HomeNewsVigilante Death Squad Sends Bloody Message in Brazil-Paraguay Border Region
NEWS

Vigilante Death Squad Sends Bloody Message in Brazil-Paraguay Border Region

BRAZIL / 9 AUG 2021 BY ALESSANDRO FORD EN

A shadowy vigilante death squad operating on the Brazil-Paraguay border is killing supposed thieves and then leaving notes next to their mutilated bodies -- a macabre message even for a region steeped in drug violence.

On the night of August 1, two Brazilian brothers were shot dead on the border between Brazil’s Ponta Porã municipality of Mato Grosso do Sul state and Paraguay’s Pedro Juan Caballero city of Amambay department, reported G1 Globo.

It was the area’s sixth execution in less than one week, according to the media outlet. And just as in the previous killings, besides the 30 spent bullets left at the scene was a note signed by the “Frontier Vigilantes” (Justiceiros da Fronteira), stating that “no more robberies will be accepted in the region.”

SEE ALSO: How Brazil's Borders Became More Diverse, Dangerous

The killings raise to 53 the number of people murdered on Brazil’s side of the border during the first six months of this year, a 30 percent increase from the 39 people killed between January and July in 2020, according to a report by the country’s State Secretariat for Justice and Public Security (Secretaria Estadual de Justiça e Segurança Pública – SEJUSP) seen by Brazilian press.

Meanwhile, gunmen shot dead 34 people on the Paraguayan side of the border, and an additional 21 killings are still under investigation, G1 Globo reported, citing Paraguayan law enforcement.

“[The executions are due to the] damage that drug trafficking has experienced with the increase in seizures. In the first 7 months of 2021, more than 480 tons of narcotics were seized…some drug dealers [therefore] seek to replenish their resources with robberies of other dealers,” claimed Antonio Carlos Videira, Mato Grosso do Sul’s Secretary of State for Justice and Public Security.

InSight Crime Analysis

While the Frontier Vigilantes have appeared before in the Brazil-Paraguay border region, the question remains: who exactly is this shadowy group?

The Frontier Vigilantes first surfaced sometime in the 2010s in response to perceived growing theft and robbery. The group, however, stayed quiet for several years. Then in May 2018, a young Paraguayan border resident was kidnapped and killed. He had his hands cut off – the group’s way of denoting a thief. The note left by his body ended in one word: "volvimos" (“we’re back”).

Since then, the death squad has engaged in sporadic killing sprees of supposed low-level thieves on both sides of the border. Their modus operandi has always been the same, killing their victims and then leaving their bodies along with a note.

SEE ALSO: Is Gang War in Brazil Behind Recent Violence in Paraguay?

By positing themselves as protecting residents, the group resembles a more violent version of Brazil’s far-right urban militias. The leaving of messages next to the corpses also echoes vigilante groups in Mexico that have long sprung up to counter waves of drug violence. While media reports suggest the Frontier Vigilantes were similarly formed, they have been conspicuous in not targeting any known drug traffickers.

One theory recently considered by Brazilian police is the violence at the border has little to do with gang conflicts or drug robberies. Instead, the killings are a result of the Frontier Vigilantes working alongside the most powerful gang in the region, Brazil's First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC).

Once fought over as a key trafficking route, the border area between Ponta Porã and Pedro Juan Caballero is now an undisputed PCC stronghold. The gang members also maintain strong social control over residents, and they have a reputation for targeting those who get in their way. Therefore, it's unlikely the death squad could operate without the gang's knowledge or tacit approval.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

DRUG POLICY / 6 AUG 2018

After a spate of homicides in Uruguay, there is growing concern that violence is connected to organized crime groups, an assessment…

CRIMINAL MIGRATION / 26 JUN 2014

Why is Latin America and the Caribbean so violent? InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley gave his answer at a recent…

BRAZIL / 8 AUG 2012

Traffickers have killed an officer from Rio de Janeiro's police pacification units in the first deadly attack on the elite…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Who Are Memo Fantasma and Sergio Roberto de Carvalho?

24 JUN 2022

Inside the criminal career of Memo Fantasma  In March 2020, InSight Crime revealed the identity and whereabouts of Memo Fantasma, a paramilitary commander and drug trafficker living in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…