ASUNCION – A Paraguayan judge ruled on Friday that lawmaker Ulises Quintana must remain behind bars pending trial on drug trafficking charges.
Quintana, a member of the ruling Colorado Party and a political ally of President Mario Abdo Benitez, will be interned during the day in Asuncion’s Viñas Cue military prison.
Describing the legislator as a flight risk, Judge Ruben Ayala refused to grant bail.
“I am innocent and that will be seen in the course of the trial,” Quintana told reporters after the hearing.
Quintana’s whereabouts were unknown for eight days, when the Paraguayan Attorney General’s Office ordered his arrest on suspicion of ties to reputed drug kingpin Reinaldo Cabañas, who was detained Sept. 10.
The warrant was issued a day after the lower house of Congress agreed to revoke Quintana’s immunity from prosecution.
The lawmaker surrendered to authorities this morning ahead of the court hearing.
The hearing was open to the press, at the request of Quintana and his lawyers.
Quintana’s appearance in court was followed from outside the Palace of Justice by around 100 people from his congressional district of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay’s second largest city.
The indictment of Quintana came after the arrest of Cabañas in a vast anti-drug operation in Ciudad del Este.
Quintana then acknowledged that Cabañas had lent him several vehicles to use in his electoral campaign for last April’s elections.
Later he admitted that Cabañas telephoned him in late August with a request to intercede on behalf of his secretary, who had been detained that day at a police checkpoint with $190,000 in cash hidden in his vehicle.
According to the investigation, that amount was to be paid for a load of cocaine intended for shipment to Brazil.
The operation in Ciudad del Este led to the indictment of some 30 people including several police officers and tax officials, following proceedings in which 22 kilos (49 lbs.) of cocaine and some $800,000 in cash were seized.