HomeNewsParaguayan Prosecutors Indict Senator Linked to Transatlantic Cocaine Trade

Paraguayan Prosecutors Indict Senator Linked to Transatlantic Cocaine Trade


Paraguayan prosecutors have indicted a congressman of the governing Colorado Party accused of money laundering and criminal association, but judicial authorities still face significant obstacles to rooting out corruption in the country’s political class.

Congressman Erico Galeano was indicted by Paraguay’s Attorney General’s Office on May 19. The Chamber of Deputies voted to strip him of his congressional privileges on May 24.

Prosecutors claimed that Galeano lent his private plane to facilitate drug trafficking operations led by notorious criminal, Miguel Insfrán, alias “Tío Rico,” and Sebastián Marset, a mysterious underworld figure alleged to have founded the First Uruguayan Cartel (Primer Cartel Uruguayo – PCU).

Other accusations date back to early 2022 when Galeano was linked to a property owned by Insfrán’s associate and fellow drug trafficker, Hugo González. Senator Derlis Osorio also accused Galeano of asking him for money to free Marset after the drug trafficker was arrested in Dubai in October 2021 for traveling on a false Paraguayan passport.  

A day before his impeachment, Galeano held a press conference to address the allegations. He confirmed that he sold the property to González, but denied having any relationship with him. 

“I did not know the man, only through intermediaries,” Galeano said, adding that he had never been in contact with Insfrán or Marset. 

SEE ALSO: Behind the Manhunt for Sebastián Marset, Founder of the First Uruguayan Cartel

The investigation into Galeano was part of Operation A Ultranza Py, the largest anti-drug trafficking and money laundering investigation in Paraguay’s history.

Since February 2022, the operation has targeted the Paraguay-based drug trafficking organization headed by Insfrán and Marset. The network was linked to at least 16 tons of cocaine sent through Paraguay to Europe, with shipments stopping in Uruguay and Argentina. 

A Ultranza's efforts have led to the arrest of dozens of traffickers and the capture of hundreds of millions in assets. Insfrán, one of the main targets of the operation, was arrested in Brazil in February and extradited to Paraguay on May 19. He is also a primary suspect in the 2022 murder of Marcelo Pecci, a prominent Paraguayan prosecutor and one of the leaders of A Ultranza. Authorities have yet to levy any formal accusations against Insfrán.

InSight Crime Analysis

The indictment of Galeano shows a will on the part of authorities to tackle corruption at high levels of government. But continued popular support for political figures tied to corruption could restrain the momentum of A Ultranza’s sweeping investigations.

While A Ultranza has been successful in exposing the extent of drug trafficking’s influence in the country, the operation has struggled to turn Paraguayan public opinion against those accused of links to criminal networks, Carlos Peris, a sociologist and drug trafficking expert at the National University of Asunción, told InSight Crime.

SEE ALSO: Paraguay Election Dims Chances of Corruption Crackdown

Peris cited the example of Galeano, who, despite multiple longstanding allegations connecting him to drug trafficking, was elected to a five-year term as senator in April.

The election of Santiago Peña as president on April 30 serves as another example. Peña is a close ally of former president Horacio Cartes, who is sanctioned by the US State Department for “significant corruption” and has close ties to drug trafficking and cigarette smuggling. Despite this, Cartes remains president of the Colorado Party.

Peña's inauguration, set for August, could be a turning point for anti-corruption efforts like A Ultranza. The question, Peris said, “is going to be how much progress can be made with judicial cases, if real convictions can be established, and that these real convictions establish paradigms of control.”

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