Photo: (Pulsa America)
The purported commander of the shadowy Army of the Paraguayan People, or EPP, said in a video that his small group is the “armed wing” of the Paraguayan poor and called for the elimination of private property in the impoverished South American country.
Paraguayan news Web sites on Friday posted a series of videos featuring suspected members of the EPP, including commander Manuel Cristaldo Mieres, who appears in one of the recordings with the alias “Santiago Vasquez.”
The EPP “is a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla organization ... It is the army of the poor, which defends the interests of the poor in our country. The rich control and manage everything to their liking,” the purported commander said in one of the the videos, filmed in August according to a voiceover.
“In our country, the problem is the poor distribution of wealth. That’s why we have to do away with the private property of the wealthy and we have to give the land to the poor,” the young guerrilla added.
But the affluent will not give up control voluntarily, and therefore “we need support and we have to make our Army of the Paraguayan People strong,” he said.
“The wealthy have their armed wing, which is the police, the military and thugs who guard rural estates, who repress our people with gunfire and kill compatriots who claim rights to land,” the EPP commander said.
“That’s why we the poor have the right to our armed wing and that group is the EPP, which arose to defend us from the rich and defend our lives,” he said.
The EPP is a small armed group that adopted that name in 2008, although its most notable action was the December 2001 kidnapping of the wife of a wealthy Paraguayan business executive, Maria Edith Bordon, who was released a month later in exchange for payment of a large ransom after spending 64 days in captivity.
The alleged perpetrators of that crime have spent several years behind bars.
The federal Attorney General’s Office also says the group is behind other kidnappings and has also planted bombs and carried out attacks on rural estates and police stations.
In one video, the alleged commander is seen in a wooded area and dressed in camouflage and speaks in Jopara, a mixture of Guarani and Spanish, while others show two armed guerrillas - a man and a woman - with an EPP flag behind them.
In both recordings, the purported rebels champion Marxist ideology but also hail Jose Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia, the first leader of Paraguay following its independence from Spain, and Francisco Solano Lopez, president of Paraguay from 1862 until his death in 1870.
Solano Lopez’s death marked the end of the 1865-1870 War of the Triple Alliance, a conflict that Paraguay waged against Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay and which wiped out much of its male population.
The guerrillas also railed against Paraguay’s political class and mockingly described ex-Catholic bishop and ousted former President Fernando Lugo, who while head of state was forced to acknowledge fathering children during his years in the church, as a “sex maniac.”
Hopes for significant change under Lugo - whose 2008 election victory marked the end of 60 years of rule by the Colorado Party, including the 1954-1989 dictatorship of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner - went largely unfilled, due in part to his personal problems.
Another source of frustration for Lugo, who headed a broad-based coalition in favor of reform in the poor, landlocked South American nation, was obstruction and sabotage by Paraguay’s entrenched political establishment.
Paraguay’s Senate voted to oust Lugo three months ago after a turbo-charged impeachment process, finding him guilty of misfeasance for the events of June 15, when seven police and nine squatters were killed in a clash in the northeastern province of Canindeyu.
Land occupations are common in central and northeastern Paraguay. The peasants usually target massive soy plantations owned by businessmen from neighboring Brazil.
Paraguay’s Truth and Justice Commission said in a 2008 report that Stroessner’s regime illegally awarded titles to nearly 6.75 million hectares (16.66 million acres) of land.
Those “ill-gotten” properties represent almost a third of the country’s arable land, according to the commission.