Insurgency in Paraguay

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Insurgency in Paraguay
Part of the War on drugs
Zona de Insurgencia armada en Paraguay.svg
Area in Paraguay with insurgent activity.
Date27 August 2005 – present
(14 years, 1 month, 1 week and 5 days)
Location
Status Ongoing low-level conflict
Belligerents

 Paraguay

Supported by:
 United States[1]
 Colombia[1]


Vigilante self-defense groups[2]
Paraguayan People's Army (EPP)
Armed Peasant Association (ACA)[a]
Paraguay Army of Marshal López (EML)
(from 2016)[4]
Supported by:
FARC (until 2016)[7]
Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front (alleged)[8]
Commanders and leaders
Mario Abdo Benítez
(since 2018)
Horacio Cartes
(2013–18)
Nicanor Duarte
(2005–08)
Fernando Lugo
(2008–12)
Federico Franco
(2012–13)
Oviedo Brítez (POW)
Carmen Villabla (POW)
Osmar Martínez
Bernardo Bernal Corn [9]
Osvaldo Villalba
Albino Jara Larrea [8][10]
Alfredo Jara Larrea [8][10]
Idilio Morínigo [11]
Alejandro Ramos[12]
Strength
3,500 active personnel 150–200[13]
~20[14]
~20
Casualties and losses
68 killed[28]

The Insurgency in Paraguay, also known as the Paraguayan People’s Army insurgency and the EPP rebellion (from the group's name in Spanish: Ejército del Pueblo Paraguayo), is an ongoing low-level armed conflict in northeastern Paraguay. From 2005 until the summer of 2014, the EPP campaign resulted in at least 50 deaths in total, the majority of them being local ranchers, private security guards and police officers, along with several insurgents. During that same period the group perpetrated 28 kidnappings for ransom and a total of 85 "violent acts".[15]

The insurgency began in 2005, after several members of the Patria Libre party formed the Paraguayan People’s Army. The Government of Paraguay suspects the EPP has ties to the Colombian rebel group FARC.[29][30] Two splinter groups of the EPP, the Armed Peasant Association (ACA) and the Ejercito del Mariscal Lopez (EML), have also launched separate armed campaigns against the government.

History[edit]

Background[edit]

The 1989 fall of the Stroessner dictatorship in Paraguay fueled the rapid development of previously banned, left-wing political groups. In 1990 current EPP leader Oviedo Britez enrolled in the theology faculty of the Catholic University of Asuncion.[8]

Formation of the EPP[edit]

In 1992 Britez was expelled from the theology study course, becoming increasingly interested in political change through revolutionary armed struggle. Britez, Juan Arrom Suhurt and Britez's fiancée Carmen Villalba soon created the core of Partido Patria Libre, Paraguayan People's Army's precursor.[8]

Between 1995-96 Britez and Villalba allegedly received military training from Chile's Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front.[8]

In 1997 MPL carried its first act of expropriation by unsuccessfully attempting a bank robbery in the town of Choré. All six robbers were detained by a local police unit, and later received a three-year sentence. Following the release of its members in early 2000, MPL launched a recruiting campaign and adopted kidnapping as its main source of funds.[8]

Its first significant action was the 2001 kidnapping of María Edith Bordón de Debernardi. Her husband, businessman Antonio Debernardi, paid $1 million for her release.[7] On 2 July 2004, police captured Oviedo Britez and Carmen Villalba in Ñemby, on the outskirts of Asunción. A search of the couple's house in the city of San Lorenzo followed the arrest; intelligence materials and operating manuals were seized. Following Britez's and Villalba's detention, Osmar Martínez and Osvaldo Villalba became EPP's new field commanders.[8]

Major actions[edit]

In 2004, the group kidnapped Cecilia Cubas, the daughter of former president of Paraguay Raúl Cubas. Despite receiving a ransom of $300,000, the kidnappers killed her.[31] After the PPL was taken apart by security forces in 2005, several members decided to form a new group with which to continue the armed struggle,[32] adopting its current name in 2008.[33]

EPP's ideology was first outlined in a book called "Francist 21st Century Revolution", written by Britez in prison. The book is named after Jose Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia, a dictator who ruled over Paraguay between 1814–41, and incorporates elements of Bolivarianism and Marxism–Leninism.[8] The majority of EPP's members reportedly belong to eight families. Despite its limited size, EPP enjoys the support of the local population in the areas that it controls.[8]

Later developments[edit]

