Paraguay police kill second rebel chief
By Dialogo September 08, 2010
Paraguayan police killed a leader of a leftist rebel group blamed for kidnappings and murders in remote areas, authorities said, a victory for President Fernando Lugo whose popularity is waning.
Gabriel Zarate is the second leader of the Paraguay People’s Army (EPP) to be gunned down in shootouts with police in as many months.
The government is cracking down on the small Marxist group that operates in a cattle-raising region near the Brazilian border. The rebels have terrified ranchers but have had little impact on overall investment in the world’s No. 4 soy exporter.
Lugo, a left-leaning former Roman Catholic bishop who took office in 2008, is accused of failing to deliver on campaign pledges to redistribute wealth in the politically unstable country. He has also been weakened by paternity scandals.
Lugo, who was diagnosed with cancer last month, has admitted to fathering a child when he was still a cleric.
The EPP lacks the size and reach of larger South American insurgencies. But the provinces it operates in are home to large beef ranches, and their economic importance is growing.
Zarate’s death could trigger fresh attacks on security forces in the region, which also is a marijuana-growing area.
In April gunmen killed two people in an attack on a senator who denounced drug smuggling. Paraguay is an important regional supplier of marijuana.