Security forces from Paraguay and Brazil have launched a new joint operation targeting marijuana production and trafficking in their mutual border region, in a sign of cooperation between two countries that have had an occasionally strained relationship.
On the first day of operation "New Alliance IV," anti-narcotics agents destroyed 26 tons of marijuana and burned two presses used to compact the crop, reported EFE. They arrested three people, among them two minors aged 16 and 17.
The operation is targeting marijuana crops and storage centers in the forests in Paraguay's Itakyry district, located in the border region of Alto Parana, and is scheduled to continue for several days. It was launched in response to several large seizures made over the last month, which saw 52 tons intercepted throughout Paraguay.
InSight Crime Analysis
Paraguay is South America's largest marijuana producer country and Brazil its principal market. The movement of marijuana from Paraguay to Brazil, as with the trafficking of Andean cocaine and other contraband, is facilitated by a porous border region.
Drug trafficking along this route has led to Brazilian gangs setting up in Paraguay to control operations and take advantage of the weak law enforcement and judicial corruption.
The two countries have a history of cooperating in anti-narcotics operations in the border region, and signed a bilateral security agreement in 2011.
However, the relationship has at times been rocky. Just months after signing the agreement, Paraguayan officials denounced Brazil's militarization of the border, complaining that legitimate trade had been hit hard by the measures.
Also in 2011, there was an international incident when Paraguayan marines allegedly opened fire on Brazilian Federal Police, who had just seized a boat loaded with drugs and contraband.
Paraguay's President-elect, Horacio Cartes, recently announced that improving trade relations with Brazil is one of the main aims of his presidency, an objective that would be aided by improved security cooperation. However, as Cartes has yet to dispel accusations of money laundering, drug trafficking, and smuggling, the Brazilian government may be hesitant to deepen ties.