HomeNewsBriefA Look at Paraguay's Narco-Churches
BRIEF

A Look at Paraguay's Narco-Churches

NARCOCULTURE / 29 JAN 2015 BY DAVID GAGNE EN

A series of recently published photos -- showing churches owned by alleged drug traffickers in Paraguay -- is a reminder of the sometimes complicated intersection between religion and organized crime in Latin America.

In mid-January, authorities reported that local police officers in eastern Paraguay were accused of stealing over 250 kilos of seized cocaine and handing it over to alleged drug trafficker Clemencio Gonzalez Gimenez, alias "Gringo." During the investigation into the case, police officials searched Gonzalez's properties in the province of Amambay, and found a building that some might find surprising -- not a nightclub, or even a zoo, but a small church. Photos were originally published by ABC Color and are reprinted by InSight Crime with permission. 

church2

This is not the first example of a suspected drug trafficker who decided to build his own church in Paraguay, according to ABC Color. In 2009, the country's anti-drug agency SENAD found a church (see below) on the property of trafficker Jarvis Chimenes Pavão, who was one of Paraguay's most wanted criminals before his arrest. 

church1

In 2011, the SENAD also discovered a "mini-sanctuary" (below) at the residence of drug trafficker Tomas Rojas Cañete in Ciudad del Este. Authorities raided his property and seized over 100 kilos of cocaine.

church3

InSight Crime Analysis

Drug traffickers who profess to believe in and follow the rules of the Catholic Church often have ulterior motives for practicing their faith, says one expert.

"They [drug traffickers] are mostly looking for divine protection and aren't concerned with Christianity as an ethical system," Andrew Chesnut, a professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and author of the book "Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint," told InSight Crime.

Chesnut noted that in Paraguay's case -- where 90 percent of the population is Catholic -- cases in which criminals subscribe to a particular religion "mostly plays out in a Catholic context."

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Paraguay

But that's not the case in other parts of Latin America. In Puerto Rico and Colombia, those involved in the drug trafficking underworld are known to practice Santeria -- a combination of West African and Roman Catholic beliefs and practices -- in belief that it will help them avoid detection from authorities. In Mexico, some locals in the state of Michoacan canonized a founder of criminal group La Familia Michoacana, Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, alias "El Mas Loco," and built a church to venerate the "narco-saint" after his reported death in 2010 -- he later turned up dead following a gun fight with authorities in 2014. The Knights Templar, a splinter group of La Familia Michoacana, has carried on this tradition of quasi-religious mythology by indoctrinating new recruits with an evangelical devotion towards God. 

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

ELITES AND CRIME / 9 DEC 2014

Three Congressmen in Paraguay have been accused of links to Brazilian drug trafficking groups, as more politicians get drawn into…

COLOMBIA / 1 NOV 2019

An altar laden with human skulls and bones was used by a powerful Mexico City gang in the worship of…

ARGENTINA / 3 NOV 2016

A report has mapped how marijuana is trafficked through Paraguay and Argentina via thousands of kilometers of river, providing an…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…

THE ORGANIZATION

Informing US State Department and European Union

1 APR 2022

InSight Crime Co-director McDermott briefed the US State Department and other international players on the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela and the implication this has for both nations.  McDermott…