August 23, 2013 8:41 pm

Paraguay seizes nearly 2 tons of cocaine along Brazil border


ABOVE: Photo gallery of the seized drugs and weapons.

ASUNCION, Paraguay – Paraguayan officials have seized almost two tons of cocaine near the country’s border with Brazil, authorities said Friday.

Special drug agents said they found a one-ton cargo of cocaine at a ranch in the state of Presidente Hayes, about 240 miles (380 kilometres) north of the capital, Asuncion. Agents reported another 1,800 pound (800 kilogram) find on Thursday in the state of Concepcion.

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“These are preliminary reports because we’re still going through the inventory for more cocaine packets and arms,” said Luis Rojas, head of the National Anti-drug Secretariat. “Five people, all of them five Paraguayan citizens, have been arrested so far.”

He said the cocaine likely came from Bolivia or Peru.

Paraguay’s new president, Horacio Cartes, named Rojas as the country’s drug czar last week.

Cartes, whose term runs through August 2018, built a family fortune with companies that dominate industries including banking, tobacco and soccer. But he has faced accusations that his wealth was fed by money laundering, cigarette smuggling and drug trafficking.

The accusations became widely reported after WikiLeaks published a 2010 U.S. State Department cable that labeled him the head of a drug trafficking and money laundering operation. Cartes has denied this.

Before taking office as president, his family became an issue on July 29, when uncle Juan Viveros Cartes was arrested in Uruguay for allegedly violating its airspace. Uruguayan officials allege the uncle was using a small plane to look for clandestine landing strips for drug smuggling.

Cartes said over the weekend that he wants the country’s anti-drug agency to treat his uncle like any other trafficking suspect, saying family bonds will not protect his relatives.

© 2013 The Canadian Press

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