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Paraguay Grapples With Ever Larger Seizures of Marijuana

MARIJUANA / 21 JUL 2021 BY KATIE JONES EN

A string of large marijuana seizures in Paraguay's eastern border departments underscores how the region continues to be a key source for illegal marijuana trafficked to Brazil.

Over the course of a 10-day operation in July, Paraguay's National Anti-Drug Secretariat (Secretaría Nacional Antidrogas – SENAD) and Brazilian authorities razed 260 hectares of illegal marijuana crops in Paraguay's northeastern border department of Amambay.

More than 47 tons of marijuana were seized and destroyed during the joint operation, according to a July 16 news release from Brazilian police.

SEE ALSO: Paraguay Grapples with Evolving Crime, Persistent Corruption

Another seizure occurred at the start of the month when police intercepted five vehicles carrying three tons of marijuana in Amambay’s eastern borderland city of Pedro Juan Caballero. Each of the vehicles had a Brazilian registration plate, according to Última Hora.

On July 8, SENAD announced its agents destroyed 85 hectares of marijuana across the district of Sargento José Félix López in the central department of Concepción. Última Hora reported the marijuana was destined for criminal groups in Brazil.

And on July 9, authorities seized two tons of marijuana and eradicated two hectares of crops in the Bella Vista district of the southeastern borderland department of Itapúa.

InSight Crime Analysis

Demand for cannabis in Brazil, which has seen massive seizures too, appears to be stoking production in Paraguay – South America's top producer of illegal marijuana.

Brazilian authorities recorded a record haul of marijuana in July, when police in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, which borders Paraguay, seized 36.5 tons of marijuana in the southern municipality of Deodápolis.

Authorities in the state have seized a total of 420 tons of drugs this year, a significant increase from 2020 when some 320 tons were seized during the same period. Much of this is likely to be illegal marijuana.

SEE ALSO: Hashish: New Player in Brazil Drug Markets

Porous borders facilitate the movement of marijuana cultivated in Paraguay to Brazil. As InSight Crime reported, the Paraguayan city of Pedro Juan Caballero is a key transit point for marijuana controlled by Brazilian gang First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital - PCC) and other major traffickers on the Paraguay-Brazil border. Cannabis produced in the borderland department of Amambay has markedly high THC concentration levels, so criminal groups can charge more for the drug there than in other parts of the country.

Authorities in Paraguay have long tried to curb marijuana production by destroying crops. But in departments like Amambay, crop eradication is often carried out on a small scale and has become increasingly difficult for authorities. Corruption has also limited these efforts.

As such, production remains high. An estimated 40,000 tons of cannabis were produced in the nation in 2019.

But joint operations by Paraguay and Brazil to combat marijuana cultivation and smuggling in the region appear to be having some effect. Operations in Paraguay have resulted in 4,000 tons of marijuana being taken off the market this year.

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