Authorities in Paraguay have reported the presence of a multinational drug trafficking organization that processes cocaine domestically and flies it to the Brazil border, in a case underlining the country's growing role in the regional drug trade.
The group -- made up of Colombians, Bolivians and Paraguayans and allegedly based in the city of Pedro Juan Caballero, near the Brazilian border -- is believed to source cocaine from Colombia and transport it first to Bolivia. They then fly the product from the southern Bolivian state of Santa Cruz into the northern Paraguayan region of Chaco, and finally on to the border states of Amambay and Canindeyu, from where the drugs are transported overland to Brazil and exported to Europe, reported ABC Color.
The operation was uncovered following the recent recovery of 292 kilos of cocaine in the Boqueron province, part of the Chaco region. According to authorities, the group is also responsible for a cocaine processing laboratory found in February in Palmar de las Islas, near the border with Bolivia. The site was allegedly used to process cocaine paste from Bolivia in order to save time and money by cutting out the Colombian leg of the journey, reported ABC.
Following the recent seizure, the head of Paraguay's anti-drug agency SENAD, Luis Rojas, declared the country is no longer just a cocaine transit nation, but is also now a processing venue.
InSight Crime Analysis
The latest discovery reinforces the notion that Paraguay is gaining importance in the transnational drug trade, something also evidenced by its conversion into a drug processing center and an increasingly heavy presence of Brazilian organized crime groups.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Paraguay
The cocaine lab near the Bolivian border was the third to be found in Paraguay in little over a year, after two were discovered near the Brazilian border in early 2013. With Brazilian criminal groups firmly established throughout the border area, it is very possible this multinational group was collaborating with Brazilians once the drugs reached the frontier.
A variety of factors could explain the shifting of processing to Paraguay, among them rampant corruption and the country’s status as a hub for illicit products, which likely facilitates the flow of precursor chemicals. Ciudad del Este, in the country's infamous Triple Frontier region with Brazil and Argentina, is a key spot for contraband, while the southwestern border is located near routes between Argentina and Bolivia used to traffic both drugs and precursor chemicals.