A recent spate of attacks by Paraguay's EPP guerrilla group, in which they demanded that businesses hand out aid to local communities, suggests the rebels are increasing their operations in an effort to win the support of the population.
Last week, three alleged members of the Paraguayan People's Army (EPP) stormed a ranch belonging to a Brazilian business in the northern department of Concepcion. They held hostage the property's foreman, his partner and their four-year-old daughter, before setting fire to the premises, ABC Digital reports. It marked the third such attack supposedly carried out by the EPP within the last two weeks.
In the aftermath of the attack, a letter apparently left by the EPP was found addressed to the ranch's owners, calling on them to stop damaging the environment with deforestation and intensive farming, or risk "the maximum penalty as established by revolutionary laws." The rebels also demanded that the ranch's owners supply a doctor and $10,000 worth of food and medicine to the local community.
The ranch's head said that he has no plans to comply with demands, as his business already helps the community more than the amounts sought by the EPP.
In one of the EPP's two other alleged attacks, similar demands were made of the ranch in question, with workers being asked to provide meat to the local Mbya Guarani indigenous community, and stop deforesting the area.
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The EPP's increase in attacks, and targeting of businesses with social demands, appears to be part of a push to win recognition and support among the population.
The group -- estimated to have between 50 and 100 fighters -- has so far seemingly failed to establish any real connection with local communities, however, as evidenced by the Mbya Guarani community's refusal to accept their food offering. This may be thanks to their track record of homicides, with more civilians (nine) killed than police officers (seven) since 2005, according to the count of Paraguayan media.
Despite this seeming isolation, Paraguay's president, Fernando Lugo, has made it a priority to eliminate the group, installing a two 60-day states of emergency in the last two years, both of which failed to strike any real blows against the rebels.