Seven years on from the infamous kidnapping of the daughter of a former Paraguayan president, the EPP rebel group, despite their size, show little sign of being defeated.
Cecilia Cubas, daughter of former Paraguay President Raul Cubas, was kidnapped outside her home on the night of 21 September, 2004, by a group of armed men in the capital Asuncion. Despite Raul Cubas reportedly paying $800,000 for the return of his daughter, the kidnappers broke off contact and Cecilia was found dead in February 2005. Investigators announced earlier this year that she was likely buried alive.
The kidnapping was carried out by political party the Free Homeland Party (PPL). The organization was dismantled in 2005, but a group of its members decided to create guerrilla group the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP), in order to fight the state.
As ABC Digital notes, since the body of Cubas was discovered, some 20 people have been convicted for their involvement in the case. However, despite being implicated in the crime, the EPP’s five main leaders have never been detained.
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Although it was not created until after Cubas’ kidnapping, the EPP’s infamy as a guerrilla force can be traced back to this event. Its leader Manuel Cristaldo Mieres is thought to have been the mastermind.
The EPP has since relied on kidnapping as its primary source of funding. The most high profile abduction it carried out was in October 2009. The group held cattle rancher Fidel Zavala for three months, releasing him after receiving a $500,000 ransom payment.
Over the past 18 months the group has upped its actions, with 40 percent of all its attacks and kidnappings from 2005-2012 taking place last year alone.
President Federico Franco declared in August that the EPP are the “long arm” of the FARC in Paraguay. While such statements verge on hyperbole, it is a testament to the recognition that the group have earned as a threat to the state. Two separate 60-day states of emergency were imposed last year, though they failed to strike any blows against the group. Last month, a new security council was created that will be dedicated to strengthening intelligence work against the group.
As the response from the government demonstrates, the EPP retains a degree of notoriety perhaps not warranted given their size, and this can be traced back to the night of Cubas’ abduction in September 2004.