Paraguay’s April 21 presidential election has apparently been concluded with a victory for the Colorado Party candidate, Horacio Cartes. But a leftist insurgency that was already simmering has now been brought to the boiling point as reports emerge that elements of the Ejercito del Pueblo Paraguayo (EPP) or Paraguayan People’s Army engaged in a fire fight with national police officers in a small town in northeastern Paraguay.
According to Peter Tase, Spero columnist and analyst, at least two police officers have been killed in an armed affray at Kuruzú de Hierro, a small town in the Concepción region. EPP attacked a police station and a polling place at Kuruzú, but were fended off at nearby Horqueta. Concepción is heavily forested and one of the poorest areas of the country. According to local media reports, a contingent of at least 50 police officers is on the way to respond to the guerrilla attack.
Tase reacted to the news, saying “The recent EPP attack is one of a series of attacks experienced by local people in Concepción. With the departure of U.S. military assistance, EPP has benefited from tremendous funding and materiél provided by the Chavista government of Venezuela. Hopefully, the U.S. will reach out to the new government in Paraguay and prevent this local problem from becoming a hemispheric problem. If EPP is not addressed appropriately, it could well become like the Colombian narcoterrorists known as FARC.”
One of the leftist insurgents, Francisco Denis Almirón (52), lost control of his motorcycle during the attack, and was subsequently killed by police during the attack at Kuruzú. Another guerrillero, Isabelino Riveros Velásquez, escaped from the scene on another motorcycle. At Horqueta, a reinforced police presence was able to fight off a subsequent attack.
At the site of the attacks, the EPP left leaflets condemning the death Benjamin “Toto” Lezcano, a political leader among local farmers. The leaflets declared that the attack was in retaliation for Leszcano’s murder. He was gunned down in front of his home on February 18 of this year in Nucleo Tres Arroyito, another nearby hamlet.
Critics of former leftist President Fernando Lugo, a former Catholic bishop, contend that he had links to EPP and point out that during his truncated term in office, his government did not manage to arrest any members of the outlawed militant group despite several EPP attacks in 2012 before his impeachment and removal from office in June 2012. EPP has been linked to Colombia’s narcoterrorist FARC (Fuerzas Armas Revolucionarias de Colombia)that has long engaged in cocaine trafficking, kidnapping, rocket attacks and assassinations.