HomeNewsAnalysisParaguay Forest Fires Fueled by Increasing Marijuana Demand During Pandemic
ANALYSIS

Paraguay Forest Fires Fueled by Increasing Marijuana Demand During Pandemic

COVID AND CRIME / 26 OCT 2020 BY GABRIEL GONZÁLEZ EN

Forest fires that have blazed across Paraguay in recent weeks are likely to have been, in part, started by criminal groups seeking to clear space for more marijuana plantations.

Paraguay declared a state of emergency earlier this month as forest fires choked much of the country. More than 5,000 separate fires were registered on October 1. While a lengthy period of drought and dry weather allowed the fires to spread virtually unchecked, a new report has claimed armed groups may have started many of them.

In September, Guyra Paraguay, a non-governmental organization tracking forest fires, stated that all of them had been deliberately started, either "for agricultural reasons or to grow marijuana."

On October 13, the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development declared that armed men linked to marijuana cultivation in the Caazapá National Park had stopped firefighters from containing fires in the area, Ultima Hora reported.

On October 2, firefighters in Caazapá National Park directly blamed marijuana traffickers for starting a fire there.

SEE ALSO: Corrupt Police in Paraguay See Opportunity in Illegal Logging

The same dynamic has been seen in previous years. In October 2019, a volunteer firefighter chief in the municipality of Villarrica, located close to Caazapá, suggested that the fires could have been due to land clearance for marijuana cultivation.

At least 2,350 hectares of marijuana plantations exist within the natural parks of Mbaracayú, San Rafael, Morombí and Caazapá, which are all part of the Paraná Atlantic Forest, according to Mongabay.

But it is likely that the number of plantations has now increased as demand for marijuana has exploded during the coronavirus pandemic. Authorities in neighboring Argentina and Brazil, as well as in the United States and Europe, have reported soaring consumption of marijuana in recent months.

Paraguay is the leading marijuana producer in the region, with much of the crop sent to Argentina and Brazil. The country's northeastern region, where 93 percent of marijuana plantations are concentrated, has presented severe environmental degradation in recent years.

InSight Crime Analysis

While Paraguay reports low marijuana consumption rates, neighboring countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile had large consumer markets prior to the pandemic. The latter three countries listed have the highest rates of marijuana consumption in all of South America, according to a 2019 report on drug consumption in the Americas.

Brazilian authorities have seen a massive increase in marijuana seizures coming from Paraguay in 2020. According to data from Brazil’s federal police, 257 tons of marijuana were seized in the border states of Paraná and Mato Grosso do Sul between January and September, while just 107 tons were seized in 2019.

SEE ALSO: Paraguay Shakes Up Drug Policy with First Medical Cannabis Licenses

Paraguay has the second-highest deforestation rate in South America, according to Global Forest Watch, and this year's catastrophic forest fires may be the worst in the country's history. And it is not facing this problem alone.

Drug traffickers and other criminal groups in Latin America have also taken advantage of illegal logging to clear space for plantations, build landing strips for drug planes or sell off timber. For example, neighboring Brazil is facing reports that almost 100 percent of its forest fires were started by criminal groups.

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 / 18 SEP 2015

A recent newspaper report describes how a government strategy meant to combat illegal logging in Brazil -- via the creation…

BRAZIL / 14 JAN 2021

The reported leader of the PCC in Paraguay, known as “Bonitão,” has been extradited back to Brazil after a tumultuous…

DRUG POLICY / 25 SEP 2015

In 2013, Uruguay took the unprecedented step of legalizing the production and use of marijuana. Yet, two years on, a…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.