Paraguay Dismisses Ministers over Links to Drug Trafficking Suspects
Paraguay’s president dismissed last week two ministers who were allegedly linked to organized crime. The move came after police dismantled a gang allegedly responsible for shipping about 21 tonnes of cocaine to Europe.
sacked on Thursday the head of the National Emergency Agency, Joaquin Roa, who had bought a yacht from one of the suspects arrested during the police operation that was carried out with the help of Europol, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and an Anti-Drug Unit from Uruguay.Paraguay’s President Mario Abdo Benítez
Two days before, Abdo Benítez removed Interior Minister Arnaldo Giuzzio over his alleged ties with a Brazilian drug trafficker who was arrested two weeks ago in Foz do Iguaçu, a Brazilian city across the border from Ciudad del Este.
The dismissals came after Paraguayan authorities arrested eight suspected members of a gang linked to about 21 tonnes of drugs that were seized at various times in Antwerp, Rotterdam, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Police also raided several locations, seizing assets worth more than US$100 million, including luxury real estate, nine planes, 24 fancy cars, weapons, three yachts and thousands of cattle, Paraguay's National Anti-Drug Secretariat (SENAD) announced on Twitter.
U.S. Chief of Mission in Paraguay, Joseph Salazar, said that the operation was “one of the biggest blows to organized crime in Paraguay in recent times. We applaud the efforts of the National Anti-Drug Secretariat and prosecutors for their commitment to combat this scourge.”
“Operation ‘A Ultranza Py’ is the largest operation against money laundering from drug trafficking in the country’s history,” SENAD official Zully Rolón said.
The gang allegedly moved cocaine by air from the producing countries, especially Bolivia, through Paraguay, where the drugs were concealed in containers on ships headed from the country’s river ports to Europe and Africa.
The group is believed to have been led by Uruguayan drug trafficker with a Paraguayan passport, Sebastián Enrique Marset Cabrera, who was arrested in late 2021 at the Dubai airport.
Miguel Insfrán, alias Tío Rico, was allegedly responsible for providing the trucks for the transport of the drugs, while the father-in-law of Senator Sergio Godoy was in charge of air logistics.
In addition, Alberto Koube Ayala, a cattle rancher, allegedly laundered the drug money through the several businesses he owned. He was arrested just one block from his home on Tuesday in Paraguay’s capital.
Another gang member identified as evangelical pastor José Insfrán allegedly laundered the money through churches, properties, hotels, and radio stations.
Paraguay has emerged as a crucial link in the transnational cocaine supply chain between South America and Europe and Africa. A news outlet recently said in an op-ed that the Latin American country “is acquiring the characteristics of a narco-state.”