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Cablegate: Paraguay's Interior: Relative Calm Amid

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

46778,12/5/2005 20:33,05ASUNCION1480,"Embassy Asuncion",SECRET,05ASUNCION1329,"This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

","S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 05 ASUNCION 001480



E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/02/2015


F. 04 ASUNCION 1449

Classified By: PolOff Mark A. Stamilio, reason 1.4(d).

1. (SBU) Summary: PolOff traveled to the conflictive
Departments of Caaguazu and San Pedro 11/21 - 11/22. The
Governor of Caaguazu told PolOff that his top priority was to
address insecurity -- or at least public perceptions of
insecurity -- by establishing a regional police academy and a
mounted police force. XXXXXXXXXXXX for the cities of
Coronel Oviedo, Caaguazu and Villarica described the
recruitment practices of ""radicalized campesinos,"" and opined
that ""liberated zones"" (where the state is virtually absent)
existed in the region to the extent that outsiders could not
enter certain areas controlled by campesino groups without
those groups' permission. In the Department of San Pedro,
the Mayor of Lima touted his municipality's successes in
replacing marijuana cultivation with a number of alternative
crops. He was pleased that the Embassy's Office of Defense
Cooperation (ODC) had arranged to conduct a Medical Readiness
and Training Exercise (MEDRETE) in Lima in March. XXXXXXXXXXXX for the departmental capital, San Pedro de
Ycuamandyyu, described how official corruption and a general
lack of resources and support hindered the administration of
justice. XXXXXXXXXXXX described the more radical campesinos in San Pedro as ""militarized,"" and expressed concern about possible
unrest in January, when XXXXXXXXXXXX expects to indict four campesino leaders. End Summary.

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Governor of Caaguazu Focused on Perceptions of Insecurity
--------------------------------------------- ------------
2. (SBU) On 11/21, PolOff met with Caaguazu Governor Enzo
Cardozo in the departmental capital of Coronel Oviedo,
located 85 miles east of Asuncion. Cardozo noted that his
administration's resources were limited, so he had to
prioritize the programs he would pursue. He said his top
priority was to address insecurity -- or at least public
perceptions of insecurity -- in his department. Cardozo did
not cite any statistics to show that crime had risen in
recent years. Rather, he noted that his constituents felt
insecure (many of them pining for the ""security"" of the
Stroessner era, he added), so he chose addressing their
concerns about security as his administration's primary focus.

3. (U) Cardozo took PolOff to visit his showpiece project for
addressing insecurity, a regional Paraguayan National Police
(PNP) academy on the outskirts of Coronel Oviedo. The
academy was inaugurated in 2004, and is the country's first
ever outside of Asuncion. The cadets who attend the academy
hail from Caaguazu and three neighboring departments.
Cardozo said he hopes to reach an agreement with the PNP to
increase the number of graduates who return to their home
communities to work after completing their training. He also
hopes to convince the neighboring departments to assist
Caaguazu with funding for the program in the future. In
addition to the police academy, Cardozo proposes to have
mounted police patrolling the department's cities as a means
to demonstrate his commitment to addressing residents'
concerns about security.

4. (SBU) Cardozo said his second priority was to create
employment for young people entering the job market. He
lamented the influx of recent graduates to Caaguazu's cities
with no real employment prospects, and expressed a desire to
create new sources of ""urban employment."" He did not offer
any detailed plans for implementing such a scheme.

5. (SBU) Bio Note: In addition to being Governor of Caaguazu,
Cardozo is Vice President of the Liberal Party (PLRA). He
was elected Governor in 2003. He is a lawyer by trade, and
appears to be in his mid- to late-thirties. He seems very
much the politician -- more of a grip-and-grin
mover-and-shaker than an intellectual heavy-hitter. He was
pleased to have a USG visitor, and mentioned that he had
requested an appointment with the Ambassador some time ago.
End Bio Note.

