Paraguay Govt Fears EPP Rebels Will Seek Prisoner Exchange

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Authorities in Paraguay fear the EPP guerrilla group will demand that the government free captured rebels in exchange for releasing kidnap victims, a move that echoes similar tactics employed by the FARC in Colombia.

Paraguay’s Joint Task Force (FTC) believes the rebel Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP) will refuse to release kidnapping victims unless the government frees imprisoned EPP members, reported ABC Color.

In May, jailed EPP leader Alcides Oviedo Britez wrote a letter in response to pleas to free EPP kidnapping victims, stating: “there will be no release order if it does not imply in return a release order for all EPP members suffering in government prisons.”

An EPP manual written by Oviedo, which was discovered by the police in 2009, also mentions prisoner exchanges. The manual suggests kidnapping public officials and using the hostages to negotiate the release of EPP prisoners.

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The EPP is currently thought to be holding two hostages: 16-year-old Arlan Fick — who was taken hostage in April — and police officer Edelio Morinigo Florenciano, kidnapped on July 5. Fick’s family has already paid a $500,000 ransom without securing his release, and the EPP has not demanded a ransom for Morinigo, both factors suggesting that the group may ask for a prisoner exchange.

The EPP is believed to have ties to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels, and there are indications the FARC provided the Paraguayan guerrilla group with military aid and training. In 2006, the Colombian government stated that the FARC might be training Paraguayans in kidnapping techniques and the use of explosives.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of the EPP

In recent years the FARC’s calls for a “humanitarian exchange” of hostages for prisoners were rejected by the government, and the group finally released its last 10 military prisoners in 2012, prior to the beginning of peace talks. In 2002, the group had kidnapped presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt with plans to use her to secure the release of imprisoned FARC members, but she was rescued by the Colombian security forces in 2008.

The EPP may have more success in obtaining a prisoner exchange, however. Although negotiating with terrorist groups is illegal under Paraguay’s constitution, ABC Color noted that the government may meet the EPP’s demands due to the mounting political pressure surrounding the most recent kidnappings. President Horacio Cartes has made combating the EPP a major part of his security strategy, but has so far achieved little success.    

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