Brazil’s most notorious gang has expanded within South America, a daring attempt to become the region’s largest Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO).
According to the Chief of Paraguay’s National Police (PNP), Economic Crimes Unit, Brazil’s First Capital Command or Primero Comando da Capital’s (PCC) twenty top lieutenants are in Paraguay, the senior lawman officially alerting local banks and financial institutions they may be targeted.
Paraguayan intelligence officials linked a three hundred and fifty meter tunnel in Cuidad Del Este to Brazilian PCC visitors. The tunnel’s entrance started inside a resident Brazilian’s prestigious estate and extended to international private security company Prosegur’s local compound. On April 24, 2017 the Spanish business’ Paraguayan facility was robbed of US$40 million, during a three hour assault by eighty men armed with AK-47 assault rifles.
Witnesses heard the gunmen speaking Portuguese, an indicator PCC operatives made the cross border journey from Brazil. A combined Paraguayan/Brazilian National Police team pursued the heavily armed camouflage outfitted robbers. During a confrontation the multi-agency police squad killed three and arrested four Brazilian infiltrators. Vans, cars, bulletproof vests, life jackets, automatic weapons, high-caliber ammunition and explosives were seized, the life jackets indicative of an escape by boat along the Parana River abutting Paraguay and Brazil.
The Paraguay/Brazil eastern border prospers as a drugs trafficking transit point and conduit for violent criminal activity. On the night of August 9, 2016 a senior PNP officer was assassinated in Curuguaty Paraguay by a motorcycle pillion rider near the Brazilian border. The victim’s name was on a PCC hit-list of Canindeyu department police officers, retribution for July 8, 2016’s interception and confiscation of twenty tons of marijuana.
On May 30, 2017 the law enforcement offensive “Operation Pulp Fiction” verified Brazil’s PCC hegemony in Paraguay. Five hundred and thirteen kilos of cocaine, one plane and the arrest of two pilots in border town Bella Vista Norte, all part of PCC’s largest aerial trafficking syndicate in Paraguay to date. The Brazilian criminal outpost moved as much as five metric tons of cocaine monthly. Intelligence data recorded twenty PCC drug flights that generated US$3.5 million every four weeks.
The two pilots and plane transited Pedro Juan Caballero (PJC) International Airport, widely recognized as “nerve center” of Paraguay’s underworld. A few days before more than half a metric ton of Bolivian cocaine was found on a secret tarmac, less than two kilometers from Brazil’s border with Amambay department in Paraguay. Internal security reports advised over a short period PNP officers increasingly detained Brazilian PCC operators transiting PJC International Airport.
The ten month Brazil Federal Police investigation, “Operation Sao Domingos,” verified Paraguay’s PJC International Airport importance to PCC cross-border drug movement. On March 20, 2014 one hundred law enforcers searched twenty-four properties in Rio de Janeiro, Matto Grosso and Sao Paulo. Four hundred and thirty-six kilos of cocaine and five tons of marijuana, valued US$4 million, were confiscated. A cache of illegal firearms including AR-15 variants, AK-47 assault rifles, along with boxes of 7.62mm and 5.56mm cartridges captured. Collectively contraband was worth US$8.2 million.
Before Operation Sao Domingos’ intervention PCC operators smuggled drugs and guns between Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Catanduva in Paraguay, the Operation also demolishing a sophisticated national payola syndicate, an illegal enrichment scheme influenced by PCC subversives. Rogue Brazilian National Anti-Drug Secretariat (DINAC) and Secretaría Nacional Antidrogas (SENAD) representatives assisted select private corporations and economic elites to import used aircraft from the USA. These planes were later registered under facades, or “whitened” for drug smuggling journeys across Paraguay and South America. Brazilian PCC masterminds demonstrate knowledge several regional government institutions, responsible for aviation security, are challenged by the endemic corruption that favors drug trafficking.
Ricardo Swire is the Principal Consultant at R-L-H Security Consultants & Business Support Services and writes on a number of important issues.