HomeNewsBriefDrug Seizures Spike Along Paraguay’s Border With Bolivia
BRIEF

Drug Seizures Spike Along Paraguay’s Border With Bolivia

BOLIVIA / 28 JUN 2019 BY SETH ROBBINS EN

Cocaine seizures along Paraguay’s border with Bolivia have tripled, bolstering fears that the forest hinterland of Chaco has become a haven for drug smugglers.

From January to June, authorities in Paraguay seized three metric tons of cocaine in the northwestern border departments that contain most of the massive Chaco forest -- a hot, dry, sparsely populated plain. Between 2014 and 2018, cocaine seizures in the forest amounted to just over one ton, according to data provided to InSight Crime from Paraguay’s Drug Observatory. In 2018, no cocaine was seized there at all.

SEE ALSO: Paraguay News and Profiles

The spokesman for Paraguay’s National Anti-Drug Agency (Secretaría Nacional Antidrogas -- SENAD) told Bolivian news outlet Los Tiempos that there are only two explanations for the sudden spike in drugs captured in the Chaco forest: interdiction efforts have improved, or the amount of drugs moving through the area has increased.

The latest seizure of some 450 kilograms of cocaine occurred at a remote residence in the Chaco. Authorities discovered the drugs inside a small plane that had landed at a nearby clandestine airstrip after taking off from Bolivia, according to the government.

The pilot, a Bolivian national, was behind the drug smuggling operation. He was assisted by his three sons, along with a Colombian national and a Paraguayan man, authorities said.

The cocaine, which came from Peru, was likely destined for Spain. The bricks had “Madrid” stamped on them.

InSight Crime Analysis

While seizures are not a perfect proxy for measuring drug trafficking, it’s likely that smugglers are increasingly entering the forbidding Chaco forest, where planes loaded with cocaine land on hidden airstrips.

Paraguay has stepped up enforcement efforts recently, but authorities are largely powerless to stop the drug flights. The country has long lacked radar capabilities, relying on Brazil and Argentina for alerts about plane movements along its borders. The government is in the process of installing a radar tower in Concepción, in central Paraguay, but the radar will not cover large swaths of the Chaco forest.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Cocaine

The drug planes, however, can refuel in the air, making it so that they can reach nearly any part of the forest. Most of the drug flights originate in Bolivia, intelligence officials told InSight Crime investigators on a recent field trip.

The flights are taking non-traditional routes, including over the northern part of the country, which would include the Chaco forest, one official said.

“The issue [for them] is to enter without being detected,” he said.

This is not hard, given Paraguay’s weak aerial controls, which may even be by design. Corrupt aviation and government officials have been implicated in schemes to run drug flights and have even been caught buying their own planes. Small aircraft loaded with cocaine have used the tiny airport in the town of Juan Pedro Caballero, near Brazil, as a launching pad for some time.

SENAD Minister Arnaldo Giuzzio admitted that the country does not have control of its airspace, telling InSight Crime that traffickers use the country “like a trampoline, or a bridge, to get closer to the Brazilian market.”

Or, as the latest bust suggests, to reach all the way to Europe.

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

BOLIVIA / 6 MAR 2015

Authorities in Bolivia have arrested the country's former chief of police, highlighting the widespread corruption that has facilitated Bolivia's emergence…

BRAZIL / 27 MAR 2017

A recent spate of violence on the border between Brazil and Paraguay suggests a battle for control of drug trafficking…

BOLIVIA / 5 FEB 2021

The seizure of a cocaine-laced package, bound for Thailand, at an airport in Bolivia, shines light on the little-known drug…

About InSight Crime

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.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…