Paraguay: An Unpunished Crime

01 December 1997
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Three years have passed since the assassination of General Ramón Rosa Rodríguez, the head of SENAD (the Paraguayan National Anti Drug Service), and the crime remains unsolved. Nor have Rosa Rodríguez's denunciations of the involvement in drug trafficking of ex president Andrés Rodríguez, the governor of the Upper Paraná region, Carlos Barretto Sarubbi, and several American DEA agents in Paraguay been clarified. General Lino Oviedo, ex-commander of the Paraguayan army with suspicious links to Rosa Rodríguez's murder, has since become one of the most popular politicians in the country and has a good chance of being elected president. (1)

Rosa Rodríguez was shot to death; all clues point to the soldiers that were to drive him to a meeting with President Juan Carlos Wasmosy on October 10, 1994. The general was planning to inform Wasmosy of his stunning conclusions about the connection between drug trafficking and political power in Paraguay. After Rodríguez's death, his report disappeared. Journalists from the Paraguayan paper Noticias and Asuncion's Channel 13 eventually discovered a copy of the report at the end of 1996.

The document confirmed that Gen. Andrés Rodríguez was the chief drug kingpin in Paraguay. This was the same Rodríguez who became president after the collapse of Alfredo Stroessner's dictatorship. Rodríguez was in charge of trafficking large amounts of Colombian cocaine, primarily to the United States. His main partners were Governor Barretto Sarubbi and Brazilian businessman Fahd Jamil.

Barretto Sarubbi is the powerful political leader of Upper Paraná, whose main city is Ciudad del Este. The black market activity in there is phenomenal. Fahd Jamil acts as the contraband and drug trafficking king of the binational region Ponta Porâ(Brazil) / Pedro Juan Caballero (Paraguay).The zone is full of stores with electric appliances imported from neighboring Brazil. His brother, Gandi Jamil, was a congressman and gubernatorial candidate for the Mato Grosso do Sul State. One of Jamil's sons, Daniel Álvarez Georges Jamil, is in jail for drug trafficking.

Modus Operandi

According to Rosa Rodríguez, Paraguayan drug traffickers' primary shipments were made during undercover operations with the participation of DEA and SENAD agents. In his report the general presented conclusions about the largest of these "deliveries," Operation Madrejón, which took place on September 10, 1994. It all started when SENAD agent Miguel Angel Berni requested the general's permission for the mission. Rosa Rodríguez stated:

I was strongly opposed to carrying out this kind of mission for the following reasons: 1)Paraguayan law does not permit these undercover missions; 2) Earlier missions, like the ones in Cué Park, New Asuncion, Felíz Navidad, and others are crimes punishable by the Penal Code and took place without any supervision. A large part of these drugs ended up on the consumer market and there have not been efficient results against drug traffickers. Operation Madrejón was carried out without my authorization.

The shipment involved 756 kilograms of cocaine supplied by Brazilian Antonio Motta Graça (alias "Curica"), who at that time had a high profile role in the Colombian cartels (Curica was arrested this year in Brazil). Brazilian Clovis Catafesta Armiliato, one of Curica's collaborators, and Paraguayan Juan Domingo Viveros Cartes (alias "Papacho"), also participated in the mission; He had been a trafficker for Colombian cartels, and was now working with the DEA.

Agents Miguel Angel Berni and Sergio Benítez (of the Paraguayan SENAD), and DEA's regional office representative in Asuncion, Robert Ridler, were investigating leads about Madrejón in the Paraguayan Chaco when the plane carrying the cocaine arrived. No one was detained in the mission because they were supposedly trying to infiltrate the cartels. Gen. Rosa Rodríguez concluded, though, that the drugs passed through the hands of the police and eventually entered the North American market. (2)

When General Rosa Rodríguez realized that his agents had betrayed him, he asked the Army Commander, Lino Oviedo for help. This may have been the beginning of the end for the general.

The Murder

Oddly, on October 10 the general's assistant, Capt. Juan Emiliano Ruiz Díaz, did not show up for work at the normal time. Rosa Rodríguez decided to drive his granddaughter to school himself; his driver sat in the passenger seat. Two men appeared at the school entrance and shot the chauffeur to death, thinking he was the general. DEA agents Robert Ridler and Carlos Walters were seen at the scene of the crime searching for the general's folder containing information for the meeting with Wasmosy later that day.

Rosa Rodríguez then called Lino Oviedo on his cellular phone to request military protection. A group of soldiers picked up the general in a jeep. Rosa Rodríguez was shot to death on an isolated street. The newspaper ABC Color confirmed that the DEA agents were sighted again, arguing with the Paraguayan soldiers to see who would keep the folder.

The general had already distributed copies of his report; one of them reached the press years later, setting off an enormous scandal which in the end had no lasting impact. At the end of 1996, the Paraguayan Senate rejected a judicial request to investigate then-Senator Andrés Rodríguez, who died soon after. Fahd Jamil and Carlos Barretto Sarubbi are still free. The DEA denies its agents in Paraguay were involved in drug trafficking in any way. Lino Oviedo dreams of becoming president and General Ramón Rodríguez's murderers go unpunished.


1. The main sources for the article are: Luís Ocampo Alonso, various articles in Noticias (Paraguay); Channel 12 (Asuncion, Paraguay). Various episodes of the El Ojo program.
2. Catafesta Armiliato was arrested soon after and arrived in the United States, where he is still in custody),under extremely strange cirumstances. Pressured by the DEA, the Paraguayan police deported Catafesta, who was illegally detaineds in the airport. They shoved him on a plane and shipped him off to the United States, where it is said he became a DEA collaborator.