Apart from the use of abductions EPP also engaged in cattle raiding, extortion, robberies and drug trade operations. The latter was facilitated with the aid of FARC; although EPP initially only extorted drug producers, reports indicate the presence of EPP's own marijuana plantations. An EPP communique denied any involvement in the drug trade, accusing the government of propaganda.[8]

In August 2014 EPP agents Albino Larrea and Alfredo Jara Larrea formed a splinter faction known as ACA. ACA's initial strength amounted to 13 fighters, but as many as five of their fighters were allegedly killed in clashes with security forces in September 2014.[8] The ACA was rendered defunct by 2016 after the remainder of its militants were killed by the government in 2015.[34] An additional EPP splinter faction formed called Ejército de Mariscal López (EML), some of whose members later reconstituted ACA in 2017.[34][6]

In 2015 former comrade of the EPP founders and ex-member Cristóbal Olazar criticized the Paraguayan government for using the EPP as a resource, and not honestly trying to end their existence. He argues that the government use their existence as an excuse to expand government resources and corrupt officials participate in EPP drug trafficking.[35]

By 2018 the EPP began staging attacks against Mennonite communities located in areas strategic to marijuana trafficking. These areas are also contested by Brazilian gangs Comando Vermelho, and Primeiro Comando da Capital.[36]

Timeline[edit]

2005[edit]

  • On 27 August 2005, a pair of policemen encountered an EPP column in the area of Yasy Cañy, Canindeyú. The resulting skirmish led to the death of one policeman.[8]

2006[edit]

2007[edit]

2008[edit]

  • On 31 July 2008, a group of five militants abducted farm owner Luis Alberto Lindstron; the incident took place in the zone of Kuruzú de Hierro. Two rebels were wounded after a firefight with security forces that took place as the kidnappers were withdrawing.[8]
  • On 12 September 2008, Alberto Lindstron was released from captivity after his relatives paid a $120,000 ransom.[8]

2009[edit]

  • 1 August 2009 – Police discovered an EPP forest encampment in the Concepcion department.The occupants managed to escape after briefly firing shots. Food, plans for future activities and approximately $27,900 were seized.[37]
  • 29 August 2009 – EPP detonated an IED at the Paraguayan Palace of Justice.The explosion caused minor property damage.[38]
  • On 15 October 2009 insurgents abducted Fidel Zavala, a rancher from the region of Concepción. Before leaving, the rebels booby-trapped Zavala's vehicle; two policemen were wounded while investigating his disappearance.[8]
  • 31 December 2009 – EPP members attacked a small military outpost in the San Pedro department, stealing weapons and burning it to the ground.[39]

2010[edit]

Oviedo Brítez, current EPP leader
  • In early January 2010 Fidel Zavala was freed from captivity following a ransom of $550,000. Thirty cattle were also distributed among Concepción's poor communities.[8]
  • 21 April 2010 – The aftermath of a shootout between EPP members and security forces in Arroyito leaves one policeman and three private guards dead.[40]
  • May 2010 – Four security guards were killed by EPP after accidentally discovering an EPP encampment. Following the incident,a 30-day state of emergency was declared in five provinces, with 3,000 soldiers and police deployed to combat the rebels.[41][42]
  • July 2010, EPP member Severiano Martinez is killed in a shootout with police.[43]
  • September 2010 – High ranking EPP members Nimio Cardozo and Gabriel Zárate Cardozo were killed in a police operation.[44]

2011[edit]

  • 17 January 2011 – Explosive devices planted by EPP injure five people in the town of Horqueta.[40]
  • April 2011 – A police officer and three ranch workers are killed by EPP.[45]
  • May 2011 – Jesús Ortiz, an EPP logistics coordinator, is captured.[45]
  • July 2011 – EPP claimed responsibility for the sabotage on a farm in the department of Concepción, in which farm machinery was destroyed.[40]
  • 21 September 2011 - Two police officers are killed after a group of EPP militants attack their outpost near Horqueta with explosives and automatic weapons. The insurgents reportedly stole weapons and ammunition from the encampment before fleeing.[46]

2012[edit]

  • September 2012 – One policeman is killed and one is seriously injured after an EPP attack in the town of Azotey.[47]
  • 16 November 2012 – Authorities detained three members of the EPP’s logistics branch in the area of Tacuatí.[44]

2013[edit]

  • 30 May 2013 The cattleman, logger and former intendant of Tacuatí, Luis Alberto Lindstron is assassinated.[48]
  • June 2013 – A rancher is killed by EPP.[49]
  • August 2013 – Five people were killed by suspected EPP militants near San Pedro.[50]
  • 15 August – Paraguay's new President Horacio Cartes announces an assault on the EPP, sending 400 troops to the north of the country.[51]
  • 8 December 2013 – EPP guerrillas killed a rancher and a Paraguayan Air Force sergeant in two separate attacks.[52][53]

