Paraguay’s EPP Rebels Heading From Rural Areas to Cities?

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A security analyst in Paraguay says a small but active guerrilla group is seeking to begin a new chapter in its history by leaving rural areas and heading for the cities, but it is doubtful that the group’s migration is imminent. 

Security analyst Horacio Galeano Perrone recently told Paraguay.com that the Paraguayan People’s Army (Ejército del Pueblo Paraguayo – EPP) has a five-point plan for making the transition to urban areas of northern Paraguay, where the rebel group is based. According to Galeano, the plan consists of the following points:

  1. The group must begin carrying out urban activities since rural combat is now finished.
  2. They need to earn the trust of the urban sector. 
  3. They will attack people associated with criminal groups and their illicit activities. 
  4. They will publicize their attacks, which they have not done in the past. 
  5. They will seek to gain sympathizers among the urban and progessive populations. 

Perrone’s comments came shortly after threatening messages signed by the EPP appeared in the northern department of Concepción. The pamphlets, which were widely circulated by the Paraguayan press, said the group will attack with bombs and sniper rifles those who indiscriminately destroy the natural habitat. 

InSight Crime Analysis

It is not completely far-fetched that the EPP is looking to move into the cities. The EPP started out as an urban-based group when it served as the armed wing of the left-wing Free Homeland Party (Patria Libre) in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The group gained national attention following a series of high-profile kidnappings in the early 2000s, including the 2004 abduction of Cecilia Cubas, the daughter of former Paraguayan President Raúl Cubas. It was only after the demise of the Free Homeland Party that the group took its current name and form in March 2008 (pdf). 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of EPP

There is another reason that adds to the plausibility of reports that the EPP may be moving back to the city; the group is not as reliant on its surroundings to serve as natural cover from the security forces as its guerrilla counterparts in Colombia. 

“Paraguay does not have mountains and jungles like Colombia,” a source close to the EPP told InSight Crime in 2014. “Our mountains and jungles are the civilian population, and they hide us just as well.”

Nonetheless, moving to the cities would appear to be a high risk, low benefit proposition for the armed group. Security analyst Pablo Cuevas told InSight Crime he is skeptical that the EPP is in fact seeking to make this transition, since they can profit off rural-based criminal economies and urban areas have proven too risky in the past. 

“All things being equal, I don’t see them shifting strategy as of now,” Cuevas said. 

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