HomeNewsBehind the Manhunt for Sebastián Marset, Founder of the First Uruguayan Cartel

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


For many Latin American countries, dealing with a sophisticated drug trafficking group with international reach and high-ranking government connections is nothing special. For Uruguay, it’s a new situation.   

On August 26, Brazil approved the extradition to Uruguay of Rodrigo Fontana Ferreira, an Argentine drug trafficker suspected of being part of the First Uruguayan Cartel (Primer Cartel Uruguayo – PCU). Fontana Ferreira is wanted in Uruguay on charges of trafficking drugs, weapons, and explosives between Uruguay, Brazil, and Paraguay, as well as threats and attacks against Uruguayan judicial institutions, according to media coverage of his case.

His extradition comes as more information is progressively revealed about the PCU. One particular point of interest is whether government officials helped the group’s leader, Sebastián Marset, gain his freedom after he was detained in Dubai in October, 2021.

SEE ALSO: Coverage on Uruguay

Marset was detained in Dubai for traveling on a false Paraguayan passport, but he quickly applied for a new Uruguayan passport to be able to leave the country legally. Although the Uruguayan ambassador to the United Arab Emirates allegedly urged caution on the case, a new passport was swiftly granted and he was allowed to leave the country. Marset has remained on the run ever since.

Uruguay has opened an investigation into whether officials at the foreign and interior ministries, as well as an aide to Paraguay’s Vice President Hugo Velázquez, collaborated to help Marset avoid prison.

Marset is wanted by Interpol for allegedly transporting at least 16 tons of cocaine between Paraguay and Europe via Uruguay. On August 12, Colombia’s new president, Gustavo Petro, also alleged that Marset may have been behind the murder of Paraguay’s leading anti-crime prosecutor, Marcelo Pecci.

InSight Crime Analysis

While the rise of the First Uruguayan Cartel appears to have been fast, Marset seems to have been laying the foundations of an international drug trafficking group for a long time.

In 2012, he was first connected to a shipment of marijuana to be flown from Paraguay to Uruguay on a private plane. That plane was flown by Juan Domingo Viveros Cartes, alias “Papacho,” uncle to Paraguay’s former President Horacio Cartes, who was also jailed for his involvement in the affair. In 2013, Marset was arrested for arranging another such delivery to Uruguay.

SEE ALSO: Paraguay Grapples with Criminal Sophistication After Prosecutor's Slaying

During the five years he spent in La Libertad prison, he allegedly made the international contacts he needed to further his ambitions. He has maintained close ties to Brazil’s First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC), after whom he named his group, according to a report by Uruguayan newspaper, El Observador.

Once he left prison in 2018, he began traveling in order to secure his cocaine supply line, visiting various countries in Central and South America, according to Paraguayan newspaper, Ultima Hora.

He has also reportedly been willing to use violence to achieve his means, having been linked to several assassinations in Paraguay.

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.


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.


Related Content


The killing of four young people in Paraguay’s border city of Pedro Juan Caballero has led back to an imprisoned…

COCAINE / 7 JUL 2022

Ahmet Yilmaz* shouldn’t be in a dangerous profession. He’s not a cop or a criminal. Ahmet is a banana importer…

AUC / 23 MAY 2023

Salvatore Mancuso, a leader of Colombia's demobilized paramilitary group the AUC has offered insights into the group's crimes and influence.

About InSight Crime


InSight Crime Contributes Expertise Across the Board 

22 SEP 2023

This week InSight Crime investigators Sara García and María Fernanda Ramírez led a discussion of the challenges posed by Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s “Total Peace” plan within urban contexts. The…


InSight Crime Cited in New Colombia Drug Policy Plan

15 SEP 2023

InSight Crime’s work on emerging coca cultivation in Honduras, Guatemala, and Venezuela was cited in the Colombian government’s…


InSight Crime Discusses Honduran Women's Prison Investigation

8 SEP 2023

Investigators Victoria Dittmar and María Fernanda Ramírez discussed InSight Crime’s recent investigation of a massacre in Honduras’ only women’s prison in a Twitter Spaces event on…


Human Trafficking Investigation Published in Leading Mexican Newspaper

1 SEP 2023

Leading Mexican media outlet El Universal featured our most recent investigation, “The Geography of Human Trafficking on the US-Mexico Border,” on the front page of its August 30…


InSight Crime's Coverage of Ecuador Leads International Debate

25 AUG 2023

This week, Jeremy McDermott, co-director of InSight Crime, was interviewed by La Sexta, a Spanish television channel, about the situation of extreme violence and insecurity in Ecuador…