Paraguay Modifies Defense Law to Fight Guerrillas

By Dialogo
August 26, 2013

On August 22, Paraguay’s Congress approved the modification of three sections of the Defense Law empowering the Executive branch to combat the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP) that killed five cattle ranch guards on August 17 and 18.

The so-called “militarization law” empowers President Horacio Cartes to use military forces in internal defense operations, without resorting to the State of Emergency rule.

Modifications were carried out after a three-hour debate, while minority sectors of the Senate opposed to grant “extraordinary powers” to the Executive.

A total of 29 senators approved the new law, while 11 opposed, five of whom were members of the leftist Frente Guasú (Frente Grande), headed by former president and former Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo, who is currently a senator.

With the previous law, the President had to request approval from the state for state of emergency in order to mobilize military for homeland defense.

The legislation authorizes Cartes to use the Armed Forces to “confront any kind of external or internal threat that might endanger the country’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.”

To avoid abuse of power, the senators passed a section to empower the Congress “to decide on ceasing military intervention.”

The Congress addressed the amendment in record time; the lower house approved it on August 21, and the Senate the following day, after it was officially introduced.

Cartes has already sent a contingent of about 200 soldiers to EPP’s areas of operation in San Pedro and Concepción departments, located to the north of the country, in order to begin operations.

Minister of Interior Francisco de Vargas stated that the government’s objective “is to have a legal tool at hand to use military power, without the need to declare a state of emergency in cases such as the EPP’s attacks.”

In addition to the killings perpetrated on August 17 and 18, two police stations in the area were attacked by the EPP.