Police in Paraguay have arrested three Brazilians after finding a cache of high-powered firearms, in a case highlighting both the migration of Brazil's criminals and Paraguay's importance as an arms trafficking corridor.
In a house in Ciudad del Este -- located in the country's Triple Frontier region with Brazil and Argentina -- Paraguayan police found the Brazilians, one of them an escaped convict, along with 8 automatic rifles, 1,000 live cartridges, and an AR-50 action rifle, reported the Paraguayan ABC newspaper. The ABC report first refers to the weapon as an M2 machine gun, but later lists it as an AR-50.
They also found a cocaine-processing laboratory with modern equipment and 400 kilos of marijuana.
The suspects are believed to belong to a gang known as the "Strongmen of the Triple Frontier," composed of Brazilians, Argentines and Paraguayans, the newspaper reported. One of them had escaped from prison in Brazil, where he was serving a 40-year sentence for participation in a robbery in his home country.
Police believe they were planning to rob a bank in Alto Parana -- the province where Ciudad del Este is located -- at the time of their capture.
InSight Crime Analysis
It is unclear if the criminal group these men belonged to is entirely independent or somehow affiliated to one of the bigger organizations operating in the country. Paraguay is a key cocaine transshipment point, as well as South America's largest marijuana producer, and Brazil's Red Command is known to have a particularly strong presence.
SEE ALSO: Red Command Profile
As Brazilian criminal groups such as the Red Command and the First Capital Command (PCC) have risen from their roots as prison gangs, they have established an increasing presence in both Paraguay and Bolivia -- now a key transshipment points for drugs and arms.
Paraguay's lax gun regulations have long facilitated arms smuggling, and the latest weapons seizure indicates the influx of Brazilian criminals may lead Paraguay's role in this trade to increase.