HomeNewsBriefParaguay-Argentina Crime Group Used Planes to Smuggle Marijuana
BRIEF

Paraguay-Argentina Crime Group Used Planes to Smuggle Marijuana

ARGENTINA / 28 MAR 2017 BY DAVID GAGNE EN

Authorities in Buenos Aires arrested 10 members of a binational criminal group that used planes to smuggle marijuana from Paraguay to Argentina, showing the enduring popularity of this method for moving large quantities of drugs. 

Buenos Aires police arrested five Paraguayans and five Argentines and seized 500 kilos of marijuana on March 27, reported La Nación. The operation, dubbed "The Lord of the Skies," also resulted in the confiscation of three planes that authorities say were used to smuggle marijuana from the Paraguayan capital of Asunción to a hangar 100 kilometers southeast of Buenos Aires. 

The investigation, which lasted almost 18 months and included 6,000 hours of wiretapped surveillance, revealed that one of the group's planes made at least 30 cross-border trips last year. The modus operandi was to first send fumigation planes into the air to check whether it was safe for the drug planes to land, according to authorities

A judicial source close to the case told La Nación there is no evidence that any of the arrested members of the group had political connections in Argentina. The drug flights didn't arouse suspicion because fumigation planes frequently circled the area where the planes landed, reported ABC Color

InSight Crime Analysis

The operation's name harkens back to the powerful Mexican narco Amado Carrillo Fuentes, whose "Lord of the Skies" alias referred to his fleet of drug-laden aircraft. The former head of the Juárez Cartel died on the operating table while having plastic surgery in 1997, but his preferred method for trafficking cocaine remains popular across Latin America. Traffickers then and now prefer smuggling large amounts of drugs via plane because the shipments pass through fewer hands than if they were sent by land or sea. This not only cuts out the middleman, it makes the smuggling operation less risky, as it lowers the potential for betrayal. 

Efforts to contain drug flights do appear to be working in some countries. Authorities in Honduras and Colombia say they have almost totally eradicated the use of drug planes thanks to increased aerial surveillance.

Not all countries have had this type of success, however. Argentina enacted a controversial policy in January 2016 that authorizes the military to shoot down suspected drug planes, but it doesn't seem to have had much impact. In addition to the recent marijuana smuggling operation, officials said last November that an average of 40 drug planes coming from Bolivia land in Argentina every month. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Argentina

The drug bust in Buenos Aires could also indicate that Paraguay's marijuana trade is becoming increasingly lucrative. An InSight Crime interview with the country's drug czar in 2014 revealed that the trafficking of Paraguayan marijuana could be a billion-dollar a year industry. 

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ARGENTINA / 24 JUN 2013

During the last three years, there has been an average of two human trafficking convictions a month in Argentina.

ARGENTINA / 28 JUN 2019

A conflict between federal prosecutors and judges overseeing high-level corruption cases in Argentina is generating calls for an independent international…

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

In Buenos Aires, a shootout between gangs in a public housing development has highlighted a deficiency in Argentina’s public housing…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.