According to sources claiming contact with the leaders of Paraguay’s phantom rebel army, the group is planning to withdraw from the Southern Cone and find refuge in Colombia and Venezuela. It is not the first allegation concerning links between Paraguay and these two countries.
The ABC report quotes unnamed sources who maintain the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP) will withdraw from the country before the next elections in 2013. The EPP would reportedly travel first to Venezuela before settling in Colombia.
The sources claim to have made contact with EPP leaders, and to have given their intelligence report to Paraguay’s Interior Ministry, but were ignored. Before they leave Paraguay, the EPP plans to kidnap the former Interior Minister and the state’s anti-kidnapping prosecutor, the sources told ABC.
Such reports appear intended to suggest that the government’s recent “state of siege” against the EPP may have actually increased the pressure on the rebel group, to the point that they are now looking for more breathing room outside Paraguay. The government called a 60-day state of emergency last October with the stated purpose of capturing members of the EPP. Instead, security forces came out empty handed and the EPP, thought to be no larger than 30 people, boasted of their increased stature as a legitimate “resistance” movement.
Also significant to these rumors is that they present the EPP as a group with ongoing contacts in Colombia. This is a theory that media and government opposition parties have fed for years, but there is little hard data to support it.
The most clearcut case indicating a Colombia-Paraguay connection is the 2004 kidnapping involving ex-president Raul Cubas’ daughter. According to some theories, the kidnappers involved in this case later recast themselves as the EPP. At the time, the kidnappers received support and training from the Colombian rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The main suspect arrested for the Cubas kidnapping was a prominent member of a leftist political party, the PPL. As the kidnapping unfolded, he exchanged e-mail messages with FARC leader Rodrigo Granda, asking for advice on how to conduct hostage negotiations, according to a 2004 US State Department cable.
There have been other claims of collaboration between the two rebel groups. According to Paraguay’s anti-kidnapping prosecutor, hard drives seized from FARC camps reportedly indicate that the FARC have sent advisors to Paraguay and trained foreign guerrillas in Colombian camps.
In another case, after the EPP killed a police officer with a car bomb in October 2009, Colombian police examined the explosive device and described it as “100 percent FARC.”
Otherwise, evidence that the EPP has received significant financial support and training from the FARC is sketchy. The allegations concerning a so-called a EPP-Venezuela connection are even less substantial, although EPP members have reportedly boasted of such links to make themselves appear stronger than they actually are.
If the EPP cut down their actions in 2012, the government may be justified in recasting the 2011 “state of siege” as a successful offensive. This will prove even more true if the EPP actually do end up leaving the country by 2013, as the rumors attest. For the time being, as the rebels lay low, media and public officials will likely continue to gossip over the guerrillas’ next move.