A suspected Brazilian gang leader based in one of Paraguay's key locations for smuggling contraband was gunned down while playing pool, pointing to the country's popularity as a safe haven for Brazilian criminals.
Osmar Jesus Chavez, alias "Bola de Fogo" ("fireball" in Portuguese) was playing pool at a bar some 40 kilometers from the Brazilian border when two gunmen burst in through the side door, their faces covered. The assassins, armed with shotguns, ordered Chavez and his companion to the floor and shot them in the head.
Chavez, an alleged commander of the notorious Brazilian prison gang the Red Command (Comando Vermelho) who lived a few blocks away from the bar where he was killed, apparently paid large sums to local authorities to avoid being "bothered," ABC reported.
The torched remains of a Chevrolet Vectra, believed to have been used by the gunmen for transport and then destroyed, was found some 10 kilometers from where the murders took place.
InSight Crime Analysis
That Chavez lived so close to the Brazilian border, apparently paying off local officials to operate unimpeded while using a fake Paraguayan ID, speaks of the country's lax law enforcement. (According to a previous ABC report, the trafficker's real name is Josimar Jesus and "Omar de Jesus Chavez" is his Paraguayan alias.) This has helped turn the country into a major cocaine trafficking hub for Brazilian gangs like the Red Command.
Chavez apparently considered Paraguay enough of a safe haven for him to remain there despite reportedly receiving threats from rival groups that caused him to hire extra security guards. The fact that he was based in Paraguay's Canindeyu department, which offers easy access to Ciudad del Este (a massive transit point for products illicitly entering Brazil), and Salto del Guaira, which is connected by a bridge to Brazil, could suggest that he was killed because his rivals wanted to establish a stronger hold on this strategic territory.
Chavez's death is only the latest indication of Red Command presence in Paraguay. The Brazilian Federal Police representative in Paraguay has previously complained that Brazilian traffickers are fleeing the security crackdowns in urban centers like Rio de Janeiro, and relocating to Paraguay.