Following Civilian Release, Paraguay’s EPP Pushes Prisoner Swap

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After Paraguay’s EPP guerrillas released a civilian hostage but kept a police officer captive, the question is whether the rebel group may still be seeking a prisoner exchange.

On December 25, the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP) released 17-year-old Arlan Fick in the northeastern province of Concepcion, reported ABC Color. Fick was captured on April 2, 2014, in an operation the EPP planned after stealing his father’s computer to obtain the family’s financial information.

In spite of multiple attempts by the Joint Task Force’s (FTC) to rescue Fick, and his family’s compliance with all ransom demands, the teenager remained captive for over eight months.

As of January 5, the EPP’s other kidnapping victim — police officer Edelio Morinigo — has been held hostage for six months. Morinigo was captured on July 5, while hunting in the province of Concepcion. Instead of demanding a ransom payment, the EPP allegedly wrote a letter stating that Morinigo would not be freed unless the Paraguayan government released half of all imprisoned EPP members.

InSight Crime Analysis

Fick’s kidnapping appears to have been a major success for the EPP. The guerrilla group obtained a $500,000 ransom from Fick’s family, in addition to $50,000 worth of food and supplies that was distributed to poor communities in the EPP’s name. The group also stayed in the headlines for close to nine months, bolstering its credibility amongst militant, anti-government forces.

Fick’s kidnapping also made the Joint Task Force look weak. Although the FTC vowed to rescue Fick, the rebels managed to dodge all of its attempts thanks in part to a network of informants and collaboration from local communities. In August, Interior Minister Francisco Jose de Vargas told InSight Crime that by keeping Fick hostage, the EPP was making the government: “Look inefficient and ineffective with respect to the guerrilla group.”

SEE ALSO: Coverage of the EPP

While the FTC managed to kill several members of the EPP dissident group the Armed Peasant Association (ACA) in 2014, it was unable to seriously weaken the EPP in spite of the fact that the rebels — not counting their ACA counterparts — likely number less than 30 fighters.   

Meanwhile, the EPP appears to have kept Morinigo captive in an attempt to negotiate a prisoner exchange, a tactic frequently employed by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). In a letter found on September 30 that was signed in the name of the EPP, the rebel group demanded that the government release EPP prisoners and withdraw FTC troops from the northern region of the country. However, after the letter was discovered, Attorney General Javier Diaz Veron told ABC Color that the Paraguayan government would not consider a prisoner exchange.

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