Brazilian drug gang the Red Command sends a ton of Colombian cocaine each month into Brazil from Paraguay, according to Paraguayan authorities.
The Red Command (Comando Vermelho) has a branch based in Paraguayan border city Ciudad del Este, and transports most of its product to Rio de Janeiro, Paraguay’s anti-drug agency SENAD told Paraguayan newspaper ABC.
The Red Command’s top men in Paraguay are believed to be Nelson Teofilo Martinez Mendoza, who was captured by the authorities last week in the border state of Alto Parana, and Nestor Baez Alvarenga, who remains at large.
According to ABC, the Red Command set up its base of operations in Ciudad del Este in the mid-1990s, in order to move shipments of Bolivian drugs to Brazil. The group initially had little infrastructure, and the leaders would transport the drugs themselves overland in SUVs, but it has since expanded to become a powerful trafficking structure in the country.
InSight Crime Analysis
The Red Command, Brazil’s oldest drug trafficking organization, has historic links with Colombian trafficking groups, and became their main local partner when Brazil emerged as an important drug market and transshipment point in the 1980s. The Red Command’s leader Luiz Fernando da Costa, alias “Fernandinho Beira-Mar,” was captured in Colombia in 2001 while buying cocaine from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
However it is likely that the group is using Bolivia as its principal cocaine supplier, as security advances in Colombia have made the country a less comfortable operating zone for criminal groups, and there has been evidence of serious Brazilian presence in Bolivia in recent years. Paraguay is a good transshipment point for drugs coming from either of these countries, thanks to its relatively weak law enforcement and location in the heart of the continent.
Brazil’s appetite for cocaine has grown significantly in the last decade, and it now presents a more attractive market than the United States, because of its proximity to drug-producing countries and long, permeable land borders.