Impunity Reigns for Drug Traffickers in East Paraguay

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Judges in Paraguay’s Triple Frontier region have been providing favorable sentencing to drug traffickers, underscoring the high levels of impunity in the Paraguayan legal system.

The judges, based in Ciudad del Este, are accused of issuing lenient punishment in 80 drug trafficking cases over a six-month period last year, according to a report from the city’s criminal court. Of those 80 cases, nearly half were suspended and seven absolved. Only three cases resulted in convictions, with prison sentences ranging from five to six years, reported ABC.

A legal expert consulted by ABC — the president of the Law School of Alta Parana (CAAP) — said that the Paraguayan drug traffickers received reduced sentences because a network of judges, district attorneys, and even coroners have been co-opted by the drug trade, and thus conspired to issue alternative sentences (such as house arrest) to the accused. 

InSight Crime Analysis

It would come as no surprise if Paraguay’s judicial system has been corrupted by the drug trade. And given that newly-elected President Horacio Cartes has alleged ties to organized crime, it seems unlikely there will be any meaningful attempts at judicial reform anytime soon. 

Ciudad del Este is based in the Triple Frontier region, a hub for organized crime and the trafficking of contraband, thanks to weak law enforcement and its strategic location close to Brazil and Argentina, both major drug consuming countries and transit points for cocaine trafficked to Europe. The Triple Frontier also serves as a transit site for marijuana grown in Paraguay and for cocaine arriving from Peru and Bolivia.

Brazilian gangs are known to have taken advantage of Ciudad del Este’s favorable conditions for drug traffickers, especially the Red Command (Comando Vermelho), which is believed to have established a base there decades ago.

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