In an operation in Bella vista Norte, Amambay department, the Paraguayan National Anti-Drug Secretariat (SENAD) destroyed more than 16 tons of marijuana. Agents found the drugs in a rural establishment of some 5 hectares that housed several narco-camps with marijuana crops, where they also seized 1.5 tons of the drug in the drying process.
Authorities destroyed the improvised camps and the drugs, along with chemical precursors and production support equipment used in the process, online Paraguayan daily ABC Color reported June 17.
Strengthening the fight
SENAD’s Bella Vista Norte Regional Office is currently showing greater operational presence in the departments of Concepción and Amambay, bringing additional support to the other forces established in the country’s northeast and on the border with Brazil. These departments contain the largest amount of marijuana plantations in Paraguay, which is also South America’s largest producer of the drug, Spanish daily ABC reported.
Cannabis produced in Amambay has markedly high levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, which allows criminal groups to sell the drug at a higher price than cannabis from other parts of the country, says InSight Crime, an organization dedicated to the study of organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean. “In short, the market is massive, valued at hundreds of millions of dollars,” the organization reports.
Amambay is at the center of Paraguay’s most worrying organized crime trends: cocaine trafficking, marijuana production, and the emergence of violent criminal groups. “It’s ground zero for the expansion of Brazilian gangs in Paraguay, in particular the First Capital Command and the Red Command, which have taken root in Pedro Juan Caballero and Capitán Bado,” InSight Crime says.
In late May, Paraguayan and Brazilian forces completed the latest phase of Operation New Alliance (Operación Nueva Alianza), which seeks to destroy illicit crops, narco-camps, labs, and stockpiling centers in the border regions.
“Operation New Alliance XXXII was carried out over 11 days in Amambay, in cooperation with Brazil, and ended on May 28 with the destruction of 836 tons of marijuana, as well as 103 camps for cultivation and processing,” reported Paraguayan daily La Nación. This was one of the largest seizures ever conducted in Paraguay, attesting to the drug problem in this region.
Paraguay and the United States also have a long history of cooperation to confront narcotrafficking and organized crime. On May 10, for instance, top U.S. military officials, including U.S. Army General Richard D. Clarke, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, and U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Keith Davids, then commander of Special Operations Command South (on July 6, Rear Adm. Davids passed the baton to U.S. Marine Corps Brigadier General Peter Huntley), visited Asunción to enhance partnership and promote continued regional security cooperation, the U.S. Embassy in Paraguay said in a press release.
“Paraguay remains a strong and valued partner for the United States, especially with regard to security cooperation,” U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay Marc Ostfield said. “Gen. Clarke’s visit underscores the commitment of our country’s government to security cooperation in this region and our mutual interests in combating transnational crime and enhancing security.”
“Paraguay is a great friend and we share many of the same security concerns, including counterterrorism and tackling transnational criminal organizations […]. Working together with our Paraguayan partners strengthens and builds on the already strong relationship to the benefit of both countries,” Gen. Clarke, for his part, said.