2014[edit]

  • 2 April 2014 – 2 EPP guerillas and a soldier were killed after an attack against a Brazilian-owned property in the province of Concepción. One of the two EPP members was the group's reported third-in-command. The insurgents managed to kidnap the 16-year-old son of farmers during their escape.[29]
  • 4–5 July 2014 – A police officer was kidnapped in the north of the country, a day after an electricity tower was bombed near Wye in Concepción Province. The attack disrupted the electricity supply to approximately 90,000 residents, most of them in Pedro Juan Caballero in the neighboring Amambay Department. Damages were estimated at over $1 million in total.[15][54]
  • 8 September 2014 - A faction splinters from the EPP, forming the Armed Peasant Association (ACA), which also fights the government.[3] Led by brothers, namely Albino and Alfredo Jara Larrea, this splinter group was believed to number around 13 fighters by the time of its foundation.[8][10]
  • On 12 September a Fuerzas de Tarea Conjunta (FTC) counter-insurgency team raided a house in Concepción Department. Two suspected EPP members were killed in the raid.[16]
  • 19 September 2014 - Three ACA members are killed and two others injured in an engagement with Paraguayan Joint Task Force members.[17]
  • 21 September 2014 - One ACA member is killed in a Joint Task Force raid.[17]
  • On 30 December 2014, EPP freed Arlan Fick, who had been held hostage since his kidnapping in April. A ransom of $500,000 was paid to the insurgents, and $50,000 worth of food was also distributed to two communities as part of the deal.[55]

2015[edit]

  • On January 5, Albino Jara Larrea (aka Commander Milciades Leon) - one of the leaders of the ACA and a teenage rebel sporting AK47-type assault rifles and a bag full of money - was killed in a shootout with security forces in Concepcion province.[18]
  • On January 25 EPP members attacked and burned parts of a farm in Azotey in the south of Concepción Department. No one was injured in the attack, which was the second such incident at the same location in less than a month. In a handwritten note left on the premises, the guerrillas demanded that the farm's owner pay a $300,000 "fine" and distribute free beef to local communities as punishment for alleged deforestation before February 6, insisting that "Nature is not ours; it's only borrowed from future generations".[56][57]
  • On January 30, authorities discovered the bullet-riddled bodies of a German couple who had been kidnapped the previous day together with four local workers from a farm in Yby Yaú, Concepción Department, adjacent to the one attacked a few days earlier. Both German citizens had been living on the ranch for more than 30 years.[19]
  • On March 24 police discovered the bodies of three farm workers on the Alegria ranch, Ticuati township. An EPP signed note left next to the corpses warned the farmers against using pesticides and owning weapons. A government prosecutor stated that the ranchers were killed despite complying with the demands.[20]
  • On July 12 EPP militants attacked and killed two police officers. Another officer was killed in a separate attack three days later.[21]
  • On July 17 EPP militants killed three police officers close to the location of the July 12 attack.[22]
  • In course of raids in November 2015, the Paraguayan security forces killed four ACA militants, including Alfredo Jara Larrea and two other commanders of the group.[58][23]
  • On December 18, during an army operation, a civilian farmer was shot and killed near Kuruzu de Hierro in Concepcion Department after soldiers allegedly mistook him for an EPP member. In January 2016, his widow filed for an official investigation of the incident, with the help of Paraguayan NGO Serpaj-Py.[24]

2016[edit]

  • On 17 May 2016, the new leader of ACA, Idilio Morínigo, was killed by security forces.[11]
  • On July 27 militants attacked a farm ~340 km north of the capital Asunción, burning a tractor and a truck and kidnapping Franz Wiebe Boschman, a Mennonite of German descent. The EPP later claimed responsibility for the attack and demanded a $700,000 ransom within 15 days in order to release the man.[59] Wiebe Boschman was eventually released by the group on 25 February 2017.[60]
  • On August 27 EPP militants ambushed a Paraguayan military mobile patrol, traveling on a dirt road, with a roadside bomb and FN FAL battle rifles. The incident took place near Arroyito village, west of Concepcion. The assailants killed a total of eight soldiers, one of them an officer and the rest non-commissioned officers. The insurgents stole their M4 carbines equipped with scopes and grenade launchers, a light machine gun and 1,500 rounds of ammunition. This was the deadliest EPP attack to date.[25][61][62][63]
  • By the end of 2016, the ACA had been largely destroyed by Paraguayan security forces, and all of its leaders killed.[4][10]

