Anti-drug police in landlocked Paraguay said on Sunday they seized 1 700 kilos of cocaine at a remote site on the border with Brazil and arrested 19 suspects.
“This is possibly the largest shipment ever seized up to now,” the head of the country's anti-drug force, Francisco de Vargas, said on Telefuturo TV network.
Among those arrested was Paraguay's most wanted criminal, Ezequiel de Souza, who was carrying both Brazilian and Paraguayan identification papers.
Police found the drugs at an indigenous community known as La Paloma, located 600 kilometres northeast of the capital Asuncion.
The police, who busted the traffickers on Saturday, at first said they found 600 kilos of cocaine, but upon further searching they found additional packages containing the white powdery drug.
“There may be more,” De Vargas added.
The suspects were immediately flown to the capital to face charges of possessing drugs, drug trafficking and criminal association. They face sentences of up to 25 years in prison.
Ten of the 19 detained were Paraguayan - including some police officers.
Also detained was Bolivian Marcos Antonio Roca Ali, nicknamed “El Presi,” a trafficker who had already been arrested in Colombia, Peru and the United States.
Police confiscated five twin-engine planes, including one with human remains inside that was about 800 meters (yards) from the main site and which apparently crashed and burned as it attempted to land.
President Federico Franco congratulated the 40 agents that participated in what he said was called operation “Black Eagle.”
Paraguay has long been known as a place where poverty and corruption are widespread, but now “it will be recognised worldwide as a sovereign country, not as a country involved in drug trafficking,” Franco said.
Interior Minister Carmelo Caballero ordered the firing of all top police officers in the department of Canindeyu, where the drug bust took place. - Sapa-AFP