Paraguayan authorities arrested six individuals linked to the Sinaloa Cartel for allegedly attempting to set up a cocaine trafficking scheme from Colombia to Europe, in what appears a confirmation of the crime group's intention to exploit Paraguay as a drug transshipment point.
Among the two Paraguayans and four Mexicans arrested on December 7 was Jimmy Waine Galliel, described as an important figure within the Mexico-based Sinaloa Cartel who had close ties to the organization's incarcerated leader, Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, reported ABC Color.
The investigation, which reportedly received assistance from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), showed that Waine Galliel had entered Paraguay two months ago, with specific orders from El Chapo to oversee the establishment of a structure whose role was to develop a cocaine trafficking route from Colombia to Europe via Paraguay, according to ABC Color.
Authorities assert that the plan was to hide the drugs in an industrial sugar cane mill before shipping them off to the Netherlands, according to the newspaper Hoy. The structure had allegedly already spent $4 million on the scheme and was hoping for a return of $30 million.
Speaking to ABC Color, Luis Alberto Rojas, the former chief of Paraguay's National Anti-drugs Secretariat (Secretaria Nacional Antidrogas - SENAD), said that the Sinaloa Cartel had been sending emissaries to Paraguay for a number of years now.
InSight Crime Analysis
Paraguay has long been a transshipment point for drugs moving through South America, and it seems that the Sinaloa Cartel is attempting to exploit the country's geographical characteristics and institutional weakness to expand its operations.
Paraguay does not produce cocaine. However, the country is South America's biggest producer of marijuana, and crime groups have developed extensive land, air and maritime routes that they use to traffic drugs out of the country.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Paraguay
Paraguay's geographical position between Brazil and Argentina -- two of the most important departure points for drugs heading to Europe -- likely increases the country's appeal for trafficking groups. In fact, reports of cocaine smuggling through Paraguay date back to at least the 1980s. It is possible that the Sinaloa Cartel intended to exploit the same maritime routes used for marijuana shipments to move cocaine to Argentina or Brazil.
Widespread corruption in Paraguay's government and law enforcement institutions, as well as the extreme porousness of the country's borders, are likely additional reasons why the Sinaloa Cartel would want to expand its presence in the South American nation.