A new security council will be dedicated to strengthening intelligence operations in the fight against drug trafficking and guerrilla group the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP), Paraguay’s Interior Ministry announced.
The council will be supported by the Presidency, the Interior Ministry, the Defense Ministry, and will be headed by the former head of the armed forces, Admiral Cibar Benitez, according to a statement by Interior Minister Carmelo Caballero. Its priority will be the fight against the EPP.
“Although they are a weakened group, the effects provoked by their crimes are important in terms of security,” the statement reads. “It is perhaps a lesser phenomenon than international drug traffficking, but they must be fought in order to keep them from growing.”
InSight Crime Analysis
After the controversial removal of President Fernando Lugo last June, it appears that new President Federico Franco does not intend to break away from Lugo’s policy of prioritizing the fight against the EPP. If anything, Franco has made a point of trying to appear especially hard line against the guerrillas: at a business luncheon, he called the EPP “the long arm” of Colombian guerrilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
The EPP, for their part, have declared via leaflets that they do not recognize Franco’s administration. The group has proved itself capable of carrying out occasional deadly attacks against the security forces, as well as harassing local businesses in their stronghold, the department of Concepcion. On July 29, three members of the EPP attacked a remote security outpost in Azote, Concepcion, about 50 miles from the Brazilian border. The attackers shot the outpost’s electricity generator and water tank, then left a note declaring their opposition to Brazilian “exploitation” of Paraguay through the many Brazilian-owned soy agribusinesses in the country.
But given Paraguay’s other, arguably more pressing, security problems — including rising addiction rates to crack cocaine, the presence of Brazilian drug traffickers, and terrorist group Hezbollah in the border town of Ciudad del Este — it is worth questioning whether the EPP should really be the government’s top security priority.