HomeNewsAnalysisParaguay Congressman Sent Friendly Texts to Drug Trafficker

Paraguay Congressman Sent Friendly Texts to Drug Trafficker


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.


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.


Related Content

BRAZIL / 8 SEP 2022

Brazil's largest gang, the PCC, could be trying to take over the marijuana business in neighboring Paraguay.

BRAZIL / 16 JUN 2021

Rio de Janeiro’s foremost militia leader has been gunned down by police, potentially shattering the belief that militias in the…


Argentine province bordering Uruguay has become a transit hub for drug trafficking out of Paraguay, revealing a new route used…

About InSight Crime


Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.


InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.


Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …


InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…


Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…