Paraguay officials say police based along the Brazilian border stole a shipment of seized cocaine, more evidence of official corruption in the Southern Cone country.
About 252 kilos of cocaine, seized by Paraguayan police, went missing from a police station in Amambay province on January 11.
Eight days later, Interior Minister Francisco de Vargas called a press conference and said that the police were involved in the disappearance. ABC Color reported that police may have delivered the cocaine to a suspected trafficker known as "the Gringo."
De Vargas also said that despite warnings of a possible robbery, the local police chief took no extra precautions to secure the cocaine and still went on a planned vacation. The building where the cocaine was held showed no signs of forced entry; nor was there any violence during the robbery, all signs that suggest it was an inside job.
At least five high-ranking police officials in Amambay have been replaced since the cocaine shipment was reported missing, reported ABC.
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The scandal is further evidence of endemic corruption in Paraguay, which has hindered efforts to combat drug trafficking. Director of Paraguay's anti-drug body the SENAD Luis Rojas recently said the country is "the cheapest and least risky route" for drug trafficking in the region, partly due to weak political and judicial institutions.
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In other comments made to the press, Rojas said he suspected that the disappeared cocaine shipment was headed to Brazil, the second largest consumer of cocaine in the world. Amambay province is a particularly attractive route for drug traffickers due to its proximity to the Brazilian border.
While Paraguay is South America's largest producer of marijuana, it is also a major transit nation for cocaine, and is used by traffickers to move cocaine from Bolivia and Peru into Brazil and Argentina.