U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay Marc Ostfield ratified U.S. support for the Paraguayan National Anti-Drug Secretariat (SENAD) in a meeting with its Minister Zully Rolón at the institution’s headquarters in early July. The reunion reaffirmed the commitment of both countries in the fight against transnational organized crime, SENAD said via Twitter.
“We are pleased to always have the support, even more so, of the United States. Cooperation between the two countries in the fight against organized crime has been going on for three decades,” Special Agent Marcelo Paredes, general coordinator of SENAD’s Cabinet, told Diálogo on July 22. “This fight […] must be carried out among us all.”
“We value the cooperation with SENAD to continue fighting transnational organized crime and narcotrafficking in Paraguay,”Ambassador Ostfield said via Twitter on July 7. “Working together we can move toward a safer Paraguay and United States.”
SENAD is one of the country’s institutions that exchange information and work with several U.S. agencies, Paredes said. The SENAD agent is a mirror image of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agent, he added.
Paraguay is the region’s largest marijuana producer and the most important route to move cocaine from Bolivia to Europe, reported Paraguayan newspaper El País. Bolivian criminal groups drop shipments of up to 500 kilograms of cocaine from light aircraft into Paraguay’s Chaco region, according to Argentine daily El Clarín.
From 2018 to July 2022, Paraguay seized more than 2,200 tons of marijuana, Paredes said. In the same period, authorities seized more than 22 tons of cocaine.
One of the biggest operations against narcotrafficking was Operation A Ultranza Paraguay, which the SENAD launched in February 2022 in coordination with the DEA, the European Union Agency for Law enforcement Cooperation (Europol), and the Uruguayan Police.
A Ultranza concluded its first phase in March with more than 100 raids in various regions of the country, resulting in arrests of financiers and money launderers and the seizure of real estate, aircraft, boats, and high-end vehicles, Paredes said. “There could be a second operation A Ultranza,” he added.
Cooperation with the U.S. is strategic for Paraguay. It enables laying the groundworkfor the creation of specialized agencies such as the Specialized Unit for the Fight against Drug Trafficking.
What strengthened the link in the fight against these threats “is the U.S. commitment with training, technology, and equipment that it continually provides to Paraguay in the fight against narcotrafficking,” he said.
Another link, according to Paredes, is the Sensitive Investigation Unit, which dismantles smuggling networks and captures narcotraffickers. The unit is trained by the DEA under the leadership of the Paraguayan government.
“We know that these criminal groups do not have a defined border. We as regional and intra-regional countries must use cooperation as a model, because these groups use the vulnerabilities of each country,” he said.
In the last two years, more than 40 tons of cocaine leaving Paraguay have been seized in Europe, according to Paraguayan court reporting platform Judiciales. This is a sign of the re-establishment of traffickers and gangs in the country and their search for new trans-Atlantic routes, InSight Crime, the international organization dedicated to the investigation of organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean, said.
“We are discovering one of the shortcomings that the country face […]given the large number of container movements, we have to reinforce container scanner technology […] and the purchase of radars for aerial surveillance,” Paredes said.
The U.S. also supports Paraguay in stopping corruption and promoting accountability for those who undermine government institutions. “The fight against corruption and collaboration between our governments is […] a priority and we will continue with the designations of significantly corrupt individuals when there is evidence,”Ambassador Ostfield told radio Monumental 1080 AM in June.