HomeNewsAnalysisParaguay's Rebels Elusive, State Inept
ANALYSIS

Paraguay's Rebels Elusive, State Inept

EPP / 16 DEC 2011 BY GEOFFREY RAMSEY EN

The Paraguayan government’s 60-day “state of exception” made for big headlines but little headway against the tiny guerrilla organization active in the north of the country, the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP), demonstrating an alarming level of state weakness.

The increased military presence did not result in the capture a single member of the rebel group during the state of exception in the northern departments of Concepcion and San Pedro, which ended on December 10. As a result, the strategy's most ardent supporters with little to show.

Paraguay’s Interior Minister, Carlos Filizzola, admitted that the state of exception did not meet its objectives. And the Paraguayan Congress, which has been skeptical about the need for a state of exception since the administration of President Fernando Lugo first lobbied for it in October, has called for a meeting with security officials to discuss exactly what happened during the offensive.

Even worse for the already beleaguered Paraguayan state, the emergency declaration may have been a boon to the EPP, allowing it to boost its profile and raise its stature as a "resistance" movement.

How the group remains a stated threat is perplexing. Aside from a few high profile kidnappings and some limited skirmishes with police and military outposts, the group is more phantom than calculated insurgency -- more akin to the Zapatistas' Internet rebellion in Chiapas, Mexico, than the Revotionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) [See InSight Crime's FARC profile], who have allegedly supplied some training for the EPP.

As InSight Crime noted in January, the discovery of an EPP “training camp,” in which members trained with wooden weapons, caused some analysts to doubt the group’s level of organization. Since then, a rancher who had been taken hostage claimed that the group bragged about having received training in Venezuela, Colombia, and Cuba. While this suggests the group may not be as amateur as previously thought, this alleged training has not translated into any significant military actions.

Ironically, the failed offensive may give them the recruiting boost they need. In a communique released to Lambare-based Cardinal Radio, the group claimed that the state of exception was brought to a close with “plenty of glory” for the EPP.

“They claim, with characteristic falsehood, that they didn’t find the EPP,” the statement read. “This couldn’t be further from reality! It is the EPP who was looking for them all over in order to engage them in combat. But our desires were never satisfied.”

The EPP also announced its intention to extort local businessmen and ranchers ranchers who operate in “guerrilla territory.” In a policy reminiscent of the FARC's law 002, these individuals will be forced to pay 30 percent of their income in accordance with the “revolutionary laws,” or else risk being taken hostage. The group claims that these funds will be used to “cover expenses incurred by the revolutionary struggle.”

Considering their small size and relatively low level of sophistication, it seems miraculous that a 60-day operation devoted exclusively to the EPP hasn’t completely dismantled the group. But this may reflect more on the relative level of state weakness in Paraguay than on the rebels' military prowess.

There is evidence to suggest that the northeast of Paraguay is fast becoming a hub of activity for Brazilian drug trafficking organizations, in response to which the Brazilian goverment has tightened security along the border. This has proved controversial in Paraguay, with an alleged firefight breaking out between the two countries' security forces in September and members of the country's Mercosur Parliament recently accusing their neighbor of planning a "non-declared war."

Paraguay seems to be suffering from a lack of state control on a national scale as well. President Lugo is currently at the head of a lame-duck government and is fighting an opposition-controlled congress, which in July shot down a proposal which would amend the Constitution in order to allow him to run for a second term. Ironically, one of his biggest detractors is his own vice president, Federico Franco, who has repeatedly criticized Lugo's policies and appointments.

On top of this, Lugo's term has been marked with poor relations with the Paraguayan military, an institution which holds a relatively high degree of influence in the country as a legacy of the 35-year military dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner. Since taking office in 2008, he has dismissed the leaders of the military command four times, one of which appeared to be in response to rumors of a coup plot.

Considering Lugo's political weakness, the recent state of exception could also be merely an attempt by the president to assert his authority amid this anarchic political situation. As such, the failure to capture any EPP leaders may simply be the result of a lack of political will. As InSight Crime has reported, Lugo has made battling the EPP a pillar of his presidency, and he seems to have a political incentive to keep them around as long as possible.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Tags

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ARGENTINA / 25 OCT 2021

Argentine province bordering Uruguay has become a transit hub for drug trafficking out of Paraguay, revealing a new route used…

CLAN ROTELA / 27 JAN 2020

Following the dramatic prison break on January 19 by members of the PCC, Paraguay’s president has once again sent military…

CHINA AND CRIME / 11 OCT 2021

Contraband Chinese cigarettes are pouring into Latin America, infiltrating old smuggling routes and threatening longstanding criminal empires.

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Maduro's El Dorado Investigation Makes Headlines

3 DEC 2021

InSight Crime's investigation into the trafficking of illegal gold in Venezuela's Amazon region generated impact on both social media and in the press. Besides being republished and mentioned by several…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…

THE ORGANIZATION

Backing Investigative Journalism Around the Globe

5 NOV 2021

InSight Crime was a proud supporter of this year's Global Investigative Journalism Conference, which took place November 1 through November 5 and convened nearly 2,000 journalists…