Brazilian national Jarvis Chimenes Pavão rose to become one of South America’s most prominent drug traffickers and the successor of a line of local capos along the strategic border between Paraguay and Brazil. His rise and fall mirror major shifts in the border’s underworld, which has witnessed the rise of the feared Brazilian PCC gang, and the fading away of old-school traffickers of the likes of Pavão.
Born in Brazil’s Ponta Porã border town across from Paraguay’s infamous Pedro Juan Caballero trafficking hotspot, Pavão began his criminal career in the 1990s. In 1994, the soon-to-become drug lord was arrested with 25 kilos of cocaine in a coastal city of Brazil’s Santa Catarina state, yet succeeded in avoiding conviction. As Brazil’s federal agents continued to build trafficking and money laundering evidence against Pavão, the suspect fled to Paraguay and continued his ascension within the drug underworld.
Paraguayan authorities would finally catch up with Pavão in the Concepción border department in 2009. The Brazilian national was charged and condemned to eight years in prison for criminal association and money laundering, but not drug trafficking per se.
Yet his capture did little to hamper his drug activities, as Pavão would long operate his drug empire from behind bars due to inexistent prison control and deep penitentiary corruption in Paraguay.
After initial press reports in 2014, details of Pavão’s luxury life in Paraguay’s Tacumbú prison hit the headlines again in 2016 and scandal ensued. The incarcerated drug trafficker would later claim he funded for more than two billion guaranies (roughly $450,000 at the time) in repairs for the prison and even bought food for inmates, in exchange for a VIP treatment from the prison administration.
Corruption was such that Pavão allegedly held drug business meetings with collaborators within Tacumbú. The two Brazilian convictions which Pavão would eventually be handed – one in absentia – both concern trafficking schemes ran from inside Paraguayan jails and distribution of narcotics across several Brazilian states.
Under pressure from the scandal of Pavão’s VIP treatment and following the discovery of explosives in the walls of Tacumbú, Paraguayan authorities eventually transferred the drug trafficker to a penitentiary centre under police control (Agrupación Especializada) in July 2016. Images of the heavily militarized transfer detail extracting the drug lord out of Tacumbú spoke of authorities’ concern over Pavao’s potential capacity to mobilize men from behind bars.
Yet once again, his incarceration did little to hamper the drug lord’s operations, and it was from inside the Agrupación Especializada in Asunción that Pavão is rumored to have made his most infamous move in the underworld: the spectacular hit on his competitor Jorge Rafaat Toumani, alias “Sadam.”
Early one evening of June 2016, a pick-up truck at the back of which had been mounted a 50-millimeter anti-aerial gun, drove up in front of Rafaat’s bulletproof car, his two-vehicle escort, and blasted all three. Pavão’s competitor was riddled with 16 bullets, while the ensuing turf war shook Pedro Juan Caballero – the crown jewel for the region’s drug lords – for hours.
The killing, carried out with men from Pavão’s then-ally the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC), completely reshuffled the deck within the border underworld and signalled the advent of the Brazilian PCC gang rule in that key trafficking corridor.
The drug lord was finally extradited in December 2017 and under impressive security measures to Brazil. Upon his extradition, a Paraguayan prison intelligence officer told El País:
“The border used to be dominated by old-school capos who worked as small companies. I see Pavão as an intermediary. He’s neither in nor out. He’s in the middle. He’s of the old-school type of drug traffickers who don’t want trouble. They don’t want blood, they want tranquillity, nothing more. So he’s good with the state and he’s good with the criminals.”
In addition to a 2014 conviction in absentia, a Brazil court sentenced the drug lord to more than 13 years in jail in 2018 for a second drug trafficking scheme ran during his incarceration in Paraguay.
Early in the 1990s and while still operating from Brazil, Pavão was allegedly a “large-scale distributor” for certain cities of the Santa Catarina state.
After fleeing to Paraguay and initially under the auspices of Fahd Jamil Georges, the so-called “King of the Border” who for years called the shots along the Paraguay-Brazil border, Pavão gradually extended his control of trafficking routes to smuggle Paraguayan marijuana, as well as Colombian and Bolivian cocaine to his home country.
Authorities claim that among Pavão’s providers were the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC), to whom he allegedly exchanged weapons for cocaine. The kingpin always denied the claim, however.
As the organization grew, Pavão acquired small airplanes to run his drug flights across Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil, and began moving drugs as far into Brazil as the states of Minas Gerais and São Paulo.
Although arrested in Paraguay’s Concepción department, Pavão is thought to have used Pedro Juan Caballero, Amambay, as the center of operations for his trafficking organization. In addition to Paraguay, his contacts extended to Bolivia and Colombia from where he acquired cocaine, and his organization moved the drugs to several Brazilian states including Santa Catarino, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais and São Paulo.
Allies and Enemies
Though Pavão claims the two drug businessmen enjoyed amicable relations, authorities suspected Pavao of ordering the spectacular hit on Rafaat, carried out by the PCC in Pedro Juan Caballero.
The alliance between the incarcerated drug trafficker and the Brazilian gang lasted for some time. In October 2017, Brazil even warned Paraguay that communications intercepts suggested the PCC was planning on busting Pavão free. This alliance appears to have broken down since, however.
Pavão is now held in a maximum security prison in northeast Brazil, which appears to have significantly damaged his ability to manage his drug operations. His criminal career appears heavily jeopardized.
Cut off from the outside world, Pavão suffered a second blow to his business with the apparent rupture of his alliance with the PCC. The Brazilian gang is reportedly picking off Pavão’s remaining men in the border one by one, and just between November 2018 and January 2019 was blamed for the attempted or successful murders of two of Pavão’s nephews, his uncle, his lawyer and asset manager, as well as the individual suspected of coordinating Pavão’s drug flights. The PCC’s frontal confrontation of the state and rival criminals appears to ratify the fall of the old-school trafficker that many have come to describe as the “last border kingpin.”