Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Embassy Asuncion does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED ASUNCION AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Please review OSAC’s Paraguay-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
Crime continues to be a serious concern. Criminals target those believed to be wealthy, including expatriates. Crime is generally non-violent, but the common use of knives and firearms in muggings and street crime creates the possibility for serious harm. Recent statistics and high profile incidents indicate a growing willingness by criminals to use firearms. Armed robbery, car theft, burglaries, and occasional home invasions are a problem in urban and rural areas. Street crime (pickpocketing, mugging) is prevalent on public buses and in urban areas. The Paraguayan police acknowledges that many crimes go unreported due to lack of confidence in the judicial process.
Day- and night-time incidents of armed muggers using motorcycles (motochorros) to approach their victims have also been reported. In a few instances, they have wounded or killed victims who attempted to flee or refused to turn over valuables. Although men have been victims, more often the victims tend to be women walking alone or in a small group. Do not physically resist a robbery attempt, as statistics show that resistance more often leads to injury/death.
There have been instances of bank employees working with organized criminal groups to identify and rob individuals after they withdraw large amounts of cash. In addition, organized criminal groups have also targeted armored bank cars in transit or while conducting money pickups at banks. Do not withdraw large amounts of money from banks. Use wire transfers whenever possible.
Cybercrime is a growing problem; crimes range from online fraud schemes to hacking. Paraguay is developing capabilities to investigate and prosecute these types of crimes. In 2012, the Public Ministry created a Prosecutorial Division solely responsible for handling cybercrimes. This division filed charges in 691 cases in 2016.
Other Areas of Concern
Within Asunción, the police continue to report a higher level of crime (property crimes, assaults) in the central downtown area. The majority of the crimes committed in downtown Asunción take place at night. The Chacarita area located along the river is a known high crime area that even police refrain from entering.
It is recommended that U.S. citizen visitors to the Tri-Border Area (TBA), including Ciudad del Este, remain especially vigilant.
The Embassy requires employees to obtain permission to travel to the departments of Alto Parana, Amambay, Canindeyu, San Pedro, and Concepcion due to high crime levels.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Some streets in Asunción and other large cities are paved; however, these streets often flood during heavy rains, making them impassable. Potholes appear suddenly and often remain unrepaired for several months. Nearly all rural roads are unpaved and can be impassable during the rainy season (November-April). Road signs indicating hazards are lacking in many areas. Driving or traveling at night on highways outside urban areas is not recommended due to the number of vehicles without proper lights.
Defensive driving is a requirement, as traffic is extremely congested and unpredictable. Only minimal standards are required to obtain a driver's license, and driver’s education is uncommon. Drivers routinely ignore traffic regulations, and many drive without insurance coverage. Many traffic lights are inoperable or difficult to see. In 2016, there were approximately 1,265 deaths attributed to traffic accidents in Paraguay. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”
Paraguay has seen a marked increase in the prevalence of motorcycles. Paraguayans can obtain motorcycles for very little money and with no safety awareness. Motorcycles pass on both sides of vehicles - often in a very dangerous manner -- and sometimes on sidewalks. Due in large part to a lack of enforceable traffic and safety regulations, a majority of traffic deaths occur in accidents between a vehicle and motorcycle.
Public Transportation Conditions
Public transportation safety is a major concern. Public bus accidents occur frequently and are caused primarily by negligence on the part of the driver. The level of both public and private driver training and safety awareness does not reach minimum U.S. standards. Many buses pass through high crime areas and are susceptible to robberies.
Use clearly marked taxis with meters.
Silvio Pettirossi International Airport (ASU) is located approximately 10 miles from the U.S. Embassy, and a drive between the two locations takes approximately 30 minutes. The airport has two terminals and six gates with airlines providing service to Ciudad del Este and capitals throughout Latin America. While there are no direct flights to/from the U.S., there is a direct flight to Spain. As such, it adheres to international civil aviation safety and security standards, as does management of flight operations. Security measures are deemed commensurate with European airport standards, though enforcement and vigilance is not as consistent.
Other Travel Conditions
Although most urban areas in Paraguay have sidewalks, most are not well maintained, making it difficult for pedestrians to walk around the city. Coupled with the fact that motorists do not respect crosswalks and motorcyclists often drive on the sidewalk, pedestrians run the risk of being injured.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED ASUNCION AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
In 2016, the government of Paraguay continued to cooperate with the U.S. on counterterrorism matters, and the U.S. Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program contributed to building Paraguay’s counterterrorism law enforcement capacity. Paraguay continued to face challenges of ineffective immigration, customs, and law enforcement controls along its porous borders, particularly the TBA.
