of them this year. According to Otis, the 2014 killings represent an “extremely high number given the small size of the country.”

Although four individuals have already been detained in relation to the case, Otis expressed concern that the murder investigation would end once the gunmen had been apprehended — rather than going after the person who ordered the killing — as has happened in many similar cases in the region.

The organization Reporters Without Borders has previously warned that the threat posed by organized crime has greatly restricted journalists’ ability to work in Paraguay.

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