Killing on Brazil-Paraguay Border Is Latest Sign of Narco War

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The murder of a convicted drug kingpin’s brother on the border between Brazil and Paraguay is the latest indication of an ongoing battle for control of lucrative drug trafficking routes in the area, which is well known for violence and corruption linked to the narcotics trade.

Ronny Pavão, the brother of jailed Brazilian drug trafficker Jarvis Pavão, was killed by unknown assailants on the night of March 14 in the border town of Ponta Porã, in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul, O Globo reported.

Jarvis Pavão was one of Paraguay’s most-wanted criminals when he was arrested in 2009 alongside Carlos Antonio Caballero, alias “Capilo,” another suspected top drug trafficker with links to Brazilian crime groups. Jarvis is currently serving a prison sentence in the Paraguayan capital Asunción.

Brazilian police believe the attack on Jarvis’ brother Ronny came as a response to the June 2016 ambush that killed Jorge Rafaat Toumani, another top drug trafficker in the Paraguay border region, Brazilian news outlet Extra reported.

Authorities believe that Jarvis Pavão ordered Rafaat’s murder in order to consolidate his group’s control over smuggling routes in the area.

Ronny Pavão’s attackers have yet to be identified, but authorities reportedly suspect that Adair José Belo, a former member of Brazil’s military police who has been linked to Rafaat’s organization, may have ordered the killing. ABC Color reports that Belo may be positioning himself to become the new “capo” of the border region.

InSight Crime Analysis

The killing of Ronny Pavão is not the first indication of a brewing narco war along the Paraguay-Brazil border. In August 2016, assassins killed a local mayor and a police official in separate attacks, once again stoking fears over criminal violence in the region, as both of the victims had voiced concerns about drug-related corruption before their deaths.

The town of Pedro Juan Caballero, which is in Paraguay across the border from Ponta Porã where Ronny Pavão was killed, has long been known as a hotbed of violence and corruption linked to criminal activities. One example of this came in 2015, when authorities discovered that an airport in Pedro Juan Caballero was being used almost exclusively for drug trafficking.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Paraguay

The town’s strategic location — directly on the border with Brazil, home to South America’s largest drug market — makes it coveted territory for drug traffickers shipping cocaine from the Andes or marijuana from Paraguay, one of the world’s biggest cannabis producers.

In light of the area’s attractiveness for criminal groups and its weak law enforcement institutions, the recent series of murders is perhaps unsurprising. It is worth noting, however, that both Pavão’s and Rafaat’s organizations were suspected of having ties to Brazil’s two main criminal groups, the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC) and the Red Command (Comando Vermelho). And both of those gangs are believed to operate in Pedro Juan Caballero.

Rather than a straightforward, tit-for-tat revenge killing, it is possible that Ronny Pavão’s murder could signal a broader underworld shake-up in the region that could potentially be exacerbated by the recent dissolution of a long-standing PCC-Red Command alliance, which was linked to a wave of deadly violence that swept through Brazil’s prison system earlier this year.

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