Paraguay: 2 EPP leaders killed in confrontation

ASUNCIÓN (HPD) — A confrontation between Paraguayan special forces and the guerrilla called the Army of the Paraguayan People (EPP) in a state bordering Brazil, in the northeast of the country, left five people dead on Sunday, including two alleged leaders of the organization, officials said.

One of the deceased is who is considered by the authorities to be the leader of the EPP, Commander Osvaldo Villalba, as well as Luciano Argüello, another of the alleged high-ranking members of the war who operates in the north of the country. The third member of the EPP has not yet been identified.

Villalba, also known as ‘Comandante Alexander’, was the brother of Carmen Villalba, one of the founders of the EPP.

In the operation, which took place around noon, two indigenous people were also killed and one more was injured. President Mario Abdo confirmed the events on Sunday afternoon, after traveling to the scene of the confrontation.

The Internal Operations Defense Command (CODI) of the Paraguayan Joint Task Forces (FTC) had reported hours before the operation, which took place in the Cerro Guazú sector, in the department of Amambay.

The authorities described the operation “as the most important” against a “terrorist structure” in the country, said Commissioner Nimio Cardozo, head of Anti-Kidnapping of the Paraguayan police, at a press conference. “Nothing more and nothing less than the maximum leader” of the EPP, in charge of the entire “operational direction”.

“These two people are very important leaders of this criminal structure,” added Cardozo, who indicated that work is already underway to identify the third member of the guerrilla who was killed.

The first reports indicated that the Paraguayan army had killed two members of the guerrilla, and later the death of another member was confirmed.

The injured person was airlifted to a nearby hospital, where he was admitted in stable condition but with a reserved prognosis, the institution reported via Twitter. She would later be transferred to a hospital in Asunción for her recovery, the Paraguayan president reported.

The operation is the result of more than a year of intelligence work by the Paraguayan forces, reported the president, who congratulated all the institutions involved in the operation. Abdo lamented the death of the other two Paraguayans and asked the EPP to abandon their fight and lay down their arms.

The bodies were being transferred to the Paraguayan capital for autopsy, the prosecutor’s office said on social networks.

The EPP, which operates mainly in the forests of the departments of San Pedro and Concepción, is accused by the authorities of being responsible for the murder of at least 21 soldiers, 13 police officers and 28 civilians since 2008.

Through pamphlets and videos that it distributes clandestinely, the group ensures that it cares for the local environment, opposes mechanized agriculture with transgenic seeds and the use of agrochemicals, and does not appear to be affiliated with any international ideological nomenclature.

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