The Office of the Prosecutor of Paraguay presented an expert work that shows that guards from the Pedro Juan Caballero prison allowed in January the escape of 76 members of the largest Brazilian criminal group and that the evasion was carried out through a tunnel excavated for a week. A camera captured how a group of guards saw the excavation and did not notify the authorities. Everyone was involved in what has already been called “The Game.”
The escape, which exposed the failures of the prison system in Paraguay, with prison overcrowding and internal corruption, occurred at dawn on January 19 in the prison of that city, bordering with Brazil and one of the First Command’s operations centers Capital (PCC), the network to which the fugitives belonged. It is one of the most settled groups in Sao Paulo, in permanent conflict with the Red Union in Rio de Janeiro. Generally, they divide the so-called squares and other extortion points to businesses and transport. They are mainly fighting in prisons or in the hills, favelas, with different police groups, such as the dreaded “skulls” BOPE in the Wonder City or LA ROTA in San Pablo.
Since before President Jair Bolsonaro came to power with his hard-handed policy, many criminals called “wanderers” in popular slang have decided to move to bordering countries like Paraguay, where institutions are even weaker. Especially the prisons. The PCC is known for its massacres in prisons for reasons such as not being able to watch a World Cup match. They are able to pick up the phone and put together a butcher shop in the streets and police stations in a matter of minutes. That power acquired in Brazil is multiplied in Paraguay, where they are the true kings and masters of the presidios.
For his part, prosecutor Federico Delfino reported that the plan was organized so that 14 criminals from the CCP would flee from that criminal, but that the rest took advantage of the situation to escape. Delfino explained that the tunnel was excavated seven days before the escape, according to the surveyor’s study, probably with hoes and spikes.
The prosecutor commented on a sequence of images prior to the escape, in which some guards are observed approaching the tunnel and not “giving notice of it.” He added that this is a “disgraceful” attitude that shows that “there is responsibility within the penitentiary regarding the irregularities that were observed.” He also indicated that it was not until an hour and a half after the escape that a guard activated the alarm after a call.
Outside, he had deployed a detachment of the Armed Forces, who said they saw nothing abnormal that early morning. The Government acknowledged that the corruption of the prison system explains the mass evasion, along with intelligence failures. The Ministry of Justice alerted months before the existence of an evasion plan.
The operation shows the growing influence of the organization in Paraguay, whose institutions are not rivals for Brazilian bands. Prison authorities located near the border between Paraguay and Brazil knew what the PCC was planning, admitted Paraguay’s Minister of Justice, Cecilia Pérez.
For Pérez, some were complicit, while others looked aside for fear of reprisals. Thirty-two prison officers, including the jail director, are under arrest. “We have a security crisis that has its epicenter in the prison system,” he added.
The PCC, for example, recruits or “baptizes” inmates, allowing it to grow rapidly and expand its tentacles, said Gilberto Fleitas, director of punishable facts investigation at the National Police of Paraguay.
Fleitas estimated that there are currently about 500 PCC members in the prisons of Paraguay, a figure that has doubled since last year. Commissioner Rubén Paredes said that the number is even greater, and that about 10% of the 16,000 Paraguayan inmates belong to Brazilian bands.
Nicknamed the “City of Blood,” Pedro Juan Caballero proved to be an attractive base for drug gangs in Brazil, authorities said. The city blends almost imperceptibly with the Brazilian municipality of Ponta Porã.
Small planes carrying Bolivian cocaine frequently land on remote runways outside Pedro Juan Caballero, Brazilian and Paraguayan authorities said. From there, drugs move through southern Brazil and go to Europe, where cocaine demand is booming.
In addition, the proceeds of drug trafficking are washed through local businesses such as hotels, casinos or livestock, said Brazilian police.
The city of some 120,000 people saw a sharp increase in violence linked to drug trafficking last year, as a result of fierce competition to dominate traffic routes. The mayor of Pedro Juan Caballero, José Carlos Acevedo, said that in 2019 there were more than 150 murders, resulting in a homicide rate of more than 120 per 100,000 people. In comparison, the murder rate in El Salvador, the most dangerous country in the world, is 61.8 per 100,000, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC). It has become a pirate shelter.