Paraguay's left-wing guerrilla group has no links with drug-trafficking reported the first in-depth academic study on the matter, as it was presented Wednesday in Asuncion.
The conclusion came after three years of field work in the northern region of Paraguay, where a lot of the country's production of marijuana comes from and where the rebels operate.
“Our investigation found that they are not related with drug-trafficking,” said lawyer and criminologist Juan Martens, who participated in the study funded by the National Council of Science and Technology. “This is one of the hypothesis we ruled out because they have other sources of funding.”
The guerrilla group, founded in 2008, seems to fund itself via the “revolutionary tax” imposed on the ranchers and land owners located in the group's zone of influence, as well as kidnappings, found the researchers.
The guerrillas have detained a police officer since July 2014 — the longest kidnapping reported since the guerrilla group was created — and a tenant farmer since August 2015. In February this year, they released a man after his family delivered food to two rural communities as they requested.
The rebels can rely on the support of local campesinos when they need to hide, added Martens during the presentation. Meanwhile, the government has used the EPP's existence as “the perfect pretext” to criminalize the struggles of campesinos in the region.
The group of 15 researchers found that the EPP has paid the university fees of a number of students in a bid to appeal to new members among students.
As a consequence of drug-trafficking, the northern region of Paraguay bordering Brazil is allegedly one of the most dangerous regions of the world, with between 75 to 90 murders for 100,000 people per year.
The region mostly consists in crops dedicated to cattle or marijuana, with numerous airstrips for unlicensed planes. While authorities prefer to turn a blind eye to the illegal activities, journalists who report on drug-trafficking and corruption often risk being killed like Pablo Medina, assassinated in October 2014.
The current government of Horacio Cartes, elected as the result of the parliamentary coup against Paraguay's only progressive President Fernando Lugo, obtained extraordinary funds to fight the guerilla — about US$132 million in the past three years, with little transparency about how the funds were spent.
Paraguay is the biggest producer of marijuana in South America.