2017[edit]

  • On 10 January, suspected members of the EPP entered a house in San Pedro and attacked two Mennonite brothers in a possible failed kidnapping attempt, wounding one of them.[64]
  • On 6 April, militants of Paraguayan People's Army shot dead a security guard in a ranch of the department of Concepción, in an assassination campaign aimed to private security guards in rural areas.[26]
  • On 27 April, another security guard was killed in a ranch in the department of Concepción.[27]

2018[edit]

  • On 12 January, Abraham Fehr, a Mennonite farmer, kidnapped by the EPP in 2015, was found dead in San Pedro Departament, northern of Paraguay.[65]
  • On 31 January an encounter between members of the EML and security forces was reported in Arroyito, Concepción department. It is believed that some militants may have been wounded.[66]
  • On 5 February, the EPP released two Mennonite farmers who had been kidnapped for more than five months by the guerrillas.[67]
  • On 7 April, a policeman and a soldier were wounded during an armed attack for part of EPP militants in Arroyito, Concepción Department. The attack took place days before the national elections.[68]
  • On 9–11 April, a series of gunfights between guerrillas and security forces was reported in the municipality of Arroyito Concepción Department, Paraguay. On 12 April the militants escaped to the siege, and the army captured a guerrilla camp. This operation was harshly criticized for the lack of results and the great mobilization of the army and the FTC forces.[69][70][71]
  • On 5 May a soldier belonging to the FTC committed suicide in the installations of the detachment.[72]
  • On July 18 a woman was shot dead and another civilian was injured in an attack in the municipality of Tacuara, Arroyito municipality. The woman had been associated with ACA.[73][74]
  • On 27 July a gunfight between members of the Paraguayan People's Army and the Joint Task Force in Arroyito, Concepción Department, Paraguay. The authorities found an improvised camp, tactical gear and traces of blood, so is suspected that some militants were injured in the attack.[75]
  • On 22 August, a gunfight between soldiers left two soldiers injured an one killed. It was later shown that the soldier who initiated the shooting was under the influence of alcohol.[76][77]
  • On 5 September The lider of the EPP Alcides Osmar Oviedo Brítez will face oral and public trial, for being the principal suspect of the kidnapping of young Arlan Fick, who had registered on April 2, 2014. Also on 25 September Zunilda Jara Larrea and Juan Morínigo, members of the defunct armed group calling themselves Agrupación Campesina Armada (ACA), will face oral and public trial, after the attack against the military registered on August 27, 2016 in Arroyito, Department of Concepción.[78][79]
  • On 19 November, members of the Paraguayan People's Army kidnapped a Brazilian farmer then shot him dead in San Pedro Department.[80][81]
  • On 8 December, members of the EPP attacked a farm in San Vicente Pancholo near General Isidoro Resquín San Pedro Department. The attackers burned three fumigation aircraft, one tractor and one truck belonging to a agro-livestock local company, no injuries were reported.[82]

2019[edit]

  • On 21 April, five armed militants from the reconstituted ACA, four men and a woman wearing camouflage fatigues, attacked a ranch in Concepcion department, setting on fire a number of heavy vehicles, among them two pick up trucks, a cart, a bulldozer and a tractor. No casualties were reported.[34][83][84]
  • On 8 July, a group of 20 militants, five of them aboriginal people and led by EPP leader Osvaldo Daniel Villalba Ayala assaulted and set on fire the ranch Ñandu’i, in Amambay Department. The Brazilian manager of the ranch was killed.[85][86]

Casualties[edit]

Year Deaths Injuries
2005 2 0
2008 0 2
2009 0 2
2010 11 0
2011 6 5
2012 1 1
2013 9 0
2014 9 2
2015 18 0
2016 9[25][11] 0
2017 2[26][27] 1
2018 3 +3
2019 1[86] 0
Total 71 +16

From 2008 until the summer of 2014, the EPP campaign resulted in around 50 deaths in total,[15] the majority of them being local ranchers, private security guards and police officers, along with several insurgents. During that same period the group perpetrated 28 kidnappings for ransom and a total of 85 "violent acts".[15] In 2015, the conflict escalated to become the deadliest year of the conflict, with 18 fatalities reported. 9 were reported in 2016 and 2 in 2017.[26][27]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ ACA was active from 2014 until 2016, when most of its members and leaders were killed. The group was effectively defunct after this point,[3][4] but was revived sometime in 2017 by members of the EML.[5][6]

References[edit]

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