Most of the cultivation takes place in the area around Pedro Juan Caballero, near the Brazilian border, which is the country's criminal centre.
° Marijuana plantations cover some 8,000 hectares, with a production of 30,000 tonnes, 77% of which goes to Brazil and 20% to Argentina.
As a transit point for cocaine from Peru and Bolivia, Paraguay has seen a leap in the volume of shipments to Europe, with a record shipment of 23 tonnes at the beginning of 2021.
° The Paraguayan congress has C the medicinal use of marijuana; for the moment it is not following in the footsteps of Mexico, the leading producer in the Americas, which discussion its full legalisation.
Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benítez and the then Argentinean Minister of Security, eradicating marijuana plants in PJC [Gov. of Paraguay].
report SRA 2021 / Eduardo Uranga [ PDF version].
Paraguay is on the rise on the drug trafficking map, as the largest producer of marijuana in South America and as a distributor of cocaine from Peru and Bolivia. With an estimated cannabis cultivation area of almost 8,000 hectares and an annual production of close to 30,000 tons, Paraguay exports the drug to Brazil and Argentina. finding The cocaine that passes through the country is destined for these two large neighbours and, above all, for Europe: in February 2021, the German authorities intercepted a 16-tonne cocaine shipment, the largest ever sent from Paraguay, an amount that rose to 23 tonnes in February 2021, including a shipment located two days earlier in Antwerp. A further 11 tonnes were found in Antwerp at the beginning of April.
While, in the case of Paraguay, the most surprising development in the last year has been this leap in the capacity to generate large cocaine shipments, the rapidly evolving international context in relation to marijuana - for example, the UN reclassified it in December 2020, noting its therapeutic potential - makes this other lucrative illicit trade particularly topical.
The growing legalisation of hemp leaf, which is beginning to take place in some countries, generating its own production (unlike coca, which due to its specific conditions is cultivated almost exclusively in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, marijuana can be grown in different places, even in greenhouses) offers business prospects for the farmers who are currently involved in its illegal cultivation in Paraguay, This offers business prospects for the farmers who currently grow it illegally in Paraguay (not so much for the mafia structure of Brazilian origin, since in order to compete in Uruguay, the only nearby country that has legalised national production for open use, Paraguayan marijuana would have to be sold more cheaply than Uruguayan marijuana). Mexico, which is the largest producer in the Americas, is in the process of decriminalising recreational use; Paraguay is not there yet, but the law passed in August 2020 to allow medicinal use allows individual cultivation if there is medical certificate .
Production and eradication
Marijuana production is linked to organised crime, especially in the border areas with Brazil. According to figures provided by the administrative office National Anti-Drugs Office (SENAD), the largest operations against the cultivation of this drug take place in the department of Amambay, whose capital, Juan Pedro Caballero, is the country's criminal centre. This city is adjacent to the Brazilian border and shares an urban mass with the Brazilian town of Punta Porá. The adjacent department of Canindeyú, also bordering Brazil, is also home to extensive plantations.
In the decade 2009-2019, SENAD destroyed 9,838 hectares of marijuana plant cultivation in Amambay and 2,432 in Canindeyú, together accounting for about 90 per cent of the 15,045 hectares eradicated nationwide. In 2019, the latest damage referenced by SENAD, authorities eradicated 1,468.5 hectares, the highest figure of the decade, which not only indicates an increase in the anti-narcotics effort, but also suggests an increase in cultivated areas.
Paraguay is estimated to have between 6,000 and 8,000 hectares of marijuana plants. An improved seed introduced a few years ago has made it possible to expand the usual two harvests per year to three or even four harvests, raising productivity to between two and three tonnes of marijuana herb per hectare, bringing total production to as much as 20,000 tonnes per year. These figures may have been underestimated, as SENAD has estimated that up to 30,000 tons of weed could have left the country in the last year.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) World Drug Report 2020 ranks Paraguay as the country with the largest marijuana seizures, at over 1,000 tonnes per year. The report also indicates that hemp resin production is minimal (1.1 tons in 2016) and that 77% of the marijuana generated in Paraguay is destined for the Brazilian market and 20% for the Argentinean market.
In the Americas, Paraguay's production is surpassed only by Mexico, which has an estimated 12,000 hectares of plantations, according to the US government's 2021 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), agreement . The amount of cultivated area eradicated by the Mexican authorities is also higher, although this effort has fallen in recent years (5,478 hectares in 2016, 4,193 in 2017 and 2,263 in 2018), as indicated by the UNODC's report , which at the same time points out that in Mexico some 200 tonnes of marijuana were seized in 2018, compared to 400 tonnes in 2017.
Paraguay is a fertile ground for the establishment of criminal networks. Its strategic position is a determining factor and a fundamental condition for it to be chosen by organised crime as a focal point for its criminal activities. Situated between the coca production centres of Peru and Bolivia and the growing markets of Argentina and above all Brazil, which are also a destination for Paraguayan marijuana, the country is a place of operation for mafias, especially Brazilian ones. The conditions of the Triple Border - the conurbation formed by Ciudad del Este (Paraguay), Foz de Iguaçú (Brazil) and Puerto Iguazú (Argentina) - also encourage smuggling, product counterfeiting and money laundering, as well as the financing of terrorist groups(such as Hezbollah).
Economic factors also play a role. Economic and social marginalisation is an element that these organised crime gangs resort to in order to recruit "employees". However, this factor can only partly explain the particular development of these networks. The scale of these networks depends fundamentally on the level of acceptance and tolerance of corruption. In this sense, Paraguay has the ideal conditions for the development of these networks. This is due to its high levels of state corruption, as indicated in the Corruption Perceptions Index.
Highlighting the obstacle that corruption in Paraguay poses to the fight against drug trafficking, in January 2020 a mass escape from a prison in Pedro Juan Caballero of 75 prisoners, mostly members of a Brazilian criminal gang First Capital Command (CCP), took place. The escape was facilitated by the collusion of officials and highlighted the impunity with which many of the drug traffickers operate.