Two recent events show how one of Brazil's regional gangs, the PGC, is making waves inside Paraguay, likely seeking to emulate the drug trafficking success that its larger rivals have found there.
On February 5, Paraguayan authorities captured Guillerme Antonio Vieira, alias "Xiru,” the supposed leader of the Brazilian group Primeiro Grupo Catarinense (PGC) in Paraguay's border city of Capitán Bado.
As the regional PGC chief in Paraguay, Vieira was responsible for sending monthly shipments of cocaine and weapons to the group’s headquarters, in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, who in turn distributed the drugs in Brazil and abroad, ABC Color reported.
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This is not the first time that the PGC has been found to have a connection to Paraguay. In January 2019, five members were captured on a highway close to Ciudad del Este, in the border area between Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil, according to a statement by Paraguay's national police
While not a national criminal threat on the scale of the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital - PCC) and Comando Vermelho (Red Command - CV), the PGC has largely uncontested control over the southern state of Santa Catarina and its capital city of Florianópolis, a port and strategic corridor for trafficking drugs abroad.
In 2014, a report by Peru's Counternarcotics Directorate (Dirreción Nacional Antidrogas – DIRANDRO) stated that this group may have been responsible for up to 60 percent of the cocaine trafficked out of the country.
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Paraguay has until now been reported to largely be a playground of the PCC, Brazil's largest criminal group, which is taking over the country's prison system and feuding with local gangs. But this shows that Brazil's smaller gangs also want a share of the pie.
Following in the wake of the PCC and CV which have converted border cities like Pedro Juan Caballero into permanent operation centers, from where they control the trafficking of drugs and arms into Brazil, may actually have made it easier for the PGC to set up shop.
The flow of cocaine through Santa Catarina has been steadily rising and the most likely origin of this increase is Paraguay. This February, Brazilian authorities conducted the largest seizure in the history of Puerto de Itapóa, one of Santa Catarina's biggest ports, with 1.6 tons of coca paste found in a shipment of wood bound for the Netherlands.
Two weeks earlier, a seizure of 600 kilograms of coca paste was found at the same port, destined for Belgium.
In November 2019, police seized 445 kilograms of cocaine in the port of Navegantes, north of Florianópolis, located to the north of Santa Catarina, Globo reported. The drugs were allegedly heading for the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
In 2018, police reports revealed that the seizures had increased by 428 percent within 11 years, NSC Total reported.