The murder of a well-known cattle farmer in Paraguay has put the activities of left-wing guerrillas in the country at the top of the country's political agenda, with joint military and police operations planned in rural areas.
Interior Minister Carmelo Caballero announced the creation of a "Crisis Commission" to track and attack members of the Paraguayan People's Army (EPP) in the departments of San Pedro and Concepcion, reported Info BAE, following last Friday's assassination of Luis Lindstron, a 63-year-old cattle rancher and former mayor of the San Pedro town of Tacuati. Lindstron had been kidnapped by the EPP in 2008 and according to family members had been regularly extorted and threatened since, reported ABC.
Tacuati mayor Orlando de Vaca said there were only 15 to 20 police working in the 228,000 hectare area, where people lived under "constant threat" from the EPP due to the conflict between guerrilla interests and local farming. "The community feels very scared," he said. "[The EPP] don't want us to carry out deforestation, to industrialize the land (…) but if we are poor what are we going to do?" Lindstron had given work to 50 percent of the Tacuati population, he told radio station Cardinal.
InSight Crime Analysis
Lindstron's killing is the first murder of a rancher in Paraguay, reported Info BAE, and has sparked widespread anger and controversy about the EPP's power and government incompetence or collusion. Lindstron's brothers have accused both former President Fernando Lugo and the police of being to blame for the killing - Lugo for "protecting" the EPP, and the police for failing to take seriously the regular threats their relative received since his 2008 kidnapping. Threats had been increasing in frequency and seriousness, reported ABC, most recently in the form of a note received by Lindstron on April 18 following the murder of a tractor operator in his area, warning him he would be kidnapped or killed. Senator Hugo Richer told radio station Radio Nanduti that the real issue was the mafias controlled by powerful economic and political interests, for whom the EPP was a front, while San Pedro prosecutor Lillian Ruiz told Monumental radio Lindstron had believed local police might sell him to the guerrillas.
It's a troubling scene that suggests the, albeit small, guerrilla group is wielding considerable clout following last year's surge, during which it carried out 40 percent of its total attacks since 2005. Lindstron's killing raises the question of whether the security forces are either unable or unwilling to truly get to grips with the EPP threat.