Paraguay

Overview:  In 2022 the Government of Paraguay continued to be a receptive partner on counterterrorism cooperation with the United States.  Paraguay’s challenges on CT cooperation stem from ineffective immigration, customs, financial, and law enforcement controls along its porous borders, particularly the TBA with Argentina and Brazil, and its dry border with Brazil from the TBA to Pedro Juan Caballero.

Since 2008, persons claiming to be part of the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP) — a domestic criminal group initially dedicated to a socialist revolution in Paraguay — have conducted violent acts meant to extort and intimidate the population and local governments in the northern departments of Amambay, Concepción, and San Pedro.  Paraguayan authorities officially consider the EPP and its offshoots — the Ejército del Mariscal López (EML) and Agrupación Campesina Armada (ACA), the latter of which reemerged in 2020 — as organized criminal groups rather than terrorist organizations.  However, in public remarks, Paraguayan leaders occasionally refer to them informally as such.

On October 23 the Government of Paraguay’s Joint Task Force (FTC) killed EPP leader Osvaldo Villalba moments after Villalba executed two Indigenous persons he believed were cooperating with the authorities.  The Government of Paraguay believes the death of Villalba severely degraded the EPP’s operational capabilities and estimates the group currently contains fewer than 20 members.  The activities of the ACA, EML, and EPP have consisted largely of isolated attacks either 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.  Three individuals — including former vice president Oscar Denis — remained missing after kidnappings attributed to the EPP.

2022 Terrorist Incidents:  Alleged elements of the EPP and ACA continued to conduct killings and sabotage operations:

  • On April 27 an EPP-conducted IED attack injured three FTC soldiers on the border between Concepción and Amambay Departments.
  • On November 21 a group of suspected EPP members wounded three police officers when attempting to overrun a police outpost in Amambay Department.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  Paraguay passed no new terrorism-related legislation in 2022.

Paraguay’s efforts to provide more effective law enforcement and border security suffered from a lack of interagency cooperation and information sharing, a chronic lack of resources, as well as pervasive corruption within security, border control, and judicial institutions.  The TBA remained particularly vulnerable, as the ineffective — and often corrupt — police, military, customs, and migration agency presence along these borders allows for a largely unregulated flow of people, goods, and money.

Paraguay struggles to deter terrorist travel.  On May 13, airport authorities in Ciudad del Este permitted a cargo plane owned by a Venezuelan airline subject to U.S. sanctions to land at the Guaraní International Airport.  According to the flight manifest, the plane contained 11 Venezuelan crew members and seven Iranians, one with ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force.  According to government sources, airport officials did not follow proper security procedures by allowing the plane to land.  The plane departed Ciudad del Este on May 16, reportedly loaded with cigarettes produced by a company owned by former president Horacio Cartes consigned for delivery to a separate Cartes-owned company in the United States.  The plane later landed in Argentina, where on August 11 authorities seized it in response to a U.S. court order.  Paraguay currently is receiving international assistance to better utilize API and improve its border screening technology and capabilities.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  Paraguay is a member of GAFILAT; its FIU, Financial Intelligence Unit Paraguay, is a member of the Egmont Group.  GAFILAT adopted Paraguay’s mutual evaluation report in July and assessed that the country made significant improvements to comply with global AML/CFT standards but had achieved only a moderate level of effectiveness.  GAFILAT further noted that, while Paraguay had not achieved any convictions for terrorist financing, it had continued to increase the number of investigations initiated under its terrorism statutes.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2022 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism:  Paraguay had no CVE program in 2022.

International and Regional Cooperation:  Paraguay continued to support CT efforts in regional and multilateral organizations, including by participation in CICTE.  It continued to collaborate with Argentina and Brazil on border security initiatives, regional exchanges, and law enforcement projects.  The three countries coordinated law enforcement efforts in the TBA through their Trilateral Tri-Border Area Command.

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