In Hopeful Sign, Paraguay Fugitive Mayor Arrested

Paraguay authorities have arrested a fugitive mayor on charges of money laundering, boosting hopes that the government is making progress in the fight against narco-politicians.

On January 3, police arrested Denilso Sánchez Garcete, alias “Chicharõcito,” the youngest of three brothers all under investigation for money laundering, local Paraguayan outlet ABC Color reported

He was held in Capitán Bado, in Amambay state on the Brazilian border, before being transferred to the offices of Paraguay?s anti-drug authority (SENAD) in the country’s capital, Asunción, the news organization said.

Just 32-years old, Chicharõcito was elected as the mayor of Capitán Bado for the right-wing Colorado party on November 15, 2015. He had run his campaign with the slogan — “your vote is worth double” — and in flagrant disregard of an arrest warrant. 

Sánchez is from a notorious political-criminal family. Chicharõcito?s older brother, Carlos Rubén Sánchez, alias “Chicharõ,” was arrested on May 22, 2015. As Insight Crime reported, Chicharõ had served as an alternative congressional representative for Amambay despite a previous conviction for drug trafficking and a warrant for his arrest in Brazil for money laundering. 

Chicharõ and his other brother, Ardonio Sánchez, are now both under house arrest. Chicharõ courted further controversy this week when a photo emerged of him meeting Miss Paraguay at his home.

InSight Crime Analysis

Despite countless setbacks, the arrest of the last of the three Sánchez brothers has renewed hopes that politicians connected to organized crime might finally be brought to justice.

An editorial in the leading news outlet ABC Color said the action should mean: “No more Chicharõs, Chicharõcitos and their narco-political godfathers.” 

(It was an ABC Color Correspondent Pablo Medina who was murdered in 2014, allegedly on orders from Vilmar Acosta, another fugitive mayor and alleged drug trafficker from Canindeyu state, who was extradited to Paraguay from Brazil in November 2015.)

However, there is little confidence that the Paraguayan government can make a long-term impact on drug trafficking in Amambay state simply by removing the three brothers.

Amambay and Canindeyu states both harbor many drug trafficking groups focused on trade into neighboring Brazil and are amongst the most violent areas of Paraguay, a dynamic that seems set to continue with or without the Sánchez brothers. 

A recent report by Ultima Hora cited government figures showing that in 2015, there had been 113 homicides in Amambay. The report stated that 80 percent of these murders had been committed by hired assassins, usually in relation to drug trafficking. (See Ultima Hora chart below)16-01-04-paraguay-homicides-amambay