Paraguay's EPP guerrillas have threatened to kill a kidnapped police officer if the government refuses to carry out a prisoner exchange, according to reports. If accurate, this would confirm suspicions that EPP are using similar tactics to Colombia's FARC rebels, kidnapping to force the release of imprisoned guerrillas.
On September 30, neighbors of Edelio Morinigo received a letter signed in the name of the Paraguayan People's Army (EPP) demanding the release of EPP prisoners in exchange for Morinigo's freedom, reported ABC Color. The letter stated that Morinigo would be executed if the government did not release half of the incarcerated EPP members by October 14.
According to La Nacion, Morinigo's mother stated that the letter also demanded the police and military Joint Task Force (FTC) leave the northern region of the country, where it is currently conducting operations against the EPP and splinter group the Armed Peasant Association (ACA).
In response, Attorney General Javier Diaz Veron told ABC Color the government is not considering the possibility of a prisoner exchange, and that even discussing the option would make the state "appear very weak." Echoing this position, Joint Task Force spokesman Victor Urdapilleta told Ultima Hora the security force would continue operations aimed at rescuing EPP hostages.
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Morinigo is thought to have been kidnapped by the EPP on July 5 while hunting in Concepcion province, northern Paraguay. His disappearance fueled speculation that the EPP would seek a prisoner exchange, since there was no ransom demand. The rebel group is thought to number only some 30 members, and supporting two hostages would be a serious drain on their resources -- justified only if they are expecting to gain a significant advantage.
This would not be the first time the EPP has called for a prisoner exchange. In May, incarcerated EPP leader Alcides Oviedo Britez wrote a letter in response to pleas that the rebels free 16-year-old kidnapping victim Arlan Fick, stating that "there will be no release order if it does not imply in return a release order for all EPP members suffering in government prisons."
SEE ALSO: FARC News and Profile
Taking hostages in an attempt to negotiate a prisoner exchange is a tactic that has been employed by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which abducted politicians, members of security forces, and other individuals for this purpose starting in the 1990s. The EPP is believed to have ties to the FARC, and may have even received training and military aid from the Colombian rebel group.