Brazilian Organized Crime and Corrupt Politicians: Drug Trafficking in Paraguay

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Police raids against leaders of Brazil’s PCC gang in Paraguay and a breaking narco-politics scandal have again turned the spotlight on the role of Brazilian organized crime and official corruption in the evolution of Paraguay as a drug trafficking hub.

On June 6, judicial authorities and agents from Paraguay’s anti-drug agency (SENAD) raided the jail cells of Tomas Rojas, alias “Toma’i,” and Carlos Antonio Caballero, alias “Capilo,” reported ABC Color, uncovering evidence the two men were managing a sophisticated drug trafficking operation moving Bolivian cocaine to Brazil via Paraguay’s Ciudad del Este.

Toma’i was arrested in September 2011 in Ciudad del Este and after being transferred to the Tacumbu prison established a relationship with Capilo, a leader of the First Capital Command (PCC) who was arrested in December 2009. According to investigators, Toma’i used his new connection with Capilo to rebuild his criminal structure in Ciudad del Este.

Also on June 6, Paraguayan police captured PCC leader Rodrigo Silva Duarte in the department of Amambay. A fugitive in Brazil, Duarte was one of the most wanted men in Brazil. According to Brazilian police, he had been sent to Paraguay to recruit new members into the PCC to help traffic cocaine and marijuana into Brazil.

The day before, an audiotape made public by the lawyer for Carlos Ruben Sanchez, alias “Chicharõ — a recently arrested Paraguayan politician accused of links to drug trafficking — revealed Paraguayan officials may have been protecting and collaborating with Brazilian drug traffickers.

The tape is a recording of a November 2014 meeting between Brazilian drug trafficker Ezequiel de Souza, who was arrested in 2012 with 1,700 kg of cocaine, the head of the SENAD, Luis Rojas, and Senators Arnaldo Giuzzio and Arnoldo Wiens. During the meeting, bribery payments to politicians, police, and judges were discussed. Also implicated are the Vice Minister of the Interior, Javier Ibarra, and several other politicians from the Colorado Party.

InSight Crime Analysis

Allegations of the collusion and complicity of corrupt Paraguayan politicians and government officials with drug trafficking is nothing new. This is especially so in Paraguay’s eastern departments like Amambay and Alto Parana (where Ciudad del Este is located), which sit along the border with Brazil and are key transit areas for drugs.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Paraguay

The fertile environment for organized crime created by such corruption has helped Brazilian criminal groups take root in Paraguay, and the PCC now plays a major role in trafficking Paraguayan-grown marijuana and Bolivian cocaine into Brazil.

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