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LatinNews Daily - 08 November 2018

Paraguay’s attorney general threatened by Brazilian gang

Development: On 7 November, Paraguay’s interior ministry announced that it is providing additional security to the country’s attorney general, Sandra Quiñónez, after a video emerged in which she is threatened by alleged members of the Comando Vermelho (CV), Brazil’s oldest criminal gang. 

Significance: In October, Paraguayan authorities foiled two attempts by the CV to orchestrate the escape of its alleged leader and drug trafficker Marcelo ‘Piloto’ Pinheiro Veiga, who is being held in the Agrupación Especializada high-security prison in Asunción. According to the Paraguayan authorities, the three Brazilian CV members who were killed in the second operation on 24 October appear in the video.

  • The video shows five cagouled and heavily armed individuals holding up a picture of Quiñónez and threatening her in Portuguese. “We didn’t come to take part in a comedy show. In case our team doesn’t complete its mission, other teams will” one individual says.
  • During the police operation on 24 October which resulted in the death of three CV members, identified in the video, authorities seized a car bomb with 84kg of explosives. Although it was initially believed to be part of a plan to rescue Pinheiro Veiga, police are reportedly now considering the possibility that it was going to be used in an attack against Quiñónez.
  • The video, which was already in the hands of the authorities, emerged one day after Pinheiro Veiga gave a press conference from prison on 6 November in which he denied having anything to do with the plan involving the car bomb, and rejected recent affirmations linking him to terrorism. “I’m a trafficker, not a terrorist,” he said.  
  • Pinheiro Veiga also made allegations against members of Paraguay’s police force, citing names of police officers who had taken bribes in exchange for protecting him. Pinheiro Veiga’s comments to the press are interpreted as an attempt on his part to avoid extradition to Brazil, where he is wanted on homicide charges.
  • Pinheiro Veiga was arrested in southern Paraguay last December in a joint operation involving the US Drug Enforcement Administration and the Brazilian federal police, as well as Paraguayan anti-drug authorities.

Looking Ahead: While the CV has been consolidating its activities in Paraguay, the Paraguayan authorities have been increasingly effective in combatting its operations. The question is whether they can continue to be successful if the CV begins to target top officials such as Quiñónez directly.