Paraguay Battles EPP Rebel Group as Horacio Cartes Assumes Presidency
By Dialogo August 12, 2013
Earlier this year, 63-year-old Luís Lindstrom was found dead near a truck on one of his properties in Tacuatí, located within Paraguay’s department of San Pedro.
Lindstrom’s murder wasn’t the result of a robbery gone wrong, or the work of a disgruntled farm hand. Instead, he had been assassinated by the Ejército del Pueblo Paraguayo [Paraguayan Peoples’ Army, or EPP], said San Pedro police official Jorge María Almada Rodríguez.
In fact, it was not the first time the terrorist group had targeted Lindstrom. In 2008, the EPP kidnapped the wealthy landowner and held him from July to September; he was released only after his family paid an undisclosed ransom. The EPP has frequently singled out soya farmers like Lindstrom, one of San Pedro’s best-known farmers.
His killing prompted Paraguayan Senate President Alfredo Jaeggli to warn landowners through local media that they “must abandon the area and move to safer cities; the most important thing of all is the preservation of life.”
The Paraguayan government estimates that the EPP — an outfit inspired by Marxist-Leninist ideas — numbers only 50 to 60 full-time fighters. But it’s not just its small size that distinguishes the EPP from South America’s other leftist guerrilla groups.
EPP born out of extreme poverty, say analysts
“Unfortunately, as the history of insurgent movements in general seems to indicate, there is ample room for ‘growth’ when it comes to their possible future operations,” says a report issued in 2011 by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. “The EPP already presents an interesting case-study for academics, but for the Paraguayan government, it is a new security threat that will have to be faced.”
The report continued: “Paraguay today is, unfortunately, a poor, underdeveloped state in dire need of development of every description. But improving the living conditions of its population is no easy task. The last thing this country needs is a brutal counterinsurgency war, as some of its neighbors have recently experienced.”
The EPP largely began as an offshoot of the Partido Patria Libre [Free Homeland Party, or PPL], which was dismantled following the 2005 death of Cecilia Cubas, the daughter of a former Paraguayan president.
Cubas was allegedly kidnapped by PPL rebels near her home in suburban Asunción in 2004. The PPL reportedly received training from the FARC, prompting Paraguayan prosecutors to issue arrest warrants against two FARC members for their involvement in Cubas’ abduction.
EPP escalates violent attacks
An alert issued in March that the EPP would launch new attacks during Easter prompted the deployment of national police units in Concepción. But this resulted in the arrest of one single suspected EPP member in the Kurusú de Hierro area, close to Horquetá, in late March. That month, the government announced the construction of five new police stations in Concepción to increase the capability of nearby security forces.
On April 18, the EPP killed a tractor operator in Paso Itá, San Pedro, where threats of land invasions had escalated in the preceding months, and announced further attacks in the area, against deforestation and the planting of soya, ahead of the April 21 presidential election.
On election day, the EPP struck again in Concepción, combining a drive-by shooting of the police station in Kurusú — in which one attacker was killed and another was captured — with sniper fire, and later ambushing a police vehicle nearby with a rudimentary mine and sniper fire which killed one officer and injured three.
The EPP issued a death threat against Horacio Cartes, candidate of the center-right Colorado Party, which had won the elections with nearly 46 percent of the vote.
This year’s increase in EPP activity follows outgoing President Federico Franco’s insistence in October 2012 that the group was a “scourge” that needed to be “terminated.”
Outgoing president: ‘Destroy the EPP’
Following a closed-door meeting with police and military leaders in October — just three months after Franco had ascended to the presidency following the controversial impeachment of Fernando Lugo — Franco’s director of communications revealed on Twitter that the president’s orders had been impossible to misunderstand: “My order for you is clear: destroy the EPP.”
However, Franco’s tough talk was undermined by Army Gen. Miguel Christ, who said the president had given no specific orders beyond requesting that the security forces “be ready and able” to confront the EPP.
Franco’s term ends Aug. 15, when Cartes will take office. In an April interview with CNN, Cartes said he would fight the EPP with an “iron fist.” Describing the EPP as a “criminal group” with only loose ideological motivations, said the group’s proliferation in northeastern Paraguay is due to the area’s extreme poverty.
