The EPP has accused Paraguay's government of complicity in drug trafficking and corruption in two new videos, which authorities insist will provide valuable information on the guerrilla group.
Filmed on December 24 and December 30, 2013, the videos (broken into five segments here) depict a Paraguayan Peoples' Army (EPP) camp in a wooded area with food and decorations suggestive of a festive celebration. The first shows a number of guerrillas -- 18, including seven women, according to ABC Color -- in military fatigues, and the second is an address by commander Osvaldo Villalba in which he decries the abuse of power and corruption of the country's elite in the face of grinding poverty for the majority of Paraguayans.
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Following the publication of the video, Paraguayan Interior Minister Francisco de Vargas said the videos would be studied by authorities, as they promised to provide significant information about the group's military capabilities and potentially reveal the identities of guerrilla members. In the videos, several guerrillas previously identified by authorities -- including Villalba -- appear with their faces visible, while others remain covered up.
The videos have been made public less than a week after the death of a soldier injured in an ambush by the EPP in December 2013. He became the second soldier killed by the rebels after one died in that same confrontation.
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The EPP accusations of drug trafficking and corruption are just the latest to be launched at the government of Horacio Cartes, who has been surrounded by controversy since mid-2013, when it became clear he was the frontrunner to win the presidency. Following his victory, Cartes promised to attack the country's underworld and has prioritized pursuing the EPP, albeit with little success so far.
While the focus on the EPP might be strategically ill-advised -- given the small size of the rebel organization, as compared to the country's major marijuana and contraband trafficking problems -- it has served as a way for Cartes to garner public support and allowed him to push through sweeping new powers.
While the EPP have accused the government of involvement in drug trafficking, there are signs the rebels themselves may be earning money by taxing traffickers or providing security for drug shipments. The guerrillas are thought to have received training from Colombia's Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) -- to whom the EPP's use of kidnapping has been attributed -- and could be emulating the Colombian group's involvement in the drug trade as a source of financing.