Locals Taking Control of Paraguay Drug Trafficking: Minister

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Paraguayans are becoming increasingly prominent within foreign drug trafficking networks in Paraguay, a sign such organizations are establishing deep roots in the country.

Where Paraguayans previously worked as lower-level “soldiers” in trafficking organizations, over the last five years they have risen through the ranks to take leading roles, Paraguay’s National Anti-drug Minister Luis Rojas told the Primero de Marzo radio station.

Rojas also alleged the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP), a leftist guerrilla group, has a significant role in the domestic drug trade. He claimed that EPP-controlled land is used for marijuana cultivation and clandestine landing strips for drug flights, highlighting 50 tons of marijuana seizures in their area of influence.

InSight Crime Analysis

Paraguay is both a key transshipment point for Peruvian and Bolivian cocaine and the region’s primary marijuana producer, with around 48,000 tons of marijuana grown annually, according to government estimates. According to the State Department’s 2013 International Narcotics Strategy Report, 80 percent of the drug ends up on the Brazilian market.

Many of the networks that traffic these drugs are largely run by transnational drug trafficking gangs operating across its borders, such as the Brazilian Red Command (Comando Vermelho), although these groups also rely on local contacts, especially among crime families involved in contraband smuggling.

SEE ALSO: Paraguay News

If the minister’s comments are correct that more Paraguayans are now assuming leadership roles then this is a worrying development as this type of “nationalization” of trafficking suggests organized crime has truly taken root in the country, while structures run by locals, with local knowledge and connections will likely prove more difficult to identify and dismantle than networks run by outsiders.

The government’s accusations against the EPP follow a recent spike in the group’s activity and come amidst an ongoing campaign targeting the rebels.  Allegations the EPP profits from the drug trade are nothing new, and although it remains to be proven that they are anything more than tangentially involved, the comments add to concerns the EPP is becoming a narco-guerrilla organization akin to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which has trained EPP fighters in the past.

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