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By Global Security Staff

Significant amounts of Drugs, contraband, illegal cash and criminal extortion rings were uncovered in Paraguay’s over-crowded, high-security Tacumbu prison after a specially-trained joint task force conducted a sweeping security raid last year.

The law enforcement and prison officials, who managed to break up extremely powerful criminal gangs, had completed a rigorous training regiment conducted by US-based security firm Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions.

Torres trainers provided a drug dog (k9) and instructed prison officials on how to inspect the prison, identify suspects, confiscate illegal items and ultimately regain control of the prison. Instructors report that certain kinds of trained dogs are able to smell cell phones.

“Criminals inside the compound were running organized crime gangs that were extorting people outside of prison. Investigators found cell phones, using a system we trained them in. They took information from the cell phones and did analysis on the criminal networks,” an official involved in the training said.

Trainees were also taught how to interview and interrogate suspects; the raid wound up uncovering both petty criminals and drug cartel criminals as well.

The operation was carried out by graduates of the prison and police courses, which included members of the Paraguayan Special Police Forces, the Paraguayan National Police and Paraguay’s Drug Enforcement entity, Torres officials said.

Torres instructors also helped the Paraguayan prison and police officials develop written standard operating procedures which were used to take control of the prison, a Torres statement said.

Following the raid, criminal ring members were charged with extortion and investigators began following up on information about ring members outside of the prison.

The US Embassy in Paraguay and Torres have been working closely with police and prison officials in the country to strengthen the prison’s emergency response ability and implement enhanced safety standards.

Naturally, transnational crime, drug trafficking and extortion in South America are of great relevance to security of the United States in many respects; crime, violence and illicit drugs from the area, and the international criminal organizations which support them, regularly reach into the US.

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Less governed, or “malgoverned” spaces where criminal gangs with prison operations can flourish, place the US at risk of being subject to “human smuggling, terrorist entities, terrorist financing and other violence and corrupting influences brought to the US by gangs and transnational criminal groups,” Dr. Evan Ellis, research professor of Latin American Studies at the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, writes in a 2015 essay called “Drugs, Gangs, Transnational Organized Crime and “Malgoverened Spaces” in the Americas.”

Torres also supports the US State Department and Paraguayan authorities with “digital forensics” and “clandestine narcotics lab” training.

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