Three Congressmen in Paraguay have been accused of links to Brazilian drug trafficking groups, as more politicians get drawn into what the local media is calling the "narcopolitics scandal."
The legislators Freddy D'Ecclesiis and Marcial Lezcano have ties to the Congressional alternate Carlos Ruben Sanchez, who is considered the right-hand man to the notorious Brazilian drug trafficker Luiz Carlos da Rocha, alias "Cabeça Branca," reported ABC Color. D'Ecclesiis and Lezcano reportedly defended Sanchez after he was arrested on charges of money laundering and also met with him in Tacumbu prison.
D'Ecclesiis also allegedly kept in close contact with Mario Gimenez Noguera, the leader of a Paraguayan drug trafficking clan. Lezcano's younger brother was released in suspicious circumstances after his arrest for trafficking liquid cocaine in 2013.
Meanwhile, ABC Color recently published text messages exchanged between Congressman Bernardo Villalba and Carlos Antonio Caballero, alias "Capilo", an alleged Paraguayan supplier of marijuana to the powerful Brazilian prison gang First Capital Command (PCC). Villalba reportedly asked Capilo to finance his political campaign and also mentioned bribing a judge on behalf of the alleged drug trafficker.
InSight Crime Analysis
The revelation of two additional Congressmen with ties to drug trafficking groups suggests Paraguay's narco-politics scandal will continue to snowball, as InSight Crime previously predicted. The October assassination of the ABC journalist Pablo Medina -- for which a local mayor is the primary suspect -- initiated the recent focus on links between politicians and drug traffickers in Paraguay. Medina had received several threats prior to his death for reporting on the country's drug trade.
Shortly after Medina's death, Paraguay's anti-drug czar Luis Rojas publicly denounced the undue influence of drug traffickers in the country's political circles, judicial system, and the press. Two former legislators, Jose Lopez Chavez and Magdaleno Silva, have also recently been implicated in maintaining ties to drug traffickers, according to documents released by ABC Color. Despite the numerous reports linking politicians to criminal actors, it appears no criminal charges have as yet been brought against any of the implicated public officials.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Paraguay
The fact all three current Congressmen are linked to Brazilian drug trafficking groups is indication of that country's organized crime influence in Paraguay. Official corruption has enabled Brazilian crime groups to take a hold in eastern Paraguay, with "Cabeça Branca's" drug trafficking network stretching as far back as the mid-1990s. Paraguay is attractive to drug trafficking groups due to its prolific marijuana production as well as its role as a transit point for cocaine heading to Brazil, the region's largest consumer market.