XXXXXXXXXXXX Describes Radical Groups' Recruitment Practices ...
--------------------------------------------- -----------------
6. (SBU) PolOff met separately with XXXXXXXXXXXX, the XXXXXXXXXXXX for Coronel Oviedo, Caaguazu and Villarica,
at his office in the city of XXXXXXXXXXXX. During the meeting,
XXXXXXXXXXXX described the recruitment practices of ""radicalized
campesinos"" in the Departments of Caaguazu, San Pedro and

7. (SBU) XXXXXXXXXXXX said radical members of the Patria Libre
Party (PPL), the left-wing extremist movement responsible for
kidnapping and murdering former President Raul Cubas'
daughter Cecilia Cubas in 2004-2005 (refs A and B), routinely
visit Catholic catechism classes in search of students who
demonstrate a tendency to question authority or show an
inclination toward extremist views. They typically select
five to ten recruits from each class, put them through an
initial indoctrination to determine which ones accept or
espouse the most extreme views, and then further indoctrinate
the most radical recruits to groom them for future leadership
positions within the organization. XXXXXXXXXXXX said the PPL
employs such recruitment practices on a continuous basis,
constantly replenishing their ranks and grooming new leaders.
Thus, when PPL leaders Juan Arrom and Anuncio Marti fled the
country for Brazil in 2003 (while under investigation for the
2001 kidnapping of Maria Edith Bordon de Debarnardi (ref A)),
PPL faction leader Osmar Martinez took the helm; and now that
Martinez is in jail pending trial for Ms. Cubas' kidnapping
and murder, someone else will step right in to take his place.

8. (S) Comment: Although Arrom and Marti's absence from
Paraguay may have enabled Martinez and his militant PPL
faction to act independently, sensitive reporting indicates
that Arrom retains overall control of the party. There is
some evidence that Arrom and Martinez were at odds over the
latter's plans to kidnap Ms. Cubas, and that Marti attempted
to mediate the dispute. End Comment.

9. (SBU) XXXXXXXXXXXX said he learned about such groups'
recruitment practices by talking to people in the countryside
who have witnessed them first-hand. He added that he has
interviewed the parents and siblings of Aldo and Magna Meza,
a brother-sister PPL duo involved in the Debarnardi
kidnapping, and ""the entire family"" appears to have been
educated ""beyond what is normal for someone of their
(campesino) background"" and indoctrinated in ""radical
ideology."" XXXXXXXXXXXX said the same holds true for Antonio and
Jorge Galeano, who hail from the remote town of Vaqueria in
Caaguazu Department and lead the radical People's Agrarian
Movement (Movimiento Agrario y Popular, or MAP). In June,
two campesinos were killed and one was seriously wounded in a
dispute over land claimed by Brazilian immigrant landowners
in the vicinity of the Tekojoja settlement, near Vaqueria
(ref B).

10. (S) Comment: Sensitive reporting indicates that Aldo Meza
received FARC training, and that his sister Magna may have,
as well. End Comment.

11. (SBU) XXXXXXXXXXXX did not know who funded the activities of
these radical campesino groups. However, he noted that
certain Catholic Church officials lent their ""unconditional
support"" to the campesino movement, and that the Bishop of
Caaguazu ""frequently pays off local officials to get
campesinos released from jail."" Additionally, when PolOff
asked about the presence of Cuban doctors in the region,
XXXXXXXXXXXX said Cuban doctors were working in Vaqueria and
other highly conflictive areas in neighboring Caazapa
Department. He could not say whether the doctors were
involved in political activities.

12. (SBU) Comment: The former Bishop of San Pedro, Monsignor
Fernando Lugo, is an outspoken advocate for campesino groups
(ref E). Some charge him with fomenting rural violence.
Church leaders forced him to resign as Bishop in January,
within one year after he was admonished in writing for
failing to follow Episcopal guidelines. His prominent role
in supporting campesino land seizures during several months
of rural unrest in late 2004 may have been the last straw. A
pair of San Pedro ranchers told PolOff that they have noted a
significant decrease in radical campesino activity since Lugo
resigned and relocated to another department. End Comment.

... and So-Called ""Liberated Zones""
13. (SBU) XXXXXXXXXXXX opined that ""liberated zones"" (where the
state is virtually absent) existed in the region to the
extent that outsiders could not enter certain areas
controlled by campesino groups without those groups'
permission. XXXXXXXXXXXX said, for example, that he could not
enter certain areas to investigate crimes without a sizable
police escort. If he were to show up unescorted, he would be
""turned around"" -- i.e., physically denied access to the
area. If he were to show up with ""a sizable police escort,""
on the other hand, the campesinos would grant him access to
the area and ""treat him like an honored guest, inviting him
to sit and drink traditional 'terere' and talk at length"" --
all of which, XXXXXXXXXXXX said, was a facade to make it appear
that the campesinos were cooperating with the authorities.
Likewise, campesinos allow police officers they know to enter
such areas. An unfamiliar police officer, however, would be
confronted and denied access.

