Notebooks abandoned by EPP guerrillas escaping a botched army ambush reveal some of the group’s inner workings and suggests that the rebel fighting force, which the military and police have been unable to neutralize, numbers just 20.
Among the details revealed in the notebooks is the Paraguayan People’s Army’s (EPP) use of pseudonyms for their members — much like guerrilla outfits elsewhere in the region — and the deployment of small groups of fighters in regions where they have grown up, so that their local knowledge gives them a better opportunity of escaping authorities, reported ABC Color.
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The notebooks also seem to imply that the EPP’s fighting force numbers no more than 20 members, a fact government prosecutor Federico Delfino admitted could be true, reported ABC Color.
The notebooks were discovered after a failed attempt by a joint military and police mission to launch a surprise attack on a cell of around five guerrillas, which saw the rebels abandon their camp and counter attack the security forces members as they prepared their assault. One soldier died and another was seriously injury, while all of the guerrillas escaped unharmed.
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The employment of aliases, division into small fighting groups and use of local geographical knowledge are common to many guerrilla armies throughout the world. But the possibility that such a small group of fighters — even if larger than the 20 suggested — could be causing such turmoil raises questions on the abilities of Paraguay’s security forces.
President Horacio Cartes initially wrote off the threat of the guerrillas when he took power in August, but quickly began to frame them as a key national security concern, militarizing the fight against them and using them to invoke sweeping military powers for himself within the first month of his presidency. Yet, as the catastrophic failure of the December 8 mission demonstrated, the military seems no better prepared to effectively deal with the guerrillas than the police, who were previously responsible.
Paraguay is a hub for drug and contraband trafficking — something the president himself has been strongly linked to — and the possibility of the EPP growing thanks to criminal earnings is very real. The threat that a growing EPP military wing could present to Paraguay is a cause for concern.