Authorities in Paraguay have highlighted the growing use of the country for cocaine processing, further evidence of the migration of drug production seen throughout the region.
According to Paraguay's National Anti-drugs Secretariat (SENAD), three major cocaine processing laboratories have been discovered in little over a year while increasing amounts of precursor chemicals have been seized in the country, reported EFE.
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The announcement comes less than a week after SENAD officers dismantled a lab six kilometers from the Bolivian border capable of producing up to a ton of cocaine hydrochloride (HCl) each month. The drugs were produced using Bolivian cocaine paste before being exported to Brazil, according to SENAD.
The discovery followed two labs being uncovered near different points of the Brazilian border within the first three months of 2013, as well as the recovery of nearly two tons of precursor chemicals in the north of the country between May and June 2013.
InSight Crime Analysis
While Paraguay is firmly established as a transit point for cocaine trafficked into Brazil, it usually arrives already processed from Bolivia, which is firmly established as a major site for processing paste both produced in the country and flown in from Peru. The recently discovered lab, combined with the major labs discovered near the Brazilian border last year, points to a shift in this pattern and an uptick in domestic production.
There are numerous reasons why production may be increasing in Paraguay. The most common motivation for such criminal migration is pressure from security forces or, in the case of production, difficulties obtaining precursor chemicals.
The shift to Paraguay may also be a sign of criminal groups in Paraguay wanting to increase their role in the trafficking chain by sourcing base in Bolivia then selling it on as HCl to Brazilian groups, as opposed to acting as mere transporters through their territory.
Paraguay's location is ideal for any criminals looking to make this shift. It borders Bolivia, the point of production; Argentina, a major source of precursor chemicals; and Brazil, which is the region's biggest consumer market.
The apparent growth of cocaine processing in Paraguay follows increasing reports of labs in countries not traditionally associated with production, such as Argentina, Venezuela and Honduras; part of an overall regional pattern of criminal migration as drug traffickers seek out the easiest and safest means to produce and transport their illicit product.