Country Report on Terrorism 2017 - Chapter 1 - Paraguay

Overview: In 2017, the Government of Paraguay continued to be a receptive partner on counterterrorism cooperation with the United States. Paraguay’s challenges stem from ineffective immigration, customs, and law enforcement controls along its porous borders, particularly the Tri-Border Area (TBA) with Argentina and Brazil, and its dry border with Brazil from the TBA to Pedro Juan Caballero.

Since 2008, persons claiming to be part of the Paraguayan People’s Army (known by its Spanish acronym EPP) – a domestic criminal group initially dedicated to a socialist revolution in Paraguay – have been involved in violence meant to extort and intimidate the population and local governments in the northern departments of Concepcion, San Pedro, and Amambay. Paraguayan authorities officially consider the EPP and its offshoots organized criminal groups rather than terrorist organizations, but public discourse of Paraguayan leaders occasionally refers to the EPP informally as a terrorist organization. The Government of Paraguay believes the EPP is a small, decentralized group of between 20 and 50 members. EPP and offshoot groups’ activities have consisted largely of isolated attacks on remote police and army posts, or against ranchers and peasants accused of aiding Paraguayan security forces. Ranchers and ranch workers in northeastern Paraguay, including members of the Mennonite community, claimed the EPP frequently threatened both their livelihoods and personal security. As of December 12, authorities believe the EPP held four hostages, while the offshoot Mariscal Lopez’s Army (known by its Spanish acronym EML) held one. The longest-held victim has been in captivity since 2014. The EPP released farmer Franz Wiebe on February 25 after 214 days in captivity.

2017 Terrorist Incidents: The EPP continued to conduct kidnappings, killings, and sabotage operations:

  • On March 17, EPP members kidnapped a farmer, burned his vehicle, and later released him near Colonia Rio Verde in Santa Rosa del Aguaray.
  • On April 17, EPP members kidnapped and killed Estancia Santa Adelia worker, Fabio Ramon Duarte Candia.
  • On April 26, authorities found an alleged EPP murder victim, Davalos Galeano at Estancia Ka’aguy Poty, Cuero Fresco, Arroyito.
  • On August 21, EPP members ambushed and kidnapped 32-year old Mexican national Franz Hieber Wieler at the Estancia San Eduardo, San Pedro Department. In addition to setting fire to the tractor Wieler was operating, the band of five attackers left behind a pamphlet with EPP propaganda.
  • On September 1, alleged EPP members intercepted a vehicle near the La Yeyaa Mennonite colony in Amambay Department and took 22-year old Bernhard Blatz Friessen hostage.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Paraguayan government continued to make use of a 2013 counterterrorism law that allows for the domestic deployment of the Paraguayan military to counter internal or external threats. The Paraguayan National Police (PNP) Secretariat for the Prevention and Investigation of Terrorism officially handles counterterrorism functions, although other PNP units and agencies such as the National Anti‑Drug Secretariat work such cases as well, particularly when related to drug trafficking. Military forces and police officials continued to operate jointly in the San Pedro, Concepcion, and Amambay departments against the EPP, with limited success.

On September 18, President Cartes signed the Seized and Forfeited Asset Management law. The law establishes a National Secretariat of Seized and Confiscated Assets to administer confiscated property and assets associated with criminal activity, such as terrorist financing.

On October 18, Paraguayan authorities arrested 61-year old Genaro Meza, the alleged EPP caretaker of hostage Franz Wiebe. Prosecutors charged Meza with terrorism, terrorist association, kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, and aggravated extortion.

On November 24, Brazilian and Paraguayan authorities apprehended two alleged EPP leaders in Brazil and charged them with murder and kidnapping. The suspects had been on the run since 2004. Paraguayan prosecutors continued to work with their Brazilian counterparts to extradite the suspects to Paraguay for trial.

With the help of U.S. counterparts, Paraguayan law enforcement officials arrested multiple Lebanese Hizballah-linked suspects in the Ciudad del Este area who were engaged in money laundering and drug trafficking activities, some with links to the United States.

The TBA has been attractive to individuals engaged in terrorist financing, as the minimal, and often corrupt, police and military presence along these borders allows for a largely unregulated flow of people, goods, and money. Paraguay’s efforts to provide more effective law enforcement and border security suffered from a lack of interagency cooperation and information sharing, as well as pervasive corruption within security, border control, and judicial institutions.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Paraguay is a member of the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America (GAFILAT), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. Paraguay’s Financial Intelligence Unit is a member of the Egmont Group. Paraguay continued its preparations for a GAFILAT mutual evaluation, scheduled for January 2019. Paraguay has counterterrorist financing legislation and the ability to freeze and confiscate terrorist assets immediately. FATF experts noted Paraguay possesses an adequate legal framework but falls short on implementation. In particular, government agencies struggled to coordinate effectively to detect, deter, and prosecute money laundering and terrorism financing.

The Paraguayan government registers and has reporting requirements for non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including non-profit organizations, and mandates that NGOs set up internal monitoring and training to guard against criminal or terrorist financing. Paraguay also requires the collection of data for wire transfers. Despite these mechanisms, government agencies’ efforts to enforce anti-money laundering/counterterrorist financing laws were lacking.

Paraguay’s Central Bank and financial intelligence unit participated in a June fact-finding mission to gather information on financial activities and illicit finance risks in the Tri-Border Area encompassing Ciudad del Este, Paraguay; Puerto Iguazu, Argentina; and Foz do Iguazu, Brazil. This was a joint project with the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Argentine and Brazilian FIUs, the Argentine and Paraguayan Central Banks, and supervisory authorities.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): Paraguay had no CVE program in 2017.

International and Regional Cooperation: Paraguay participated in the Organization of American States and its Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE). It continued to collaborate with Argentina and Brazil on border security initiatives, regional exchanges, and law enforcement projects. Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay coordinated law enforcement efforts in the Tri-Border Area via their Trilateral Tri-Border Area Command. The Interior Ministers of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay met on November 27 to discuss cooperation on all these fronts.

In February 2017, Paraguay participated in a Practitioner’s Workshop on Countering Transnational Terrorist Groups in the Tri-Border Area. The conference was hosted by the Argentine Federal Intelligence Agency with the sponsorship of the U.S. Departments of State and Justice. The two-day workshop included prosecutors, judges, law enforcement investigators, financial intelligence/sanctions officials, and intelligence officials from the region.