Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benítez last week announced he would up funding for the National Intelligence Secretariat (SNI), an agency created in 2018. Abdo justified his move on the body's precarious budget, due to which it relies on foreign cooperation to fulfill its mission.
The head of state made those remarks after the SNI was praised by the Government of the United States of America for protecting Paraguay and alerting allied countries of a common threat.
Although the US decoration makes no mention of the incident, local intelligence sources agreed the accolade stemmed from the SNI's role in the case of the Venezuelan-Iranian cargo aircraft currently seized at Buenos Aires' Ezeiza International Airport on suspicion that its flight entailed other purposes beyond bringing seats for Volkswagen SUVs from Mexico.
The Boeing 747-300 airplane had been transferred from Iran's Mahan Air to Venezuela's Emtrasur, a cargo subsidiary of flag-carrier Conviasa. All three companies have been blacklisted by the US Treasury Department for their alleged involvement in logistic support to Iran-sponsored worldwide terrorism.
Between May 13 and 16, the same airplane had been at Paraguay's Guarani Airport in Ciudad del Este to deliver Ibiza brand cigarettes manufactured by Tabacalera del Este SA (Tabesa), whose main shareholder is the significantly corrupt former Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes.
Abdo Benítez insisted that the possible consequences of the Iranian plane's activities were unsuspected; hence the importance of the SNI's work.
We thank the American government that distinguished a secretariat, which we know, began to work in our government. It has few resources, which worked with little budget and with international cooperation, Abdo underlined.
It will be our priority in the future, to strengthen intelligence, which helps a lot to democratic values and to anticipate facts, Abdo added.
Paraguayan intelligence had alerted Argentine and Uruguayan authorities that the US-built jet was blacklisted and that assisting it, even by just refueling it, could result in an addition to the US blacklist. In that scenario, the 747 took off from Ezeiza seeking to refuel at Montevideo, where it was denied entry into Uruguayan airspace, due to which it was forced back to the Argentine terminal, from where it was unable to depart due to lack of fuel long before the case reached judiciary authorities.
The crew of 5 Iranians and 14 Venezuelans was also deemed too large for a cargo airplane and its captain has been linked to Iran's forces.
In this scenario, Abdo conveyed to his US colleague Joseph Biden an invitation to visit Paraguay. The invitation was delivered personally by Ambassador José Antonio Dos Santos Bedoya. If he accepts, Biden would become the first US president ever to set foot on Paraguayan soil.