"Corruption is a very important part of criminal groups", says Paraguayan minister

Minister Cesar Aquino (Photo: UNODC)21 May 2010 - The National Anti-Drug Secretariat (SENAD) of Paraguay is one of the most respected government agencies in the country. It is the state institution entrusted by Constitution's mandate to suppress the illicit production and trafficking of narcotic substances and other dangerous drugs, as well as acts intended to legitimize money from these activities and also to combat the illicit use of such drugs.

Since August 2008, SENAD is led by Commissioner Cesar Damian Aquino, who holds the post of Executive Secretary, with minister rank. In this period, SENAD tries to approximate Paraguay to its neighboring countries, in order to expand cooperation for a more effective action in the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime.

In May, the minister was in Brasilia (Brazil), to attend the International Seminar on Repression of Organized Crime, which was attended by law enforcement authorities, parliamentarians, prosecutors and members of the Judiciary in the region. On the occasion, he gave the following interview to UNODC's website:

What are the main challenges facing Paraguay in the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime?

The big challenge we have is the little human resources available to SENAD, especially in logistics and intelligence forces monitoring criminal groups.

How criminal groups are organized in Paraguay?

There are no well defined organizations, nor very large criminal organizations. There are tiny groups, mainly in the border with Brazil, including Ciudad del Este, in the department of Alto Parana, Pedro Juan Caballero, in Amambay, and Salto del Guaira, which is in the department Canindeyú. Those are the departments that are supposed to have Brazilian traffickers or organizations, such as the "First Capital Command (PCC)" or the "Red Command", with its members scattered along the border, both in the Paraguayan and the Brazilian sides. In 2008, we captured the head of the PCC in Paraguay, Antonio Caballero, who is currently in prison, in addition to other members and several Brazilian members.

In institutional terms, which are the main vulnerabilities of public power in Paraguay?

The corruption in state authorities, whether in the Public Ministry, in the administration of justice, which comes to be the judiciary. The same applies in relation to internal security, which is in charge of the National Police, and, we must say, even among members of SENAD who may be receiving money. Corruption is a very important part of criminal groups.

What is the best way for other countries of the region, such as Argentina or Brazil, to help Paraguay in this area?

The best contribution we can receive is the exchange of intelligence information. The most precious and the most useful way to a group that is part of security, such as the National Anti-Drug Secretariat or any other, is the exchange of intelligence information.

How do you evaluate mutual legal cooperation between countries of the region, in terms, for example, requests for extradition?

With all countries we have extradition agreements, no request has been unsuccessful, except in cases where the Judiciary denied a petition when a legal problem was found or when someone convinced the Judiciary that there were a legal problem. But it normally occurs. Paraguay and SENAD have extradited many people to number of countries, including the United States and Brazil.

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