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PARAGUAY
Eight soldiers killed in attack
Latinamerica Press
9/9/2016
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Authorities are blaming a rebel group for planting explosives at a point along the road taken by the patrol.

An ambush against a military patrol took place on Aug. 27 in the district of Arroyito, department of Concepción, 300 miles north of the capital Asunción, leaving eight soldiers dead. The attack was carried out by a commando from the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP), a guerrilla group that started its armed activities in 2008.

According to the official version, explosives planted on the road by the guerrilla group blew up the vehicle transporting the officers, members the Joint Task Force (FTC) made up of members of the armed forces and the police, created by the government of President Horacio Cartes in 2013 to combat the EPP. Those who had survived the initial blast were gunned down as they tried to flee from the vehicle.

Interior Minister Francisco de Vargas said that the explosives were planted “along the road taken routinely by the patrol. Because of how this was carried out, this was likely an attack perpetrated by the EPP.”

The EPP is a Marxist-Leninist armed group who staeged its first attack in March 2008, setting fire to the machinery equipment of a soybean farm. By the end of that year the group had attacked a military barracks in San Pedro and stolen the weapons stored there. In April 2009 the group took credit for placing a bomb in the Palace of Justice; artifact that was successfully defused.

The group is responsible as well for many kidnappings, including those of ranchers whose families paid large ransoms for their release. Various EPP militants were captured in September 2010, including the leader of the group, Alcides Oviedo Brítez, after a clash with the police in Concepción.

On Sep. 21, 2011, alleged members of EPP opened fire against a police station in the town of Horqueta, in Concepción, wounding two police officers who were on duty at the time. Another attack took place three weeks later targeting the same police station, this time leaving one injured officer. Police officer Edelio Morínigo has been held captive by the EPP since 2014.

Victims of the violence
The EPP, which has not claimed responsibility for the latest attack, operates in remote areas in the departments of Concepción and San Pedro, near the border with Brazil, areas with almost no state presence. News reports maintain that the group is made up by a hundred of members who have access to financial resources, weapons and explosives.

According to Vicente Rodríguez, governor of the department of San Pedro, EPP members, in order not to be caught, “pose as farmers. They blend with the population, and this makes it difficult to find them.”

After the attack, the population of Arroyito, home to 800 families, rejected that the authorities link them to the EPP.

In an interview with Telefuturo TV channel, priest José Zabala, who works in Arroyito, pointed out that “that is the concept that everyone has. Lately, Interior Minister Francisco de Vargas, has been saying that all of us here are part of the logistics of the group” and he denied in no uncertain terms that the population is a part of the EPP.

“The majority of the population is poor, hard-working people, who are themselves victims of the violence and the needs,” Zabala said. Moreover, he put blame on the state for the neglect in terms of the lack of road infrastructure, schools and medical facilities.

The opposition sectors consider that in his three years as president, Cartes has not made any clear headway to counteract the armed group.

Horacio Galeano, an expert in military issues, said in an interview with Monumental radio, of Asunción, that it is imperative to rethink the work of the FTC, by strengthening the military in those departments and establishing a tactical intelligence group in the area.

The authorities have announced that the FTC will continue with its work and the security in areas with presence of EPP will be strengthened. Also, aid programs to farmers will be increased in order to fight poverty. —Latinamerica Press.


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