The killing of four young people in Paraguay’s border city of Pedro Juan Caballero has led back to an imprisoned man who was once its most-wanted drug trafficker, revealing systemic failures in the justice system.
On October 16 at 6 a.m., according to local media reports, the group was leaving a party together when a white van pulled up, blocking the road. CCTV footage shows men getting out of the van and opening fire. All four were killed, including Haylee Acevedo, the daughter of the governor of Amambay department, where the city is located.
Two men are under investigation for ordering the attack. The first is the former bodyguard of Jorge Rafaat, Última Hora reported, the biggest drug dealer in Pedro Juan Caballero until his 2016 murder. The second is Faustino Aguayo, once one of the most-wanted men in Paraguay who is currently behind bars for drug trafficking.
Police raided Aguayo’s cell after the attack, finding luxurious accommodations that included a private bathroom and a smart TV. More surprisingly, Mirna Romero, the daughter of Pedro Juan Caballero's secretary of healthcare and sanitation, was also found in the cell, seemingly as Aguayo’s lover.
Speaking to journalists, police commissioner Jorge Vidallet told the media that the main target of the attack was most likely Osmar Álvarez, alias “Bebeto,” a local criminal suspected of ties to drug trafficking. The other three only died because they were with him that night, according to the police.
But an alternative explanation has suggested itself: jealousy. Bebeto had previously been Romero's boyfriend and her husband, a former federal agent, was violently killed just three months after their wedding.
According to Brazilian media reports, Bebeto had been working as an informant for Paraguay's National Anti-Drug Secretariat and is believed to have provided evidence that resulted in the arrest of 14 members of the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC). The police have so far not connected this to the murder case.
InSight Crime Analysis
This tragic massacre of four young people has revealed a broader truth: arresting key players in Paraguay’s drug trade does not curtail their criminal activities.
Aguayo, one of the most important drug traffickers in the country and alleged member of the Brazilian Red Command (Comando Vermelho - CV) gang, seems to have continued a jealous vendetta from within a luxury jail cell.
That Aguayo was even able to order the attack speaks to his influence. According to anti-narcotics prosecutors cited by local media, one judge moved Aguayo to the prison in Pedro Juan Caballero in March 2021 on the basis of a medical request from the prisoner, allegedly without notifying prosecutors.
Previous kingpins in Pedro Juan Caballero have similarly continued to run their operations from inside prison. In 2019, Sérgio de Arruda Quintiliano Neto, alias “Minotauro,” a PCC boss in the city, was able to orchestrate activities such as vehicle theft around Pedro Juan Caballero despite being in prison in Brazil.
In 2019, after another PCC commander, Giovanni Barbosa da Silva, alias “Bonitão,” was arrested, 40 PCC members attacked the police station where he was being held to try and rescue him. Several police officers were taken hostage, but the attack was ultimately unsuccessful.
And in 2020, 76 members of the PCC escaped from the prison Aguayo is currently being held in via a tunnel that was almost certainly built with the complicity of state security forces.
This recurring problem reflects a broader security failure within Paraguay’s prison system, which has been marked by official corruption, gang warfare and shocking acts of violence.