Paraguay's Armed Forces have increased their presence in the country's northern region in response to recent attacks allegedly by the Paraguayan People's Army (EPP) that killed five police officers who were part of the Joint Task Force (JTF).
The JTF sent reinforcements to the area to protect civilians from the EPP and find those responsible for the killings. Military authorities have ordered a “significant contingent” of service members to be deployed to the departments of San Pedro and Amambay, said Interior Minister Francisco de Vargas, who declined to disclose how many additional Troops had been deployed to those departments for security reasons.
“At this time, the Military is in the area of Santa Rosa del Aguaray cooperating with investigations and with the search for the eight people suspected of perpetrating the attacks,” Colonel Jorge Mieres, director of communications at the Army Social Communications Division (DICOSO), said.
On July 12, suspected EPP operatives killed National Police Sergeants Adalberto Candia Sanabria, 44, and Egidio Ramón Chávez, 32, in an ambush in the Yaguareté Forest, on the border between the departments of San Pedro and Amambay.
“They were ambushed by about eight people who rained gunfire down on them and then set the patrol car on fire,” Major Alfredo Jonás Ramírez, spokesperson for the Paraguayan JTF, said during a July 14 press conference.
Five days after the first attack, on July 17, a second shooting killed three more police officers; Sergeants Agustín Romero, 40, Roque Salinas, 28, and Crispín Rojas, 34, were in a patrol car when they were ambushed and shot near the Yaguareté Forest subdivision, in the district of Santa Rosa del Aguaray.
EPP attacks law enforcement officers
The EPP attacks police officers who are working with the JTF because the terrorist group considers them “the enemy,” according to Minister De Vargas. For example, the EPP has held police officer Edelio Morínigo hostage since July 5, 2014.
However, law enforcement authorities will not be intimidated by EPP's attacks, Minister De Vargas said during a July 18 press conference.
Law enforcement authorities have been working in the region for two years to eradicate the terrorist organization and the Armed Peasants Group (ACA), an offshoot of the EPP.
A recent intelligence report states that EPP and ACA terrorist cells are moving beyond their original area of influence – the departments of San Pedro and Concepción – and are also operating in the department of Amambay, the minister said.
In addition to confronting the EPP and the ACA, the JTF works closely with local residents, including meeting with them regularly and helping provide basic services, such as health care and education, to the region.
For example, on August 1-2, Troops, police, and civilian government agencies cooperated to conduct Operation Ñepohano y Py’a Guapy II, an initiative that provided medical and dental care to 6,000 people.
The operation also offered several lectures in which officials discouraged young people from joining illegal groups and engaging in unlawful activities, such as drug trafficking.