The U.S. is donating $1.156 million in equipment and training to help Paraguay combat a small guerrilla army in the north of the country. In a news release on Wednesday, the U.S. embassy said the money would be directed toward police training for rural operations, vehicles, communications gear, and improvements to police facilities in the jungle region where the Ejército del Pueblo Paraguayo (Paraguayan People’s Army–EPP) operates.
The EPP has carried out bank robberies, ransom kidnappings and attacks on police and military posts in the San Pedro and Concepción departments in Paraguay’s north. Though rumored to have only about 20 armed members, it has been behind particularly high-profile crimes—including, in 2004, the kidnapping and murdering of Cecilia Cubas, the daughter of a former president. It is also thought by some officials to have ties to Colombia’s FARC.
Since the spring of 2010, Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo has made defeating the EPP a priority. Congress granted him emergency powers for 30 days in April 2010, authorizing arrests without a warrant and army accompaniment of police in security operations in five departments. The crackdown met with mixed results and divided public opinion. Last October Lugo approved a congressional resolution to declare a 60-day military siege in the departments of Concepción and San Pedro. Though the siege officially expires on Saturday and has failed to produce the capture of any insurgents, Ministry of the Interior Carlos Filizzola reiterated that security forces would continue to work in the north “to capture the members of the EPP and completely dismantle this criminal organization.”
In 2009, the U.S. donated equipment to Paraguay to help an elite military force combat urban terrorism.