Cocaine cartels encroach on Unification Church’s Paraguayan paradise

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Early one morning in July of last year, about 30 Paraguayan anti-narcotics officers flew into a vast wooded wilderness known as the Chaco to raid five airplane landing strips used by drug traffickers.

Situated in northern Paraguay, a small, landlocked South American nation, the isolated Chaco has in recent years become a key trans-shipment point for gangs trafficking Andean cocaine to booming European markets.

Of the five landing strips raided on July 6, 2022, four were on land owned by South Korea’s Unification Church, Reuters found by cross-referencing the coordinates of the runways with a map of the church’s Chaco holding.

Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the late self-proclaimed messiah who founded the Unification Church in 1954, became one of Paraguay’s largest private landowners when he bought the Chaco plot nearly 25 years ago as part of a religious and commercial expansion into Latin America. The church, which has often been labeled a cult by critics, is best known for its mass weddings and an opaque international business empire.

Two senior Paraguayan anti-narcotics officers provided Reuters with 11 coordinates of Chaco landing strips allegedly used by drug gangs. By plotting those points on a map of the Moon holding, provided by a church source, Reuters identified at least five different airstrips on the property, including the four involved in the July raid.

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