Canindeyú, Paraguay

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Located on Paraguay’s border with Brazil, Canindeyú is a key criminal hub in the Tri-Border area.

The department is one of Paraguay’s most prominent marijuana producers. Salto del Guairá is also an important spot for cocaine trafficking on the Brazil-Paraguay border.

In addition, the department sees major contraband flows pass along the overland smuggling routes skirting the border, or on the Paraná River. These criminal economies have flourished amid widespread corruption and the criminal penetration of state institutions.

Criminal Actors

No major criminal actors were found in Canindeyú. Criminal economies are managed by local structures and small Brazilian groups.

Criminal Economies

Arms Trafficking: Canindeyú is a transit point for arms smuggling into Brazil, primarily supplying Brazilian criminal organizations. In 2019, Paraguay’s National Anti-Drug Secretariat (Secretaría Nacional Antidrogas – SENAD) seized 27 firearms in the department. It is not clear what type of arms these were, but both small arms and high-caliber weapons have previously been seized in the department. Arms trafficking from Paraguay into Brazil has decreased in recent years, as arms are now sent directly to Brazil from Argentina or the United States. This appears to be a vibrant, albeit relatively small criminal economy.

Cocaine: Planes carrying Bolivian cocaine land in Canindeyú, where the drug is stored and then moved into Brazil. The cocaine economy is controlled by Brazilian drug groups who employ Paraguayans. These actors maintain a low profile. Seizures are generally low because of endemic corruption in the department. Authorities seized less than one kilogram of cocaine in the department in 2018 and 2019, but this is thought to be a massive criminal economy for the department, reaching into the tens of millions of dollars.

Cannabis: Canindeyú is Paraguay’s second largest cannabis producer, after Amambay. The department houses some 8,000 hectares of cannabis crops. Most crops are hard to find, as they are located in dense, inaccessible forest areas. Two hectares of cannabis crop on average yield 1.5 tons of the drug, with two harvests a year. Based on those figures, the department of Canindeyú could produce up to 12,000 tons of cannabis annually. There is also a cannabis consumption market in the department. Security officials allegedly take bribes from producers and transporters to allow them to cross the border into Brazil.

Contraband: Contraband is the main criminal activity in Canindeyú. Products such as rice, clothing, toys, and cement are constantly smuggled in from Brazil. These are then sold in stores ranging from small informal vending spots to shopping malls. Cigarettes are smuggled in the opposite direction; Salto del Guairá is the main hotspot for this activity. Cigarette smugglers are heavily armed and can shut down streets at night in order to move their product. These networks are made up of both Paraguayans and Brazilians. Security forces take bribes from smugglers in exchange for permission to move their product freely. Smugglers pay $1 for each cigarette pack that they move into Brazil. One bus can transport around 600 packs of cigarettes in one trip, and around six buses cross the border every night. Clandestine ports are also used to transport cigarettes. Using boats, smugglers can move between 100 to 200 packs at a time. Contraband smugglers operate with relative impunity; no sentences for contraband smuggling have been handed out in the last five years. This is partly due to corruption, but also because the local economy depends on this activity.

Sources: This profile is based on a field investigation in Canindeyú 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 Asset 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), national police, judicial officials, the governor’s office, local antinarcotics prosecutors, 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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