Murders Add to Fears of Narco War in Eastern Paraguay

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The murders of a police officer and mayor in Paraguay’s eastern departments along the Brazilian border add to a recent wave of violence in the area, long a hub for drug trafficking and criminal activity.

The night of August 9, two assassins on a motorcycle killed police official Osvaldo Ramírez Lezcano in the town of Curuguaty, located in Paraguay’s Canindeyú department near the Brazilian border, reported ABC Color.

Three have been detained in connection to the murder, including Fermín Ramoa, a known assassin in the employ of drug traffickers in the area, according to ABC Color.

A short audio clip of Lezcano emerged after his death in which he is heard criticizing corruption in the region, including the complicity or active involvement of high-ranking police officials in drug trafficking.

Officials believe Lezcano was on a list of police members from Canindeyú department slated to be killed in retribution for the seizure of 20 tons of marijuana on July 8.

Lezcano’s death follows the August 5 murder of Miguel Louteiro Echeverría, the mayor of Bella Vista Norte, and his secretary Celso Carballo. That town sits along the Brazilian border in the department of Amambay, just north of Canindeyú.

Gunmen ambushed Echeverría as he was inspecting a bridge on a secluded stretch of highway 50 kilometers from the town center. The coroner noted he had been shot 23 times, while his secretary had 16 bullet wounds.

Drug traffickers have a heavy presence in Bella Vista Norte, and Echeverría’s death may be linked to a recent seizure of 417 kilograms of cocaine, reported ABC Color. He had also denounced the presence of drug traffickers in the area, vocalizing concerns about the number of private airplanes and of Brazilians moving through the region.

InSight Crime Analysis

Paraguay’s eastern departments of Amambay and Canindeyú are hotspots of criminal activity, driven largely by Paraguay’s status as South America’s principal marijuana producer. Neighboring Brazil offers a lucrative drug market for those who control trafficking routes along the border, and the presence of Brazilian criminal groups such as the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC) contributes to violence and corruption in the region.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Paraguay

These two murders, however, add to a recent spate of violence and raise further concerns over a potentially escalating drug war along the border. Prominent businessman and suspected drug trafficker Jorge Rafaat was killed on June 15 in the city of Pedro Juan Caballero, located in Amambay, where assassins used a .50 caliber machinegun to punch holes in his armored Hummer. 

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