Members of the Largest Brazilian Narcotrafficking Faction Arrested at the Border with Paraguay
By Andréa Lemos/Diálogo May 07, 2021
The First Capital Command (PCC, in Portuguese), the largest drug and arms trafficking group in Brazil, lost one of its leaders who operated along the border with Paraguay.
In the evening of March 23, 2021, 14 members of the PCC were arrested in Pedro Juan Caballero, a Paraguayan city adjacent to the Brazilian municipality of Ponta Porã, Mato Grosso do Sul state. The criminals were in possession of five rifles, as well as bulletproof vests, ammunition, cell phones, and five vehicles.
Agents of the Joint Task Force (FTC, in Spanish), a unit of the Paraguayan Armed Forces, surprised the group during a meeting.
“These people [eight Paraguayans and six Brazilians] were planning a coup,” said Paraguayan prosecutor Celso Morales, who said the property raided was a laundromat. According to intelligence from the Paraguayan National Anti-Drug Secretariat (SENAD, in Spanish), the planned coup was going to be an assault on a Brazilian city.
Among those arrested is Weslley Neres dos Santos, a Brazilian known as Bebezão. He was appointed as the new head of the PCC in the region, and had an arrest warrant since February 2021 for international arms and drug trafficking.
According to the Brazilian Federal Police (PF, in Portuguese), Bebezão took command of trafficking in the area following the arrest of Giovanni Barbosa da Silva, on January 9, 2021, in the same city where the group was found. Both Bebezão and another five Brazilian arrested were turned over to the PF on March 25.
According to SENAD, no shots were fired during the operation, which was dubbed Safe Border II (Fronteira Segura II). The men did not resist arrest either.
In addition to the team that invaded the house, members of the FTC surrounded the property to stop the criminals from escaping or rescuing their cronies.
Operation Safe Border II was made possible thanks to investigations by SENAD’s intelligence department, Paraguay’s Office of the Attorney General, and the PF.
Since 2020, security authorities from both countries have been jointly conducting a series of operations in the border region, such as Operation Exile (Operação Exílio), launched in June 2020, which was named after fugitive Brazilian traffickers who tried to hide in Paraguayan territory, posing as businessmen.