Paraguay's top anti-drugs official has admitted that Brazilian organized crime groups have permanent presence in some strategic drug trafficking and production areas of the country, confirming the extent of the Brazilian criminal migration to its ill-prepared neighbor.
Luis Rojas, head of Paraguay's anti-drug agency SENAD, told EFE that the border towns of Ciudad del Este and Pedro Juan Caballero have become operational centers for Brazilian gangs including the Red Command (CV), the First Capital Command (PCC) and Amigos dos Amigos, which control drug trafficking in these regions.
According to another SENAD official, these criminal organizations take advantage of areas with little state presence, especially in border regions, where much of the country's marijuana is cultivated. They have also begun financing cocaine production laboratories inside Paraguayan borders, near the border with Bolivia, and advancing money to local farmers to grow marijuana.
InSight Crime Analysis
Rojas' comments confirm what has been suspected for some time, that Brazilian organized crime has successfully taken root in Paraguay.
While Paraguay has long been an important transit point for cocaine and source of marijuana for Brazilian groups, reports of cocaine laboratories and marijuana plantations connected to Brazilian groups indicate they are using the country as a base to expand their role in the drug trade. There have also been signs locals are taking leadership roles in these networks, and that Brazilian criminals are even buying up land in the country for use in their illegal operations.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Criminal Migration
The Red Command is the Brazilian gang that appears best established in Paraguay, shipping a ton of cocaine back to Brazil each month from its post in Ciudad del Este, according to authorities. A PCC presence has also been noted, with four members of the gang arrested in Pedro Juan Caballero last November. While Amigos dos Amigos has been previously named as operating in Paraguay, there have been few indications of a significant presence.
Paraguay is an enticing prospect for expanding Brazilian groups in part because of the profits to be made in trafficking drugs through the territory -- with the price of marijuana increasing five-fold between production points in Paraguay and retail markets in Brazil. It is also an ideal site for drug production and a corridor for trafficking thanks to high levels of corruption and low levels of state oversight in some regions. The presence of a new insurgent group in the country, the Paraguayan People's Army, also adds to the chaos in which organized crime can thrive.