Presidente Hayes is one of three departments in Paraguay’s Chaco region, a vast and inhospitable forest area, where criminal organizations operate with relative impunity.
The department’s topography facilitates aerial cocaine trafficking and, in past years, authorities have discovered a number of clandestine runways in Presidente Hayes. However, there appears to be less cocaine trafficking than in Paraguay’s two other Chaco departments – Boquerón and Alto Paraguay.
Presidente Hayes’ underdeveloped road network hinders various types of trafficking, but the department is still an important transit point for marijuana smuggled into Bolivia.
First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC): In 2017, the PCC reportedly committed a robbery of two armored trucks traveling towards Paraguay’s capital, Asunción. There is no further evidence of the group’s presence in the department.
Arms Trafficking: In 2019, authorities seized 18 firearms in the department. It is not clear what type of firearms these were. Firearms are often sold to criminal groups in Presidente Hayes. Illicit weapons are also trafficked along drug-smuggling routes. The presence of firearms in the department is likely linked to its position as a transit point for narcotics shipments, but this is a small criminal market.
Cocaine: Presidente Hayes is a transit point for Bolivian cocaine bound for Argentina. In 2019, authorities seized almost one ton of cocaine in the department. The department houses clandestine airstrips, suggesting a large-scale cocaine economy. Corrupt police officers appear to shield drug traffickers from investigations on a regular basis.
Cannabis: In 2019, authorities seized 6.2 tons of cannabis in the department. Presidente Hayes serves as a transit point for cannabis heading to Argentina and marijuana traffickers are often protected by corrupt police officers. There is also a minor cannabis consumption market in the department.
Environmental Crime: In 2019, authorities seized eight stags, two yacare caimans, two Chaco chachalacas, four kilograms of yacare caiman parts, four portions of maned wolf meat, six portions of catfish, and 20 kilograms of wild pig parts. The retail prices of these species are unclear. However, given the diversity of animals known to be trafficked in the region, there is likely a lucrative wildlife-trafficking economy in Presidente Hayes. No large, organized crime groups are involved in eco-trafficking in Paraguay. Rather, there only appear to be small-time actors.
Human Trafficking: In 2019, 50 victims of labor trafficking were reportedly rescued from a coal mine in Presidente Hayes, but no criminal group appeared to be involved. There does not appear to be any large-scale sex trafficking, especially given the lack of major cities or tourist centers in the department.
Sources: This profile is based on a field investigation in Presidente Hayes 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 prosecutors, 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.