Paraguay govt hunts new EPP guerrillas

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Senior officials in Paraguay have appealed for information on a new leader and seven new members of the country’s EPP guerrillas, as the government continues its assault against the relatively small insurgency.

Appearing at a press conference together, Interior Minister Francisco de Vargas, Attorney General Javier Diaz Veron and National Police Commander Francisco Alvarenga offered rewards in excess of $20,000 for information leading to the new members of the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP), reported ABC Color.

They also named Lucio Silva as a probable new leader of the rebel group and reiterated the $220,000 reward on offer for EPP commander Osvaldo Villalba.

The conference is part of an aggressive government push against the EPP, which includes a TV campaign (see video below) identifying the new members.

The EPP have previously issued warnings and allegedly killed several people for informing on them, including apparently placing a dynamite filled banana in the mouth of one woman, reported La Nacion.

There are currently no reliable figures on the EPP, but they were last year estimated to have no more than 100 active fighters.

InSight Crime Analysis

Although new Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes declared soon after his swearing in that armed groups would not set the agenda of his presidency, his government has been on a military and publicity offensive against the guerrillas.

A week into his presidency he was granted sweeping new military powers, ostensibly to combat the guerrillas, and days later government accusations of involvement in drug trafficking were leveled at the rebels.

SEE ALSO: More EPP Coverage

While there is good reason to believe the EPP are involved in drugs — with some claiming they are just a front for a trafficking organization –, previous investigations into crimes blamed on the guerrillas have been shrouded in controversy.  

With Cartes plagued by accusations of his own involvement in drug trafficking, the EPP could be a useful cause célèbre for him to galvanize public approval and appear tough on crime.

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