Isolation strengthens smuggling on Paraguay’s borders with Brazil and Argentina

Isolation strengthens smuggling on Paraguay's borders with Brazil and Argentina

Military block access to the Friendship Bridge in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, on the border with Brazil, March 18, 2020

The isolation caused by the pandemic of COVID-19 increased smuggling on the Paraguayan border with Brazil and Argentina, and combating illegality in the region cost the military a life last weekend in Paraguay.

“We are having a social outbreak with unpredictable consequences,” Senator Arnaldo Franco, of the Colorado party, told reporters on Tuesday (21).

Paraguayan Congress President Oscar Salomón called for urgent measures to be implemented so that border cities operate normally.

“The measures need to take effect as soon as possible. We have to reactivate trade,” declared Salomón, after participating in a summit of the heads of state powers at the Government Palace.

Salomón estimated the number of businesses affected in Ciudad del Este, located 330 km east of Asunción, on the triple border with Foz do Iguaçu, in Paraná, and Puerto Iguazu, in Argentina, at 20,000.

Demonstrations by associations of merchants, street vendors and taxi drivers, among others, have been multiplying on the Friendship bridge that links Ciudad del Este with Foz do Iguaçu.

A gun battle with smugglers last Friday resulted in the death of a military man, shot in the head.

The search for criminals in a poor neighborhood in Ciudad del Este, known as Villa Kuwait, resulted in the arrest of 35 people. Several of them reported torture and ill-treatment by the authorities, which resulted in the change of the commander of the local battalion on Monday.

Through Villa Kuwait, and dozens of other illegal ports, electronic products, cigarettes and even drugs and weapons are smuggled, according to local police.

The suspension of trade forced the Paraguayan government to negotiate with Brazil the sale of goods under a “delivery” system, a modality that came into effect this Tuesday in the city of Pedro Juan Caballero, 550 km northeast of the dry border with Ponta Porã, in Mato Grosso do Sul.

The problem with trade is compounded by the unusual number of returnees who hope to enter Paraguay from neighboring countries, prevented by coronavirus prevention protocols.

“The government analyzes the entry of people selectively and unfairly,” Efrain Alegre, the opposition leader of the Paraguayan Liberal party, criticized AFP.

“The border cannot be closed to any Paraguayan,” continued Alegre, opponent of President Mario Abdo in the 2018 elections.

“I will not respond to anyone’s insults (…) this is not the time for electoral speeches when the nation needs to be united,” returned Abdo.

MRO / is / gm / AM / MVV


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