Country Report on Terrorism 2012 - Chapter 2 - Paraguay

Overview: Since June 22, when President Fernando Lugo was impeached and Federico Franco took office, the Government of Paraguay has more aggressively charged and arrested individuals under counterterrorism laws created in 2010 and 2011; however, successful prosecutions remained elusive. Paraguay continued to be hampered by ineffective immigration, customs, and law enforcement controls along its porous borders, particularly the Tri-Border Area (TBA) with Argentina and Brazil. Limited resources, sporadic interagency cooperation, and corruption within customs, the police, the public ministry, and the judicial sector impeded Paraguay's law enforcement initiatives throughout the country. Paraguay faced continued activity by an internal insurgent group, which resulted in public demands for governmental response and kept terrorism in the policy forefront throughout the year.

The United States provided training to improve law enforcement counterterrorism capabilities through the Department of State's Antiterrorism Assistance program. In addition, through much of 2012, DHS officers were seconded to Paraguay to enhance Paraguay’s border controls.

2012 Terrorist Incidents: Since 2008, the leftist Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP) has been active in the northern departments of Paraguay abutting the Brazilian border. The EPP proclaims itself as dedicated to a socialist revolution in Paraguay and may have tenuous links to the Revolutionary Armed Forces in Colombia. Membership statistics for the EPP are difficult to establish, but it is believed to be a small, decentralized group operating mainly in Concepción Department. Estimates of membership range from 20-100 members. It engaged in kidnappings, placement of explosive devices, and multiple shootouts with the police and military. The following activities are believed to have been perpetrated by the EPP in 2012:

• On March 4 and 8, two private estates were attacked and burned in Concepcion Department. A guard was injured in the March 4 attack.

• On May 17, the 19 year-old son of a Brazilian politician from a border town near Capitan Bado was the victim of an attempted kidnapping. The man and his security guard escaped.

• On July 30, in Yby Yau, three armed men attacked a ranch, shot the water tank and the power transformer, and left behind a threatening note that identified them as members of the EPP.

• On August 31, in Paso Tuja and Kuruzu de Hierro, Concepción Department, alleged EPP members burned two soy plantations and left behind a threatening note.

• On September 5, in Azotey, an alleged group of EPP members shot and killed the aunt of an EPP member and then exploded a device inside her mouth. The same day and approximately one kilometer away, another group of men shot at a police post from a moving vehicle, wounding two police officers. One police officer died of his wounds days later.

• On October 4, two people identified as EPP members attacked a private radio station with two explosive devices in Horqueta. Two radio station operators were unharmed; however, the media facilities sustained damage.

• On October 12 in the vicinity of Horqueta, alleged EPP members unsuccessfully attempted to bring down an electrical high-tension power line with improvised explosive devices placed at the bottom of the tower.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Limited steps were undertaken specifically to address border security issues, particularly with respect to the large and generally unprotected borders with Argentina and Brazil. There were upgrades made at the Silvio Pettirossi Airport in Asuncion to improve immigration controls. The Franco government more aggressively countered EPP threats.

Following the September 5 killing of an alleged police informant, the Public Ministry issued two arrest warrants for the perpetrators and charged them under the 2010 counterterrorism laws, the first time Paraguay used this law.

Countering Terrorist Finance: Paraguay is a member of the Financial Action Task Force of South America against Money Laundering, a Financial Action Task Force-type regional body. In 2012, there were four arrests under the terrorist financing law. In October, the National Police arrested Ruben Dario Lopez Fernandez, who is believed to be an EPP logistician. Lopez also had an outstanding arrest warrant for his arrest on charges of terrorist financing. As of year’s end, there were no convictions for terrorist financing cases. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, we refer you to the 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes:

Regional and International Cooperation: Brazil is Paraguay's strongest regional partner in counterterrorism and law enforcement activities, and the two countries cooperated on security initiatives. Paraguay also collaborated with Mercosur and Union of South American Nations partners in border protection initiatives, regional exchanges, and discussions on counterterrorism and law enforcement projects. While bilateral and multilateral relations between Paraguay and its neighbors stalled following Lugo’s impeachment, counterterrorism efforts continued.