All it took was a face mask, a long blue skirt, some makeup, nail polish, and a wig, and César Ortiz was free. Ortiz, known as “Gordito Lindo,” which is best translated as Cute Chubby Man, slipped into his disguise one day in late May and walked out of one of Paraguay’s most notorious prisons dressed as a woman.
Surveillance video from Tacumbú National Penitentiary that made its way online showed Ortiz, incognito, walking out the front gate holding several bundled plastic bags. He’d reportedly been visited by a woman who accompanied him to a private area of the prison, in the capital Asuncion, with the smuggled clothes and accessories. The dolled-up gangster was able to pass numerous checkpoints without incident, authorities later said.
But his freedom didn’t last long.
Authorities captured Ortiz several blocks from the prison, along with three others, who were allegedly involved with the escape plot and intended to move him to a safe house.
Ortiz is allegedly a high-ranking member of the Rotela Clan, arguably Paraguay’s most powerful local criminal group, which is known for pushing crack around much of the country and for wielding control of several prisons. It is reportedly at violent odds with members of the First Capital Command, a transnational Brazilian cartel active in Paraguay and its prisons.
After Ortiz’s arrest, authorities moved him to the Emboscada prison about an hour northeast of the capital. His eight-months-pregnant wife, Jessica Salinas, pleaded to officials via local media to move him to another prison because the PCC is supposedly in control of the Emboscada prison and she fears he will be killed.
In total, four others were arrested along with Ortiz.
One of those was Victor Paredes, Ortiz’s brother-in-law, who is wanted for the March 1 murder of a maid named Fátima Rejala allegedly working for a separate local drug trafficking group called the Insfrán Clan. Another man who was arrested, Rolón Figueredo, reportedly rejoined the state police force in June 2021 after previously serving a six-year sentence for drug trafficking, and served a spell as Ortiz’s cellmate.
Edgar Olmedo, Paraguay’s justice minister, told local media that the prison warden and other officials at Tacumbú are being investigated as possible accomplices.
“The prison officers opened the exit gates for this person. Evidently a laziness is shown, be it inexperience or negligence,” Olmedo said. “No one can enter the prison without being identified, and no one can leave the prison without being identified either.”
The Tacumbú prison is one of the most notorious prisons in South America. In a February 2021 riot, seven inmates were beheaded during a disturbance reportedly spearheaded by members of the Rotela clan, including Ortiz.
Ortiz and ten others were charged with intentional homicide, hostage taking, rioting, and criminal association in relation to the February 2021 bloodbath.