Paraguay’s EPP guerrillas allegedly kidnapped and murdered a German couple, a move that will likely strengthen the country’s resolve to wipe out a rebel group that has proved adept at avoiding capture in spite of its small size.
On January 28, according to government officials, the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP) invaded a ranch in northern Paraguay and kidnapped owners Robert Natto and Erika Reiser, reported ABC Color. Later that night, according to officials, the EPP engaged in a shootout with security forces and allegedly killed the German couple before fleeing. The bodies of the couple were discovered several miles from the ranch, reported the BBC.
Near the site of the shootout, Paraguayan authorities discovered an alleged EPP manual, describing the rebel group’s aspirations to create a guerrilla army modeled after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The manual also reportedly said that the EPP was thinking of changing its name to something that sounds more reminiscent of the Colombian guerrillas — the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Paraguay, or the FARP.
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While the two German nationals are not the first victims to have allegedly been killed by the EPP, their deaths could precipitate an escalation in the conflict between the rebel group and security forces. Despite its small size, the EPP has been able to evade capture and defend against a special joint task force created specifically to combat the rebels, thanks in part to support that the EPP receives from local communities. The recent killings will likely motivate the Paraguayan government to redouble its efforts to take out the EPP and rescue a police officer kidnapped last July, if he is still alive.
If the official version about what happened to the German couple is true, it is not immediately clear if the EPP killed their kidnapping victims in order to send a political message, or else because they feared the couple would slow them down as they fled security forces, as suggested by Paraguay’s Interior Minister. Arguably, the rebels would have derived more economic and political benefits from keeping the couple alive and in the media spotlight, as was the case in their kidnapping of a 17-year-old civilian last year, who was held hostage for nearly nine months.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Paraguay
Meanwhile, the alleged EPP manual discovered near the site of the shootout confirms suspicions that the EPP seeks to model itself after the FARC. As far back as 2010, Paraguayan and Colombian officials have speculated that the EPP may have received military training and aid from the FARC, and the EPP’s call for a prisoner exchange seems to be taking a page out of the FARC’s playbook. The rebel group also appears to be following the FARC’s trajectory in terms of its alleged ties to the drug trade.
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