A series of high-profile attacks by Paraguay's EPP guerrilla group has raised concerns that the organization is gaining strength despite a security forces assault, though focus on this relatively small insurgency could be detracting attention from more serious security threats.
On July 4, members of the Paraguayan People's Army (EPP) allegedly blew up an electricity tower in the north of the country, affecting hundreds of thousands of people and causing an estimated $1 million worth of losses.
The following day, EPP members allegedly kidnapped a police officer, also in northern Paraguay.
Both attacks happened only a few days before 16-year-old EPP kidnapping victim Arlan Fick, who was taken hostage in April this year, reached the 100-day mark in captivity.
According to a recent editorial by ABC Color, the EPP have perpetrated over 85 acts of property destruction and caused the deaths of close to 50 people since its formation in 2008 (see graphic below). The organization has reportedly increased in size, formed new operational cells, and grown more aggressive, adopting new political and intimidation tactics.
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Paraguayan authorities have expressed concern that the EPP is gaining power for several years, and President Cartes has made fighting the EPP a key part of his security policy and even created a new security Joint Task Force (FTC),to combat them. Plans are currently underway to boost the military presence in northern Paraguay by up to 50 percent.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of the EPP
Despite these efforts, the EPP has carried out a record number of attacks during the current administration. The group's recent use of explosives and the kidnapping of a police officer with no demands for ransom money -- which is likely an act of intimidation -- provide further indications the group is evolving.
However, although the group has grown in size since it was formally established in 2008, it remains small and is believed to count on only around less than 100 members. Despite its growing strength, its military capacity and role in the underworld are minimal compared to other insurgencies in the region, such as Colombia's FARC.
The current government's focus on the EPP has raised concerns the security forces are not dedicating enough attention to the arguably larger threat posed by local drug trafficking groups and the presence of Brazilian criminal organizations, as the country becomes increasingly important in the regional drug trade.