CURUGUATY, Paraguay — Paraguay is a global marijuana powerhouse: The small South American country produces 9 percent of the world’s supply. But until recently, it wasn’t common there to see drug raids or hear helicopters thumping overhead in search of plantations. That’s all changing.
Last June, Paraguay’s most prominent crime lord was killed by Brazilian gang members. He left behind a burgeoning marijuana and cocaine empire that is quickly becoming one of South America’s biggest drug-trafficking headaches, and the fight to control that trade is proving far more vicious than Paraguayan officials anticipated.
With thousands of square miles of farmland, Paraguay has a stable, agriculture-based economy – and the world’s fourth-largest crop of marijuana, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, or UNODC.
Even so, Paraguay has traditionally lacked the rampant violence and corruption that has allowed expansive drug-trafficking organizations to…