Paraguay: The Forgotten Drug Hub
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A massive cocaine bust in Paraguay is directing rare media attention towards one of the world's most isolated and least documented drug hubs. The landlocked nation borders Bolivia, one of South America's main cocaine producers, and Brazil, which has become one of the world's top consumers of illegal drugs. Authorities yesterday seized 1,700 kilos of cocaine near Paraguay's northeast Brazilian border and arrested 19 suspects, including the country's most wanted man, Ezequiel de Souza. “This is possibly the largest shipment ever seized up to now,” says the head of the country's counternarcotics force, Francisco de Vargas. “There may be more.” Poverty, corruption and porous borders make the country easy for traffickers to exploit, but most of its rampant corruption and drug violence goes unnoticed by the rest of the world, even as the death toll steadily climbs. Journalists who attempt to break the silence often face threats to their lives—similar to those in Mexico. Paraguay is known across South America for its corruption and complicity in the global drug trade, but President Federico Franco says this recent bust signals that the country is finally finding success in stepping up anti-drug efforts. "Paraguay is committed to fight drug-trafficking," he says. "It will become known abroad as a sovereign nation, not as a drug-trafficking country."