Authorities in Paraguay say that Brazilian crime boss Jarvis Chimenes Pavâo hatched a plot to assassinate President Horacio Cortes, but politicians and media outlets have called into question the veracity of these allegations.
Citing intelligence reports, Interior Minister Francisco De Vargas said on September 2 that Pavâo had put a $5 million bounty on the head of President Cortes and his family, reported Hoy.com. The head of Paraguay's National Anti-Drug Secretariat (SENAD), Hugo Vera, also said that Pavâo was planning to kill the president.
Brazilian hit men had reportedly crossed into Paraguay to carry out the attack ordered by Pavâo, who had lived a life of luxury in eastern Paraguay before US, Brazilian and Paraguayan authorities arrested him in 2009.
Pavâo replicated the relative luxury of his lifestyle inside his spacious cell in Tacumbú prison, which was equipped with a kitchen, air conditioning, several televisions and a sound system, among other items. But in late July, Cortes ordered security forces to move the crime boss to a special police facility, bringing an end to his stay in what one local media outlet said resembled a hotel spa more than a prison cell.
Shortly after the transfer orders, prison guards deactivated a bomb that inmates had allegedly planted within the facility on orders from Pavâo. Interior Minister De Vargas said the alleged plot to assassinate Cortes was also motivated by Pavâo's transfer.
InSight Crime Analysis
Some politicians and media outlets have raised doubts about the allegations of Pavâo ordering a hit on President Cortes. Leading opposition figures have said the report is a way to deflect attention from the government's shortcomings in terms of security. For its part, Paraguayan newspaper ABC Color said it was "striking" that the authorities maintained they have been aware for some time of the attempt to kill Cortes, but they only publicly released the information shortly after the killing of eight soldiers in late August. Authorities suspect that rebel group the Paraguayan People's Army (Ejército del Pueblo Paraguayo - EPP) was responsible for the deadly attack.
Multiple news outlets have also noted that the authorities disseminated the information pertaining to the alleged assassination plot to Hoy.com, which is owned and operated by the Cortes family.
SEE ALSO: Paraguay News and Profile
To be sure, Pavâo has demonstrated the power he wields within the Paraguayan prison system by acquiring an opulent cell and allegedly engineering the attempt to destabilize the Tacumbú facility in July. But assassinating the president would be a qualitative leap in terms of the reach of his influence outside the prison system. After all, Pavâo has been imprisoned in Paraguay since 2009, so it seems questionable that he could mobilize Brazilian hit men to cross the border in order to carry out such a high-risk proposition.
This isn't the first time that an alleged attempt by criminals to kill a president in Latin America has been called into question. Honduran authorities claimed they foiled a plot by a group of drug traffickers from several different countries to assassinate President Juan Orlando Hernandez in September 2014. InSight Crime noted, however, that the report may have simply been a way to improve his standing with the Honduran people or even insulate him from any potential accusations of narco corruption.