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Paraguay sees long fight against guerrillas

June 13, 2014

ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) — Paraguay’s defense minister said Friday it will take a long fight to defeat a guerrilla group operating in the country’s north.

Officials accuse the small, left-wing Paraguayan People’s Army of carrying out killings, kidnappings, bank robberies and attacks on police. Defense Minister Bernardino Soto told local radio on Friday that President Horacio Cartes and his administration are “concerned but not desperate” about the guerrillas’ actions.

“The only way to combat the group is by keeping a strong presence” in the northern regions where they operate and seeking help from the local population, Soto said.

Paraguay’s Gen. Alfredo Stroessner fought and ultimately defeated two guerrilla groups for more than 30 years during his 1954-1989 dictatorship. Dealing with the Paraguayan People’s Army may prove as tough a challenge, said political analyst Alfredo Boccia.

Even “if it’s just about 40 people in the group ... the number of people living in poor areas where they operate or who sympathize with them is much greater. So, it’s hard to catch them,” Boccia said. “They’re doing what the Vietnamese did against the united States forces in the 70s: by daytime they’re farmers, but at nighttime they become guerrillas.”

The rebels have been holding hostage 16-year-old Arlan Fick since April 2. They have refused to release him even after receiving a $500,000 ransom. The guerrilla group’s victims include 22 civilians, 12 police officers and three members of the military since 2008.

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