ASUNCION – Representatives of Paraguay’s legislature, judiciary and executive branch met on Monday and agreed on measures to stem drug trafficking and prevent traffickers and their allies from seeking public office.
The high-level gathering, convened by President Horacio Cartes, came several weeks after a prominent reporter known for coverage of the drug trade was murdered in the northwestern town of Ypehu.
The killings of Pablo Medina, a correspondent for the ABC Color newspaper, and his assistant, Antonia Almada, stirred widespread revulsion across the country.
The lone survivor of the Oct. 16 attack was Almada’s sister, who identified the shooter as Wilson Acosta, a brother of Ypehu Mayor Vilmar Acosta, a member of Paraguay’s ruling Colorado Party charged with drug trafficking after authorities found over 3 tons of marijuana at one of his family’s properties.
The Acosta brothers and a third family member are currently fugitives.
After Monday’s meeting, the speaker of Paraguay’s lower house, Hugo Velazquez, told a press conference that one of the resolutions adopted was to prevent, by law, the participation in politics of individuals suspected of having links to drug trafficking.
Another decision was to transfer all drug-trafficking trials to the capital city of Asuncion, he said.
“You well know that courts in the hinterland, both prosecutors and judges, are much more vulnerable,” Velazquez said to reporters.
Attorney General Javier Diaz Veron said the conferees also discussed the “possibility that all seized drug trafficking-related assets pass immediately to the control of the state.”
Cartes “has adopted a zero-tolerance policy regarding drug trafficking, the infiltration of drug interests in politics and everything else that may derive from organized crime,” the attorney general said.
A national debate about criminal infiltration of politics followed the murders of Medina and Almada as they were driving in Canindeyu province, bordering Brazil, one of Paraguay’s main pot-producing regions.
Paraguay is South America’s largest marijuana producer, with most of the crop going to Brazil.