In 2014, former Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP) members – reportedly expelled from the group over disciplinary issues -- created the Armed Peasant Association (ACA), which has similar leftist pursuits and operates primarily in the departments of Concepcion and northern San Pedro. EPP/ACA activity consists largely of isolated attacks occurring on remote police and army posts or against ranchers and peasants accused of collaborating with Paraguayan security services.
- In 2016, a number of extortions, kidnappings and murders in northern San Pedro and southern Concepcion were attributed to the EPP or ACA.
- On August 27, 2016, in the vicinity of Arroyito, Concepcion, EPP ambushed and killed 8 Paraguayan soldiers utilizing an Improvised Explosive Device.
There was a small demonstration in March 2015 across from the U.S. Embassy, orchestrated by leftists movements in support of Venezuela.
On January 20, 2017, approximately 30 people gathered across the street from the Embassy to demonstrate against some of President Donald Trump’s proposed policies. The demonstration ended without incident.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED ASUNCION AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
There are frequent political protests, demonstrations, and roadblocks, including by peasant organizations, students, worker unions, and government employees. Throughout 2016, there were numerous demonstrations in Asunción and the countryside. Most protests and demonstrations were conducted by workers demanding increased benefits or protesting government policies. Peasant farmers have also come to Asunción to protest a lack of jobs, land, and housing. Demonstrations are typically non-violent and coordinated with authorities/police, but there have been incidents of violence.
Demonstrations typically occur in the downtown area near government buildings and near the presidential residence (across the street from the U.S. Embassy). In Asunción, protestors generally gather in downtown public squares and parks. Outside of the capital, protestors’ most common tactic is to congregate on major roadways to block traffic and disrupt normal traffic flow to Asunción or Ciudad del Este.
Visitors should avoid locations where crowds have gathered to protest. Upon encountering a roadblock, visitors should avoid going through it and either wait for the roadblock to end or find an alternate route.
Paraguay suffers recurring floods and extremely high heat/humidity seasonally.
Paraguay’s infrastructure has a mix of recent construction with modern capabilities and older systems that need maintenance or upgrades to ensure continued safety and to keep pace with increasing demands.
- In 2016, an electrical substation suffered a catastrophic loss that left much of Asuncion without power for multiple days.
- A bridge on a major traffic artery in Asuncion also had significant issues that required immediate repair and subsequently closed that portion of the roadway, snarling traffic throughout the city for months.
- Additionally, the primary water source for Asuncion has had issues with contamination and over-usage.
Protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) is an ongoing concern, although the government has made progress in recent years. The U.S. and Paraguay signed an IPR MOU in June 2015 under which Paraguay committed to take specific steps to improve IPR protection and enforcement. The MOU created a bilateral partnership in which the U.S. supports Paraguay’s efforts to strengthen the legal protection and enforcement of IPR. As a result, USTR removed Paraguay from the 2015 Special 301 Watch List pursuant to an Out-of-Cycle Review.
However, Ciudad del Este appeared in USTR’s 2016 Notorious Markets List. Ciudad del Este, located in the TBA, has been named in either the Notorious Markets List or the Special 301 Report for over 15 years. Regional organized crime groups are reportedly responsible for the bulk of counterfeit and copyright-infringing goods in Ciudad del Este. The border crossing and city have been the focus of U.S. and international attention as a hub for the distribution of counterfeit and pirated products.
Concerns remain about inadequate protection against unfair commercial use of proprietary test or other data generated to obtain marketing approval for agrochemical or pharmaceutical products and the shortcomings in Paraguay’s patent regime. Law 3283 from 2007 and Law 3519 from 2008,
(1) require pharmaceutical products and agrochemical products to be registered first in Paraguay to be eligible for data protection;
(2) allow regulatory agencies to use test data in support of similar agricultural chemical product applications filed by third parties; and
(3) limit data protection to five years.
Additionally, Law 2593/05 that modifies Paraguay’s patent law has no regulatory enforcement. As a result, foreign pharmaceutical companies have seen their patented products openly replicated and marketed under other names by Paraguayan pharmaceutical companies.
There have been media reports that the former head of the military improperly used government resources to monitor journalists who had accused him of corruption in their reporting. Other anecdotal reports have indicated problems experienced by organizations that work to advance anti-corruption initiatives.