Cartes has pledged to improve welfare and development programs in San Pedro and Concepción, the two departments where most EPP attacks have occurred. However, a July 8 attack allegedly launched by the EPP on Mennonite farms in the department of Boquerón indicates that the group’s area of influence may be spreading into the western Chaco region.
Cartes has signed an agreement with opposition parties, and Paraguay’s commodity-based economy is projected to grow by 11 percent this year, fueled by beef, soybean and vegetable exports to China (GDP expanded by 14 percent in 2010).
In the first quarter of 2013 alone, Paraguay registered a 40 percent jump in exports compared to the year-ago period. Paraguay is now ranked as the eighth-largest beef exporter in the world, as well as the world’s fourth-largest exporter of soybeans.
The way we Paraguayans are, we spent over a century in total decadence without thinking on fixing tomorrow's situation, what a horrifying future awaits the future heirs of our blessed Paraguayan land which continues to bleed, poverty, ignorant politicians.
We are a tiny dot of human development because of the inheritance left by the Lopez, we can't raise our heads, we think of civil wars and carry out cheap politics, where is our intelligence and education, we ask. It died with the big wars and there's no longer an intelligent, audacious Paraguayan capable of having a firm word and carrying the country on his shoulder.
OPAMA LA OHAIHUBA AÃ‘ETETE LA Ã‘A NDE RETA PARAGUAY
excuse my spelling. The government of PY cannot afford the presence of insecurity among the people. On the other hand it has to find solutions for the poverty in the country. Paraguay is a beautiful country that cannot give in to these criminals. Well, I think that these ideologies assumed by the EPP should be destroyed, because this criminal group, as thought by our President, is only making Paraguay go backwards. I think that in order for Paraguay to grow the Northern area should be watched, including San Pedro and Concepcion... I disagree. Since I arrived in Paraguay, three years ago, I listen to this joke, yes, joke. Of a possible armed group that kills police officers and people randomly, when they donâ€™t agree with the Government. Well, during those three years, the last two years there were three presidents, none of them pleased the EPPs. Many crimes attributed to EPP serve as distractions from the political problem. Since the military dictatorships all over Latin America that is the strategy used do divert attention from the real problems: corruption. Personal opinion. The EPP is a result of extreme poverty, analysts say. But what kind of analysts said that? it is actually the opposite. The EPP is a result of many wealthy people, this group is dedicated to kidnapping and asking for ransom. Are they actually gonna take money from the extremely poor?
That's impressive, Gentlemen Analysts. These EPP people were trained in Colombia by the Farc United States wants to run interference in the area. While we sleep, they come for the Uranium in CaazapÃ and for the underground water reserve in Guarani's aquifer. They use the predominant media to generate and form opinions, since there's plenty of paid or naive journalists. Any type of violence is modified to make believe that it was committed by the guerrilla which only exists within U.S. espionage agencies. THE EPP DOES NOT EXIST. Just by looking at what they are capable of in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt and now in Syria, lying about having chemical weapons. Luckily, the South American people have now alternative means of information, and just as in Argentina no one believes ClarÃ¬n, the rest of the countries don't believe in the powerful ones that use this method of convincing. Luckily, a great union has been accomplished between Mercosur and Unasur. We don't have to be useless morons of the yankees or the great multinationals. In Paraguay they seem to not love their own people, because they allow the forces of peace to come in and set base, and allow the sale of transgenic seeds, since three percent of the population own the land. Because they let their workers migrate to other countries in search of jobs and suffer the most painful uproot which is to leave their families. Governing means creating jobs. If this s not done, it means that you don't love Paraguay or its people. A farmer drives in his brand new O KM Toyota (bought in Chile) by a barefoot lady with her skinny child, and the rat doesn't even think that they are nation brothers. The only way is to strengthen the industry and this can achieved with the help and knowledge of neighbor countries. USA can only provide weapons and death. The best government strategy is to drive social, productive and educational development in all its forms. Obtain genuine investors, provide long-term legal, judicial and fiscal safety, change their current banking system which is too restrictive internally, create co-ops for production and services, modernize the populations by providing dwellings, energy, communications, education and healthcare centers, generate and promote new jobs. Paraguay would be so beautiful if they eliminated the fanaticism of political factions and fought head-on against corruption, regardless of who is in charge, and if the current politicians worried more about the population and set aside their personal, stingy interests.