Paraguayan authorities say the EPP guerrilla group now serves as the "armed wing" for drug trafficking groups, but there is scant evidence to back up these claims.
The spokesperson for Paraguay's Joint Task Force (FTC), Alfredo Ramirez, stated drug trafficking groups provide ammunition to the Paraguayan People's Army (EPP), reported ABC Color. In return, "the drug traffickers use the EPP as their armed wing," Ramirez stated.
The remarks come shortly after two attacks on police in the departments of San Pedro and Amambay left five officers dead. Ramirez initially blamed the killings on the EPP but later attributed the attacks to both the guerrillas and drug trafficking groups, calling the acts "narco-terrorism." Ramirez added the police ambushes were revenge for the recent seizure of nearly two dozen suspected drug planes and the eradication of 400 hectares of marijuana.
The head of Paraguay's anti-drug agency (SENAD), Luis Rojas, also recently highlighted the EPP's alleged involvement in the drug trade. The anti-drug chief said the guerrilla group carries out hired killings as a way to resolve internal disputes among drug trafficking groups, reported Ultima Hora.
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For years, Paraguayan authorities have warned of the EPP's connections to drug trafficking groups. Last October, Rojas even claimed the guerrillas had moved beyond taxing drug crops and had started producing their own marijuana.
However, these assertions appear to be based on little more than circumstanial evidence. Last year, Rojas cited EPP camps located near marijuana plantations and a video showing guerrillas clearing a wooded area, allegedly to be used to plant illicit crops, as justification for his claims. The most recent remarks on EPP links to drug trafficking seem to be supported by even less compelling evidence.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of EPP
It is also worth noting the EPP is a very small rebel group; it is believed to have just 30 fighters within its ranks. Meanwhile, powerful Brazilian criminal groups such as the Red Command and the First Capital Command (PCC) have a strong presence in eastern Paraguay, the country's primary marijuana-growing region.
Of course, it is quite plausible the EPP is involved to some extent in Paraguay's enormous marijuana industry. The Southern Cone nation is South America's largest producer of the drug, 80 percent of which is trafficked across the border to Brazil.