Personal Identity Concerns
Paraguayans generally hold Catholic and conservative values. There have been isolated reports of hate crimes, but there is no systemic, cultural issue that makes Paraguay more dangerous in terms of crimes relating to gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality, or disability.
The departments of Alto Parana, Amambay, Canindeyú, San Pedro, and Concepcion continue to suffer from violence associated with narco-trafficking. Paraguay is the hemisphere’s second largest producer of marijuana and a transit country for cocaine. Narcotics traffickers use violence to settle matters between rival groups, and it is believed that members of the Brazilian First Command of the Capital (PCC) are operating in Pedro Juan Caballero (Amambay), Salto de Guairá (Canindeyú), and Ciudad del Este (Alto Parana).
The Department of Amambay is the most violent area of the country with the highest rate of homicides. The vast majority of homicides committed in Amambay are believed to be drug-related.
There were no U.S. citizens reported kidnapped between 2012-2016.
- In April 2011, a U.S. citizen minor resident was kidnapped in Coronel Oviedo, Caaguazú (approximately 100 miles west of Asunción). The child freed himself after a few hours and ran home. The kidnappers were tried, convicted, and are in prison.
The EPP was involved in the April 2014 kidnapping for ransom of 16-year old Arlan Fick, a Paraguayan citizen, who was taken from his family’s Concepcion home and held for eight months before being released. The EPP is believed to be responsible for the July 2014 kidnapping of PNP officer Edelio Morinigo. In July 2016, the EPP claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of a young Paraguayan\Mennonite man in San Pedro Department for a ransom of U.S.$500,000 and is still being held captive. EPP has kidnapped others who were released after paying the ransom. There are a total of four Paraguayans reportedly being held by the EPP.
Aside from these high-profile cases, the majority of kidnappings are not reported and are handled exclusively by family members.
Virtual kidnappings have been reported. Virtual kidnapping schemes typically involve an individual or criminal organization who contact a victim via telephone and demand payment for the return of a “kidnapped” family member/friend. While no actual kidnapping has taken place, the callers often use co-conspirators to convince their victims of the legitimacy of the threat. Most schemes use various techniques to instill a sense of fear, panic, and urgency in an effort to force the victim into making a hasty decision. Over the past several years, there has been an increase in virtual kidnappings reports.
The PNP suffer from a serious, ongoing lack of resources and training. As a result, police response times vary greatly, and investigations rarely result in successful apprehension. The police do have a 911 system that was implemented in 2011, and response times have improved.
There have been credible reports that police have collaborated with criminal elements. Due to the lack of resources and a tolerance for corruption, the PNP standards remain well below those considered acceptable in developed countries. Although the U.S. government continues to assist the PNP and the Ministry of Interior with equipment and training, local citizens have felt little improvement.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
Police detention or harassment of visitors is not common. If during a traffic stop or other detention the police demand a bribe, visitors should refuse to pay. U.S. citizens are instructed to contact American Citizen Services (ACS) in the consular section of the Embassy at (595) (21) 213-715 in the event that they are detained or harassed.
Crime Victim Assistance
The following are emergency numbers for use in the Asunción metropolitan area:
- Emergency Police: 911
- National Police Fire Emergency: 131
- Volunteer Firemen of Paraguay: 132
- Volunteer Firemen of Asunción: (595) (21) 225-400
- Medical Emergency: (595) (21) 204-800
- Police Headquarters: (595) (21) 445-858
American citizens may also contact American Citizen Services (ACS) in the consular section of the Embassy at (595) (21) 213-715 in the event they are victim of a crime. For additional information, please see U.S. Embassy Asuncion’s non-emergency information webpage.
The PNP act as the police force for the entire country. The PNP have various specialized units: K9, explosives disposal, and special operations.
Adequate medical facilities, prescription and over-the-counter medications, supplies, and services are available in Asunción. Medical care in public hospitals, especially outside of Asunción metropolitan area, is substandard. Hospitals and clinics often do not possess the facilities or levels of experience and training considered acceptable in the U.S. In addition, a shortage of nurses and doctors often leave clinics staffed with unqualified personnel.
- EME - (595) (21) 211-454 211-453
- SASA - (595) (21) 561-000
- GEMA - (595) (21)600-274
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
Please see American Citizens Services on the Embassy Website for a list of hospitals and physicians in Paraguay.
Sanatorio San Roque