Authorities in Paraguay have seized more than 30 tons of marijuana in two separate operations near the border with Brazil, a haul worth millions that was likely destined for Brazilian criminal groups.
In an operation on September 18, agents from Paraguay's National Anti-Drug Secretariat (SENAD) seized 4.5 tons of marijuana in Itakyry in eastern Paraguay's Alto Parana province, reported Ultima Hora. The drugs were found in both pressed and loose form in several rural encampments, along with equipment for packaging the marijuana.
Later that day, Paraguayan anti-drug police found around 26 tons of pressed marijuana on a private property in the border town of Capitan Bado in Amambay province, along with nearly a ton of loose marijuana, reported ABC.
According to the Interior Ministry, anti-narcotics police chief Bartolome Baez said authorities were developing a list of suspects, and that they believed traffickers were poised to move the shipment to Brazil. Baez also stated that the 26-ton seizure was the largest so far in Paraguay this year, reported W Radio.
InSight Crime Analysis
The reports are light on details, but it is likely that both of the marijuana hauls were in the hands of Paraguayan criminals who had collected the drugs from various local producers and were preparing to hand the shipments over to Brazilian traffickers in the border region. This is a typical pattern in the drug trade in Paraguay, where 80 percent of the country's marijuana is trafficked to Brazil.
Amambay and Alto Parana, where the drugs were found, are important marijuana-producing regions, as SENAD head Luis Rojas told InSight Crime in a recent interview. Capitan Bado, particularly, is one of the country's primary production hubs. Area marijuana farmers are paid by Paraguayan drug brokers to produce crops that are then sold principally to Brazilian clients, according to Rojas.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Paraguay
Based on Rojas' estimates of the price of a kilo of marijuana, the more than 30 tons of drugs discovered could have been worth up to $3 million just at the border. This value would have doubled if the loads had reached the São Paulo market.
Both São Paulo's First Capital Command (PCC) and Rio de Janeiro's Red Command criminal organizations are known to operate in Paraguay's border region, from where they send cocaine -- which is brought into Paraguay from Peru and Bolivia -- and marijuana back to Brazil. In June, authorities captured an alleged PCC leader in the small Amambay border city of Pedro Juan Caballero. He was reportedly responsible for coordinating these shipments, as well as managing gang finances.