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Paraguay's Lonely Anti-Drug Prosecutor

PARAGUAY / 31 MAR 2015 BY LOREN RIESENFELD EN

The department of Amambay in Paraguay only has one prosecutor currently working on drug cases, raising questions about the ability of authorities to effectively prosecute these crimes in a key transit point for cocaine and marijuana trafficking in the Southern Cone.

Valeriana Ferreira has been Amambay's only prosecutor assigned to drug cases after her colleague took a three-month maternity leave, according to ABC Color. The Attorney General's Office has made no motion towards appointing an interim prosecutor in the meantime, or assigning more staff in a region considered a major hub for organized crime, the newspaper reported. 

Even if Ferreira’s colleague were still on duty, sources cited by ABC Color say the national police and the SENAD, Paraguay’s anti-drug agency, would still have no confidence in the Amambay prosecutor's office.

When asked about a development in a recent case against two local politicians allegedly linked to drug trafficking, Ferreira reportedly told an ABC reporter, “I already left the office and don’t remember what happened.” 

An unidentified source told ABC Color that Ferreira is incompetent, and that the source suspected she may be collaborating with criminal interests. 

InSight Crime Analysis

Despite the flimsiness of the claim that Ferreira is on the take -- based on suspicions from one anonymous source -- it is undeniable that criminal organizations have significantly infiltrated Amambay's local government. In one recent illustrative case, corrupt police reportedly returned 252 kilograms of seized cocaine to a local drug kingpin. Several police officers were arrested, and the investigation was eventually widened to include the two Amambay councilmen that Ferreira is tasked with prosecuting.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Paraguay

It is also undeniable that when drug cases involving powerful local interests flow through one office with only two prosecutors, the opportunities and pressures for corruption are much higher.

While police, politicians, and military officers have been implicated in a variety of corruption cases in Paraguay, the country's judicial system has proven similarly susceptible. In 2013, a network of judges, prosecutors, and coroners were accused of giving lenient sentences to drug traffickers in 80 cases in the Triple Frontier region, south of Amambay.

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