One of Paraguay's most notorious local drug traffickers has escaped from prison along with eight other inmates, highlighting the country's weak penitentiary system and the importance of the domestic market.
The nine men, including the suspected leader of the escape, Armando Javier Rotela Ayala, alias “The Micro-Trafficking Czar,” escaped from a prison in southern Misiones province on November 25, reported ABC.
Rotela was captured in July last year along with 17 others. His drug trafficking organization was reportedly the principal supplier of narcotics to the capital Asuncion and the surrounding Central province.
The escapees reportedly overpowered three guards and forced them to take them to the prison entrance, where they were met by an accomplice. A watch tower guard opened fire on the group, which shot back. No casualties were reported.
Only 13 guards were manning the prison at the time, despite there usually being 19. The prison’s director was removed from his post following the incident.
As of the morning of November 26, three of the fugitives had been captured, though Rotela remained at large, according to ABC.
InSight Crime Analysis
Paraguay's prison system is less overcrowded than many others in the hemisphere. According to the International Center for Prison Studies, the country's prisons were only 6 percent over capacity last year. This is compared to neighboring Brazil, for example, whose prisons were 66 percent over capacity.
The case of Rotela points to the development of Paraguay's domestic drug market, and suggests that it is controlled by nationals, unlike the transnational trade which is run by Brazilian gangs such as the First Capital Command (PCC) and the Red Command (Comando Vermelho).
Though the country’s internal drug market is relatively small, the use of crack cocaine appears to be on the rise; the country's anti-drug agency SENAD seized more doses of crack between January and July this year than in the whole of 2011, reported InfoSur Hoy. A dose costs between $1.1 and $2.2, according to one police official, making it accessible to much of the population.