Paraguay’s New ‘Narco-President’ Takes Aim At The Underworld

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The president-elect of Paraguay, Horacio Cartes, has attacked the state institutions of his predecessor, accusing them of corruption and involvement in Paraguay’s lucrative smuggling and contraband sectors — crimes he has been frequently accused of himself. 

Cartes, who takes office on August 15, said dirty money was making its way into the hands of prosecutors and others with power, but claimed, “This president will not accept bribes.”

Acknowledging that he would “upset some people” with his comments, Cartes said the Customs Police was allowing “insupportable smuggling” and had to “work differently,” reported ABC.

According to Cartes, the Navy had turned into “a simple spectator” instead of working to combat the crime, reported Ultima Hora.

For every million-dollars-worth of products that entered the country, only $10,000-worth were declared, Cartes claimed, with contraband passing through Guarani airport in Ciudad del Este, where “the scanners don’t work.” 

Responding to Cartes’ allegations, outgoing President Federico Franco admitted there was a “structural problem” of corruption within the Customs Police, reported EFE.

InSight Crime Analysis

Cartes has highlighted one of the main security problems facing Paraguay, where contraband and marijuana production account for a substantial slice of the country’s economy. However, his mudslinging is somewhat ironic given that he has for years faced serious accusations of smuggling, money laundering and ties to the drug trade.

According to leaked US diplomatic cables, Cartes, who heads a business consortium that runs one of Paraguay’s biggest banks and main cigarette producers, has facilitated wide scale money laundering. Other reports have linked him to gold smuggling, the counterfeit cigarette trade in Argentina and Brazil, and of allowing drug traffickers to use his property to move shipments.

Given his shady ties, his outburst seems unlikely to be a genuine call to get tough on crime, and instead may well be aimed at sidelining political opponents or even edging out rivals in the contraband trade.

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