Police in Paraguay seized $100,000 in drugs from a laboratory belonging to a fugitive drug trafficker, whose nationwide crack distribution network is an example of the criminal opportunities offered by Paraguay's domestic drug market.
In addition to the drugs found at the site, authorities discovered a notebook in which Armando Javier Rotela Ayala, known as the country's "micro-trafficking czar," kept note of drug contacts and distribution points throughout the country, and particularly in the Central province.
Rotela Ayala was arrested in 2011, but later escaped from a prison in the southern province of Misiones in November 2012.
According to police, Rotela Ayala currently receives coca paste from Bolivian drug traffickers, who bring the drugs to Asuncion via the Transchaco highway. His network pays $2,000 per kilo, and later mixes it with other substances in laboratories, divides each kilo into 7,000 doses and distributes the crack for a profit of nearly $16,000 per kilo, said the head of the antinarcotics division, Crispulo Sotelo.
Authorities also believe the drug trafficker enjoys the protection of corrupt police, since several of his distribution points are located in zones with a permanent police presence, reported ABC.
InSight Crime Analysis
The size, scope and profits of Rotela Ayala's network are indicative of a growing domestic drug market in Paraguay, which is a major regional supplier of marijuana and a growing transit point for cocaine.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Paraguay
Paraguay's importance to the transnational drug trade has attracted a number of foreign groups -- particularly Brazilian prison gangs the Red Command (CV) and the First Capital Command (PCC), as highlighted with the recent capture of four alleged PCC hitmen in the criminal hub of Ciudad del Este. However, the crack distribution network led by Rotela Ayala appears to be entirely home grown and even has its own connections to a cocaine source and transport network, in another indication locals are increasingly involved in the drug trade.
As one of the region's poorest countries, Paraguay does not have a growing middle class fueling recreational drug consumption, a phenomenon seen elsewhere in the region. Nonetheless, there is a significant market for crack, which officials say has become the most consumed drug in the country, as well as the most harmful.