Misiones does not play an important role in regional criminal dynamics, despite some marijuana trafficking in the department.
An infamous cannabis trafficking case in Itatí, in neighboring Argentina, showed that a substantial volume of cannabis does flow through the department, from where it is smuggled into Argentina via the river that marks the international border between the two countries.
Cocaine smuggling appears to be on the rise, mainly along clandestine routes used to move livestock.
First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC): Some members of the PCC are housed in the San Juan Bautista prison in Misiones. The gang may be using prison guards to send out orders to their colleagues on the outside.
Rotela Clan (Clan Rotela): the Rotela Clan primarily engages in local drug-peddling in Paraguay’s capital, Asunción, but some of its members are housed in the San Juan Bautista prison. A nationwide and dangerous group, the Rotela Clan competes with the PCC to recruit new members in the country’s prisons.
Arms Trafficking: Arms trafficking does not appear to be a significant criminal economy in Misiones. However, it is possible that criminal groups involved in smuggling marijuana and cocaine through the department use illicit firearms to protect their shipments. In 2019, authorities seized just five firearms in Misiones, compared to 14 in 2018. It is unclear what type of firearms these were.
Cocaine: Misiones is a transit point for Bolivian cocaine bound for Argentina. Drug planes land on rural ranches, where they refuel and continue to Argentina. Cocaine is sometimes stored at these locations. There is also a small market for crack and cocaine consumption in the department. In the last three years, authorities seized less than one kilogram of cocaine. There is no evidence that major criminal organizations are present in the Misiones drug trade. The main players are independent groups from Argentina and Paraguay.
Cannabis: Misiones is a transit point for marijuana being smuggling from Itapúa and Caazapá to Ñeembucú and Argentina. There is no evidence of cannabis cultivation or production in the department. Though some PCC members are imprisoned in Misiones, they do not appear to be involved in the department’s drug trade. Rather, Argentinian and Paraguayan networks move cannabis into Argentina by river and land. Trucks can allegedly carry between 400 kilograms and 500 kilograms of marijuana. In 2019, authorities seized just 1 kilogram of cannabis in Misiones, and even less than that in 2018. This is a radical drop from the eight tons of marijuana seized by authorities 2017. The amount of cannabis transiting the department is likely underreported.
Contraband: Contraband is a minor criminal economy in Misiones, but meat and non-perishable cleaning and hygiene products have been smuggled in the department. Meat smuggling appears to stem from cattle theft within the department. Cleaning products are also smuggled into Misiones from Asunción, a hub for contraband distribution. Fruit and vegetables, especially tomatoes, enter the department via its border with Argentina or through Encarnación.
Sources: This profile is based on a field investigation in San Juan Bautista, Misiones, and four trips to Asunción where InSight Crime interviewed Interior Ministry officials, the Attorney General’s Office, the National Anti-Corruption Secretariat (Secretaría Nacional Anticorrupción – SENAC), the National Anti-Drug Secretariat (Secretaría Nacional Antidrogas – SENAD), the Secretariat for the Prevention of Money or Assest Laundering (Secretaría de Prevención de Lavado de Dinero o Bienes – SEPRELAD), Paraguay’s anti-human trafficking unit, prison officials, the National Directorate of Civil Aviation (Dirección Nacional de Aeronautica Civil – DINAC), national police, judicial officials, the governor’s office, local politicians and prosecutors, non-governmental organizations working on human rights and environmental issues, community leaders, and local journalists, most of whom requested anonymity. InSight Crime also drew from information provided by Paraguay’s Interior Ministry, the General Directory of Statistics, Surveys and Censuses, and local press.