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Widespread Police Bribery Network in Paraguay Marijuana Hub

ELITES AND CRIME / 6 JAN 2015 BY KYRA GURNEY EN

An investigation in Paraguay has exposed widespread, systematic police corruption in a major marijuana-growing region on the border with Brazil, highlighting the institutionalized corruption that facilitates drug trafficking in South America's largest producer of marijuana.

According to a probe into police corruption viewed by ABC Color, police officers in Paraguay's Canindeyu province regularly accept bribes from drug traffickers, and are expected to pay monthly quotas to their superiors, including "political authorities" in the province, in order to remain at their posts. ABC Color did not report on whether this probe was an internal police investigation or an inquiry by some other government institution.

According to the newspaper, the amounts police must pay to their superiors vary depending on the location of the police unit in relation to profitable drug trafficking routes, ranging from around $84 a month in the center of the province to $1,267 on the border with Brazil (see ABC Color's map of police stations in Canindeyu -- and what bribes they pay to their superiors -- below).

2015.01.06.paraguaybribemap

Senator Luis Alberto Wagner, who serves on the congressional commission created to investigate the recent assassination of a journalist covering the drug trade, told a radio station that Canindeyu's corrupt police are protected by the judiciary and politicians -- specifically, Congresswoman Maria Cristina Villalba, who represents the province in the lower house of Congress, and her brother Carlos.

Three days after ABC Color first reported on this network of corruption, the Canindeyu province police chief ordered at least ten personnel changes in key police posts.

InSight Crime Analysis

The bribery network exposed by ABC Color highlights the type of institutionalized corruption that has facilitated drug trafficking in Paraguay and allowed criminal organizations to act with impunity.

The assassination of journalist Pablo Medina, which took place in Canindeyu province and was allegedly ordered by a local mayor because of Medina's reporting on drug trafficking, has led to increased scrutiny on alleged ties between officials and criminal groups. Since Medina's death, both Paraguay's Senate and the head of the country's anti-drug body (SENAD) have voiced concerns about official corruption.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Paraguay

In addition to Congresswoman Villalba, who is accused of running a network that protects drug traffickers and assassins, three congressmen have recently been linked to Brazilian drug trafficking groups, while one congressional alternate has been identified as the alleged right-hand man of Brazilian drug trafficker Luiz Carlos da Rocha, alias "Cabeça Branca."

The corruption appears to stretch far beyond Paraguay's Congress. In 2013, judges in Paraguay's Triple Frontier region were accused of giving drug traffickers lenient sentences, while last year, several high-level police officials were accused of selling seized drugs and weapons

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