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

BRAZIL / 28 JUN 2022

Prosecutors, mayors, prison directors, relatives of officials - are assassinations here to stay in Paraguay?…

BRAZIL / 25 NOV 2022

Failing prison systems and entrenched corruption mean mega-prisons holding tens of thousands won't solve insecurity in Latin America.

BRAZIL / 24 FEB 2022

Law enforcement in Latin America and Europe have disrupted a cocaine smuggling network that reached from Bolivia to Dubai, resulting…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…