Paraguay's top counternarcotics official has resigned after a botched security operation left a three-year-old girl dead, removing a controversial figure that nevertheless kept the drug issue high on the agenda in South America's principal marijuana producing country.
On June 20, Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes accepted the resignation of Luis Rojas, the now former head of Paraguay's National Anti-Drug Secretariat (Secretaría Nacional Antidrogas - SENAD), reported Ultima Hora.
Rojas offered his resignation after SENAD agents opened fire on a fleeing vehicle during an anti-drug operation in Nueva Italia on June 18, injuring one man and fatally wounding his three-year-old niece.
Rojas accepted responsibility for his agents' actions, describing them as "totally out of context and outside of protocol." President Cartes described the actions of the SENAD agents as criminal and promised a thorough investigation into the facts of the case.
Nine agents have so far been charged over the incident.
InSight Crime Analysis
Rojas was a controversial figure in Paraguay, and the incident immediately drew criticism from political opponents. Congresswoman Olga Ferreira, for instance, described Rojas as "useless," questioning why President Cartes maintained him in his position "after so many failures."
"There is no security in the country," Ferreira added.
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Paraguay is a major marijuana producer, feeding drug markets in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. Recently, there has been growing concern over heightened drug violence in eastern Paraguay following the dramatic assassination of a wealthy businessman with drug links. Brazilian drug gangs, such as the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital - PCC), are known to have a presence in the country, and may be responsible for the violence.
Despite being a controversial figure, the resignation of Rojas may negatively affect Paraguay's ability to combat drug traffickers. In a country known for drug-related corruption, Rojas kept anti-drug efforts high on the agenda and prominent in the media when many political elites would have preferred the subject fall by the wayside. Indeed, Rojas was more of a hardliner regarding drug policy, but the task of tackling Paraguay's burgeoning drug networks will now fall to his successor.