A Murder, A Critique, and an Exasperated Official in Paraguay

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Paraguay’s anti-drug chief has acknowledged corruption within his department and called for multi-agency assistance in combating Paraguay’s drug trafficking problem following the murder of a journalist in a troubled part of the country.

“SENAD is doing all it can with what it has,” said Luis Rojas, head of Paraguay’s National Antidrug Secretariat (SENAD), in an interview with radio station 780 AM, reported ABC Color.

“SENAD only has 400 men and, because of internal corruption, some of them are not to be relied on for certain activities,” he added. “Drug trafficking creates an enormous chain of corruption.”

Rojas’ comments followed a recent murder of a journalist in the Paraguay-Brazil border town of Pedro Juan Caballero. Opposition Senator Robert Acevedo accused a “sold-out” SENAD of ignoring the area while drug traffickers turned it into a “killing field.”

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Paraguay

Rojas partially defended the efforts of SENAD, saying the organization had seized more than $800 million in drugs, money and other items from mostly Paraguayan and Brazilian traffickers during 2013. However, the official admitted his organization was incapable of bringing Paraguay’s organized crime element under control. 

“The fight against the criminal sectors requires an inter-institutional effort,” Rojas said, calling for help from the national police, Paraguay’s armed forces and the prosecutor general.

InSight Crime Analysis 

Part of Paraguay’s problem is criminal migration. Earlier this year a spate of murders in and around Pedro Juan Caballero attributed to a turf war between Brazilian trafficking groups highlighted the area’s importance in regional trafficking.

It is also an arms trafficking corridor. In the same period, authorities dismantled a Brazilian gang transporting weapons through Pedro Juan Caballero. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Criminal Migration

Rojas’ acknowledgment of corruption in his ranks, and SENAD’s inability to halt violence and drug trafficking, is a continuation of the candid style he has displayed since taking his current post, with the official promising the government would “lie less” about drug trafficking before even taking office in August 2013. 

Critics note that Rojas’ boss and current Paraguay President Horacio Cartes has faced recurring accusations of involvement in drug smuggling and money laundering.

These accusations cast doubt on whether Rojas’ open-eyed comments will translate into the inter-institution effort he has trumpeted see a meaningful attempt to combat corruption within SENAD. 

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