Boquerón, Paraguay

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Boquerón is an important part of regional cocaine trafficking routes due to its strategic location on Paraguay’s border with Bolivia and its vast stretches of unpopulated land.

Aerial trafficking rings use hidden runways to refuel cocaine-laden planes, or to transfer the drugs onto trucks headed for the Paraguay-Brazil border. Cocaine also enters Paraguay via the Transchaco highway that cuts across Boquerón from the border with Bolivia. An absence of radar coverage and a generally weak state presence in the department further enable drug trafficking.

Boquerón sees modest marijuana flows head in the opposite direction, smuggled into Bolivia, often with Chile as its final destination.

Criminal Actors

There are no major criminal actors in Boquerón.

Criminal Economies

Arms Trafficking: In 2019, authorities seized six firearms in the department. It is not clear what type of weapons these were. Arms trafficking is not a significant criminal economy in Boquerón, as criminal groups use the department as a transit point for drugs, rather than an operations center. However, some firearms may enter the country illegally along with drug shipments brought by plane from Bolivia.

Cocaine: Boquerón is a transit point for Bolivian cocaine being smuggled to Pedro Juan Caballero and from there to Brazil. Cattle ranches in the department are used as clandestine airstrips, with farmers charging between $5,000 and $10,000 for each plane that lands in their ranch. Cocaine also enters Boquerón by land, hidden in trucks that come from Bolivia. The road passing through Mayor Infante Rivarola is a major cocaine entry point on the Bolivia-Paraguay border. Despite this, authorities have only made minor seizures in Boquerón. In 2019, 56 kilograms of cocaine was seized in the department. Aside from transit, cocaine consumption is a widespread problem in the department. Young people from all social classes consume crack, with those from more affluent backgrounds favoring cocaine. Cocaine is trafficked into Boquerón from Bolivia, whereas crack is brought from capital city, Asunción. There is an active micro-trafficking network in the city of Filadelfia.

Cannabis: Boquerón does not house cannabis plantations but it is a transit point for marijuana produced elsewhere in the country and trafficked into Bolivia and Brazil. In the past few years, Paraguay authorities have not reported cannabis seizures. Back in 2017, they seized 89 kilograms of the drug, compared to four tons in 2016, worth an estimated $120,000. Cannabis consumption is widespread in the department, but with a small population, the market is small in size.

Environmental Crime: Boquerón is part of the Paraguayan Chaco, an area housing various endangered and vulnerable species. However, there are no indications that eco-trafficking networks maintain a significant presence in the department. Environmental destruction – deforestation and the killing of endangered species – is mostly linked to cattle ranching and is not for commercial ends.

Human Trafficking: Human trafficking is an underreported crime in Boquerón. Girls, especially from indigenous communities, are vulnerable to sex trafficking. Paraguay military officials were allegedly involved in one case of sexual exploitation. In early 2020, three victims had recently been rescued from human trafficking.

Sources: This profile is based on a field investigation in Filadelfia, Boquerón, 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), police intelligence officials, antinarcotics prosecutors, customs officials, the governor’s office, non-governmental organizations working on human rights and environmental issues, community leaders, 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.

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