Overview: In 2020 the Government of Paraguay was a receptive partner in counterterrorism cooperation with the United States. Paraguay’s challenges stem from ineffective immigration, customs, financial, and law enforcement controls along its porous borders, particularly the Tri-Border Area (TBA) with Argentina and Brazil, and its land border with Brazil — from the TBA to the city of Pedro Juan Caballero.
The Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP) — a domestic criminal group initially dedicated to a socialist revolution in Paraguay — extorted and intimidated the population and local governments in the northern departments of Amambay, Concepcíon, and San Pedro. Paraguayan authorities officially consider the EPP and its offshoots — Mariscal López’s Army (EML), and the Armed Peasant Association (ACA) — as organized criminal groups rather than terrorist organizations. However, Paraguayan leaders informally referred to the groups publicly as terrorist organizations. In September the Government of Paraguay’s Joint Task Force (FTC) conducted an operation against an EPP camp, after which two 11-year-old girls were found deceased under opaque circumstances. The Government of Paraguay increased its FTC presence in the Concepcíon department after the EPP Indigenous Brigade wing kidnapped former Vice President Óscar Denis on September 9; as of December 31 the government had not been able to locate Denis or Félix Urbieta, the other hostage believed still to be in EPP custody. The Government of Paraguay believes the EPP is a small, decentralized group of between 20 and 50 members. EPP’s, EML’s, and ACA’s activities have consisted largely of isolated attacks on remote police and army posts, or against ranchers and peasants accused of aiding Paraguayan security forces. Ranchers and ranch workers in northeastern Paraguay, including members of the Mennonite community, claimed the EPP frequently threatened both their livelihoods and personal security.
2020 Terrorist Incidents: Alleged elements of the EPP conducted kidnappings and sabotage operations:
- On May 9, five EPP members attacked a farm in Pedro Juan Caballero in Amambay department, where they burned a house, three tractors, and a pickup truck.
- On September 9, former Vice President Óscar Denis and his employee Adelio Mendoza disappeared from Denis’s ranch in the Concepcíon department. EPP representatives claimed responsibility for abducting Denis and Mendoza and made ransom demands, including releasing two EPP leaders from prison within 72 hours and distributing $2 million in foodstuffs to 40 indigenous communities. Denis’s family complied with the distribution of foodstuffs, but the government did not release the two EPP leaders. Captors released Mendoza on the evening of September 14, but Denis remained missing through year’s end.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: There were no changes in 2020.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Paraguay is a member of the GAFILAT, a FATF-style regional body. Its FIU, the Financial Intelligence Unit-Paraguay (known as UAF-SEPRELAD), is a member of the Egmont Group. Paraguay continued to implement a 2019 package of 12 anti-money laundering laws and passed new legislation to improve the administration of seized assets. The GAFILAT mutual evaluation, which started in 2019, was delayed until 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Paraguay has counterterrorist financing legislation and the ability to freeze and confiscate terrorist assets immediately, if requested to do so by another government. FATF and GAFILAT experts have noted that Paraguay possesses an adequate legal framework, even though the country falls short on implementation. In particular, government agencies struggled to coordinate effectively to detect, deter, and prosecute money laundering and terrorism financing.
On January 16, Presidential Decree 3241 designated the finance ministry as the law enforcement authority of Law 6446/2019, which established an administrative register of legal persons and entities and a register of final beneficiaries to facilitate governmental tracking of persons of interest in money laundering and terrorist financing investigations.
Also on January 16, Presidential Decree 3265 required the government to conduct a National Country Risk Assessment Regarding Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism every three years, with a methodology review to be conducted every six years.
The Paraguayan government registers and has reporting requirements for NGOs, including a mandate that non-profit organizations and NGOs set up internal monitoring and training procedures to guard against criminal or terrorism financing. Paraguay also requires the collection of data for wire transfers. Despite these mechanisms, government agencies’ efforts to enforce anti-money laundering/counterterrorist financing laws continued to lag.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2020 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.
Countering Violent Extremism: Paraguay had no CVE program in 2020.
International and Regional Cooperation: Paraguay supported counterterrorism efforts in regional and multilateral organizations and remained an active member of the Regional Security Mechanism established in 2019, despite the cancellation of meetings in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Paraguay also completed the OAS-CICTE’s project, “Technical Assistance for Implementation of Financial Sanctions Against Terrorism,” in 2020. The project contributed to training more than 500 individuals on the importance of implementing targeted sanctions regimes and how best to use the new laws to support this objective.