Former Mayor Who Exposed Narco-Political Links in Paraguay Captured

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A former mayor in eastern Paraguay, accused of ordering the killing of an investigative journalist, has been arrested in Brazil, in a case that detonated a narco-politics scandal in this landlocked South American nation.

On March 4, Brazilian police arrested Vilmar “Neneco” Acosta in Mato Grosso state near the Paraguayan border, reported Vanguardia. Acosta is the former mayor of the town of Ypejhu in eastern Paraguay and is accused of ordering the murder of journalist Pablo Medina in October 2014. He had reported on links between Acosta, his family, and drug traffickers in the region.

Paraguay’s Attorney General Javier Diaz Veron said authorities are seeking to extradite the former mayor. A judge in Brazil has revoked Acosta’s Brazilian citizenship because the suspect reportedly obtained a false birth certificate in that country, paving the way for extradition proceedings to begin.

Acosta was previously arrested in February 2011 after authorities found human bones and hair on his father’s property in Ypejhu. He was released less than one month later, however, and the judges who freed him were subsequently found guilty of judicial irregularities in the case. 

InSight Crime Analysis

Acosta’s capture is significant because the murder of Medina precipitated Paraguay’s current narco-political scandal. The unprecedented media attention — spearheaded by Medina’s employer, ABC Color — on the undue influence of drug trafficking groups on Paraguayan institutions has exposed some long-standing official corruption in the country. Paraguay regularly ranks among Latin America’s most corrupt nations in Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions index, and in 2014 trailed only Venezuela and Haiti.

For years, Brazilian drug trafficking groups have bought political protection in eastern Paraguay, the country’s most prolific marijuana-producing region.  It supplies several consumer markets in South America including Brazil, Chile, and Argentina.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Paraguay

Shortly after Medina’s assassination, anti-drug czar Luis Rojas stated drug trafficking groups were using their economic influence to subvert political and judicial institutions in Paraguay. In December 2014, several congressmen were linked to high-level Brazilian and Paraguayan drug traffickers, including Carlos Antonio Caballero, alias “Capilo.” 

In 2015, revelations of corruption have extended to Paraguay’s security forces. In January, ABC Color revealed police officers in eastern Canindeyu province regularly received bribes from drug traffickers, and in February a military captain was arrested for running a transnational drug trafficking network.

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