The killing of one of the founding members of the ACA guerrillas could spell the end for Paraguay's breakaway rebels and their alleged plan to tap into the country's drug trade wealth.
On the night of January 5, members of Paraguay's anti-guerrilla Joint Task Force (FTC) opened fire on a group of Armed Peasant Association (ACA) guerrillas, killing leader and founder Albino Jara Larrea along with a teenage girl.
Police sources told ABC they had been patrolling the region for several days before finding the rebels -- who are a splinter group of the larger Paraguayan People's Army (EPP) -- in a rural area to the east of the city of Concepcion.
Authorities told ABC Jara had been armed with an AK-47 at the time of the shooting, while a local prosecutor told Ultima Hora he was also carrying over $10,000 in Paraguayan guaranies and a number of cell phones and memory cards.
With an estimated five or six guerrillas accompanying Jara, some of whom security forces say may have been injured in the attack, the FTC has announced that it will continue to hunt down the remaining ACA members, reported Ultima Hora.
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The ACA is a new armed group believed to have been founded last year by Jara and his brother Alfredo, both of whom are former EPP fighters. FTC sources told InSight Crime the pair had been a disruptive influence in the EPP due to their lack of discipline and predilections for drinking and womanizing. They likely set up their own dissident group after securing over $230,000 in ransom money from the kidnapping of a businessman.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of the EPP
Initially the group was believed to number fewer than 15 fighters, and Paraguay's anti-drug agency said they had set their sights on growing by funding themselves through the local drug trade -- Paraguay is South America's largest marijuana producer and a major cocaine transit country.
However, even before the killing of Jara, the ACA had suffered a major setback when security forces killed five fighters in September last year.
The group is now likely to amount to little more a handful of fighters -- some of whom may be wounded -- led by Jara's brother Alfredo and is unlikely to pose a serious security threat in the future. Short of a miraculous turnaround, their options now appear limited to pleading to reintegrate into the EPP, turning themselves in, or fighting to the bitter end.
Meanwhile, the FTC has been unable to take down the EPP, thanks in part to the guerrilla group's network of local collaborators, which provides intelligence information and support. The EPP managed to keep kidnapping victim Arlan Fick hostage for close to nine months while the FTC unsuccessfully searched for the teenager, who was released in December.