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Paraguay: State of Emergency to Fight EPP Guerrilla Group

Military troops and police have been deployed in northern Paraguay after a terrorist band spread fear with a series of kidnappings and murders in the region. Congress gave President Fernando Lugo the power to declare a 30-day emergency for five departments following the killing of a police officer and three workers at a farm by alleged members of the so-called Paraguayan People's Army (EPP for its initials in Spanish). This state of emergency and counter-offensive is believed to be one of the more drastic actions to halt the EPP.

Recently, the group also kidnapped Fidel Zavala, a wealthy rancher and freed him two months later after a ransom was paid.

A private security guard in Pedro Juan Caballero. Photo by Eliel FJ and used under a Creative Commons license.

The group EPP had been active during previous governments; one of their most notorious crimes was the 2004 kidnapping of 32-year-old Cecilia Cubas, daughter of former president Raul Cubas, who was found dead in 2005.

Blogger Boz posts about the need for the South American region to unite and support Lugo in his fight against the terrorist group as he faces opposition from many sectors of the government and citizens in general as well:

The president is sensitive to criticism that he has not done enough to counter violence or that he might be linked to radicals in the country (…)

The region appears to be quiet on the recent developments. The fight against the EPP seems like the sort of issue that would be good for UNASUR or the SADC (or the OAS) to discuss. I would think the region would be unified in backing Lugo and strengthening his government against violence on one side and political criticism on the other.

However, it has been evident that members of the government are not uniting in support of Lugo. Vice-President Federico Franco questions whether Lugo is doing enough to capture members of the EPP, and wonders whether the state of emergency was just a “farce” [es] just to show the people that he is trying to do something against the EPP.

Lugo’s real intention by declaring a state of emergency has been questioned even by the Vice-president Federico Franco. He said that there is no real attempt to catch EPP.

Franco’s statements have raised criticism from many, including Paraguayan blogger Jose Angel Lopez Barrios who posts on his blog:

Bien harían los señores de la política en acompañar el gobierno de Lugo hasta que termine su mandato, las divisiones en tiempo de crisis solo nos debilitan doblemente y le prestan un flaco favor a la población…..

Mientras tanto el EPP a desatado en el norte de nuestro país una vorágine de “ajustes de cuentas” en el que ya empezaron a destacarse senadores y diputados, los mencionados parecen ser ahora el blanco de los sicarios del narcotrafico.

Por ahora parece que el gobierno esta abocado ardorosamente a desarticular el EPP y espero que tenga éxito, porque otro resultado nos traería mas sufrimiento y delito por mucho tiempo.

It would be a good thing for politicians to accompany Lugo’s government until his period is over, the divisions in times of crisis only weaken us double and do not favor the people….

In the meantime, the EPP has been “getting even” in the north of our country, in which deputies of the lower house of congress and senators have began to be targeted, they now seem to be the target of drug traffickers’s hitmen.

It seems like the government is now ardently devoted to disintegrate the EPP and I hope they succeed, because any other result would bring us more suffering and crimes for a long time.

Before becoming President, Lugo was a priest and bishop in the rural parts of Paraguay, where it was uncovered that a former altar boy in the parish became one of the kidnappers of Zavala. There are some people trying to make the connection between the two and want Lugo to clarify if there are any links or relationships. Journalist and blogger Benjamin Fernandez Bogado writes:

Es además el tiempo de la sinceridad del presidente de la república con el país; él debe decirnos no solo que no tiene nada que ver con estos grupos, que si lo fuera, no solo sería escandaloso, sino razón para desalojarlo del poder inmediatamente; además debe explicarnos cuánto conocía a estos dirigentes de sus tiempos obispales y cuánto coincidió con sus métodos. Mientras no lo haga, ni militares y menos aun los desmoralizados y quebrados policías harán nada ni en 30 ni 60 días.

It is also time for the president to be honest to his country, not only should he tell us that he doesn’t have anything to do with these groups, because if he does, not only it would be a scandal, but a reason to oust him immediately from power. In addition, he needs to explain to us how much he knew about these leaders during his times as a bishop and how much he coincided with their methods. Until he does, neither the military nor the demoralized and broke police will be able to achieve anything not in 30 or 60 days.

A week after the state of emergency was declared no suspects were captured.

1 comment

  • lazy journalism

    Whilst I appreciate that the EPP is violent the use of the word “terrorist” is lazy lazy journalism and this kind of discourse has been largely discredited in journalism today. The EPP are a group who use violence to coerce the government to change, their purpose is not “terror” but to change Paraguayan society (whether you agree with what they want to change).

    Via a quick look on wikipedia one can see that there are some real (if misguided) politics and purpose to the EPP. http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ej%C3%A9rcito_del_Pueblo_Paraguayo

    I believe the EPP tactics are fundamentally counter productive to their cause, but using the word “terrorist” obscures what their cause even is, and therefore our ability to respond to it effectively.

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