Paraguay authorities have identified a central figure in the country's transnational drug trade with Brazil, further indication that Paraguayan traffickers are assuming increasingly important roles in running their own drug smuggling networks.
Clemencio Gonzalez Gimenez, a suspected drug trafficker known as “El Gringo,” is now the top priority for police in the eastern border province of Amambay, reported ABC Color. Gonzales is said to control half of the drug trade within a semi-arid region along the Brazilian frontier known as the "frontera seca," a strategically important region given the role that Paraguay plays in supplying Brazil's domestic drug market.
In January, a scandal erupted when corrupt police returned 252 kilograms of seized cocaine to Gonzalez, which prompted the firing of top officers and a reshuffling of police leadership in that region. Two councilmen and several police officers from Amambay have been arrested in connection to the incident, while the prosecutor in the case has issued an international arrest warrant for Gonzales.
Gonzalez allegedly works with Fernandinho Beira Mar, the leader of a Brazilian drug gang called the Red Command (Comando Vermelho), and was anointed the successor to Fahd Jamil Georges, the “godfather” of the drug trade between Paraguay and Brazil, according to ABC Color.
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Paraguayans have typically played small-time roles in transnational drug trafficking, working as assassins or drivers, but are reportedly assuming more leading roles in the drug trade, according to the country's anti-drug minister. Like Gonzalez, many of these Paraguayan traffickers supply the larger Brazilian organizations.
Gonzalez's ability to get the local police force in Amambay to return the cocaine shipment they seized from him is also indicative of the impunity with which drug traffickers can operate in Paraguay, with help from complicit police and politicians. One journalist from ABC Color who reported on narco-politics in the region was killed last year, and a local mayor was recently arrested in connection to the murder. Evidence of collusion between drug traffickers and officials is also evident at a national level: members of Congress have been accused of links to Brazilian and Paraguayan drug traffickers, while authorities have also uncovered a massive network for police bribes in another Paraguayan border state.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Paraguay
Paraguayan authorities would do well to finally fix their attention on Gonzalez's alleged drug network in Amambay. This frontier statem, which is also a major producer of marijuana, has been called one of Latin America’s most dangerous border regions. Rife with corruption, the province has extensive drug and contraband smuggling networks that make it a key transit point for trafficking to Brazil.