HomeNewsAnalysisParaguay Congressman Sent Friendly Texts to Drug Trafficker
ANALYSIS

Paraguay Congressman Sent Friendly Texts to Drug Trafficker

ELITES AND CRIME / 2 DEC 2014 BY KYRA GURNEY EN

Text messages exchanged between a congressman and a convicted criminal in Paraguay may be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ties between politicians and organized crime in the country, the largest producer of marijuana in South America.

Messages intercepted by police in 2011 and revealed by newspaper ABC Color paint a picture of the relationship between Congressman Bernardo Villalba, who had not yet been elected to office at the time, and Carlos Antonio Caballero, alias "Capilo," allegedly a major drug supplier for Brazilian prison gang the First Capital Command (PCC). In the text messages, Villalba asks for campaign financing, mentions bribing a judge, and references a proposed law to keep drug traffickers from being extradited.

"Blue Label Johnnie Walker. A case of Perrier water and a case of Skol [beer]. That's what it costs to suspend the hearing on the 17th," reads one text message, in which Villalba refers to legal proceedings against Caballero.

According to ABC Color, three days after Villalba sent the text, the judge overseeing Caballero's case suspended his preliminary hearing. In total, the legal proceedings against Caballero dragged on for close to five years and were suspended a total of 14 times. Caballero was finally sentenced to seven years in prison for money laundering, weapons violations, and illicit association.

In another text message, Villalba asked Caballero for a campaign contribution of $5,000 dollars, to which Caballero responded, "I'll give it to you on Monday my friend."  

Additionally, the messages between Villalba and Caballero reportedly mention a law proposed by another Paraguayan congressman that would have kept Paraguayan drug traffickers and naturalized foreigners -- like Caballero's associate, a Brazilian -- from being extradited.

The text messages also refer to "salmon" on several occasions, which appears to be some sort of code word. However, in an interview with the radio station 780 AM, Villalba claimed he was actually talking about eating salmon in the text conversations with Caballero. He also said the text message about bribing a judge with whiskey and Perrier water was a joke. Villalba added that he never received money from Caballero, and that his relationship with the alleged drug trafficker consisted of giving him legal advice.

ABC Color revealed the content of the text messages between Villalba and Caballero less than a week after Paraguay's Senate presented a document describing ties between drug traffickers and public officials to the Attorney General's Office. According to Terra, the accusations were based on a report by Paraguay's anti-drug authority, known as the SENAD.  

InSight Crime Analysis

Given Paraguay's role as South America's largest marijuana producer and the Senate's accusations, Villalba's case could be the first of many to expose collusion between criminal groups and high-level public officials.

The recent assassination of the ABC Color journalist Pablo Medina, who reported on drug trafficking for the newspaper, also suggested there are unsavory ties between Paraguayan government officials and organized crime. A local mayor is the primary suspect in the murder, which was allegedly carried out by the mayor's brother and nephew. When police searched a property belonging to the mayor, they found hydraulic presses used to process marijuana and more than three tons of the drug. Meanwhile, a former governor has been accused of shielding the mayor from authorities and running a network that protects drug trafficking operations.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Paraguay

Notably, the head of the SENAD, Luis Rojas, has recently been quite outspoken in denouncing narcopolitics in Paraguay. In a press conference on October 21, Rojas stated that drug traffickers pay politicians, military and judicial officials, and the media for protection. 

It remains to be seen whether these recent events will escalate into a bigger, more serious probe into Paraguayan corruption. This may largely depend on the political will and the independence of bodies like the Senate and the Attorney General's Office. It may also depend on the efforts of media organizations like ABC Color to continue shining a spotlight on the problem -- despite the obvious dangers that its staff is facing. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Elites and Organized Crime

This alleged collusion between drug traffickers and Paraguayan officials follows the pattern seen in other countries with a significant organized crime presence. This includes Mexico, where local governments and municipal police forces have been infiltrated by drug cartels, and Peru, where over 100 candidates for the 2014 regional elections were linked to drug trafficking cases.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

BRAZIL / 24 FEB 2020

Armed men shot and killed a Brazilian journalist who covered police and drug trafficking along the Brazil-Paraguay border, underscoring the…

EPP / 17 NOV 2015

Paraguayan security forces have killed several key leaders of guerrilla group the ACA, raising the question of why authorities have…

CARIBBEAN / 10 FEB 2015

One of the Dominican Republic's most notorious drug traffickers has claimed he financed the political campaigns of former president Leonel…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela El Dorado Investigation Makes Headlines

3 DEC 2021

InSight Crime's investigation into the trafficking of illegal gold in Venezuela's Amazon region generated impact on both social media and in the press. Besides being republished and mentioned by several…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…

THE ORGANIZATION

Backing Investigative Journalism Around the Globe

5 NOV 2021

InSight Crime was a proud supporter of this year's Global Investigative Journalism Conference, which took place November 1 through November 5 and convened nearly 2,000 journalists…