14. (SBU) XXXXXXXXXXXX could not say whether these ""liberated
zones"" existed to prevent the government from controlling
campesino activities generally, to hide and protect marijuana
plantations more specifically, or for some other reason. He
said, however, that marijuana cultivation had always been a
problem in the region, so the fact that marijuana was being
cultivated there would not explain the more recent
establishment of ""liberated zones.""

15. (C) Comment: Political commentators have used the term
""liberated zone"" to mean a wide variety of things (ref D).
In the context of Paraguay, it does not refer to territory
ruled by guerrillas, as in Colombia. We have seen no hard
evidence of a significant armed presence or guerrilla
training camps in Paraguay's countryside. End Comment.

16. (SBU) Bio Note: XXXXXXXXXXXX appears to be a seasoned and
knowledgeable XXXXXXXXXXXX, and a serious, honest
and upright XXXXXXXXXXXX. He is a self-described
campesino who hails from the town of XXXXXXXXXXXX, in
XXXXXXXXXXXX Department. XXXXXXXXXXXX said he values his
family's reputation and good name more than any fortune he
could amass by abusing his position of authority. He
expressed disgust for two employees in his office in Caaguazu
who he believes are using their authority to extort bribes.
XXXXXXXXXXXX said he uses his campesino roots to his advantage in
investigating cases, donning a baseball cap or traditional
straw hat when he goes out to talk to locals, and conversing
with them in native Guarani. The XXXXXXXXXXXX
also takes advantage of XXXXXXXXXXXX access to locals, relying
on him to negotiate with campesino groups that invade or
threaten to invade private land. End Bio Note.

Mayor of Lima Touts Municipality's Successes
17. (U) On 11/22, PolOff, EconOff, and USAID Deputy Mission
Director met with Julio Franco, the Mayor of Lima, in San
Pedro Department, to deliver a book donation for an
agriculture school the Ambassador visited in August, in the
remote community of Carumbey, which is located approximately
185 miles north of Asuncion (ref C). PolOff took advantage
of the meeting with Franco to discuss the security situation
in Lima.

18. (U) Franco insisted that San Pedro's reputation for rural
unrest and insecurity did not hold true in Lima. He said the
situation was fairly heated there in 1999-2000, but the
civic-minded residents of his municipality resisted the
influx of narco-mafioso types and drove them out of town. He
claimed marijuana cultivation was way down since then, and
that, with his administration's help, residents had
identified a number of alternative crops to grow and sell.
Franco admitted that some residents continued to grow
marijuana, but claimed they were a small minority. He said
there were no ""liberated zones"" in Lima, claiming that he
could go anywhere he wanted, whenever he wanted, without
police escort.

19. (U) Franco said ""everyone in Lima has a vegetable garden
now"" and people no longer rely on local merchants to bring in
staples such as mandioca (manioc). He showcased a large, red
onion as an example of a crop that, until recently, no one
thought would grow in the region's soil. Likewise, the
residents of Carumbey are growing and selling a wide variety
of herbs and the natural sweetener stevia, products Franco
previously touted as alternatives to growing marijuana (ref

20. (SBU) Comment: A pair of San Pedro ranchers with whom the
Embassy has regular contact took issue with Franco's claims,
telling PolOff that Lima continues to be a major source of
marijuana. It is difficult to gauge which version is more
accurate. The ranchers' interests diverge with the Mayor's.
DEA does not have any specific information regarding
marijuana cultivation in Lima. End Comment.

21. (SBU) Note: Franco was pleased that the Embassy's Office
of Defense Cooperation (ODC) had arranged to conduct a
Medical Readiness and Training Exercise (MEDRETE) in Lima in
March. He said local hospitals are stretched thin and have
to send patients to the regional hospital, which, in turn,
becomes overburdened and has to send patients to Asuncion.
End Note.

22. (SBU) Bio Note: Franco is a member of the ruling Colorado
Party (ANR). He is an agronomist by trade. He appears to be
in his mid- to late-thirties, and purportedly speaks English.
He welcomes Embassy visits and USG assistance for his
municipality. End Bio Note.

XXXXXXXXXXXX Laments Police Corruption, and Lack of
Resources and Support ...
--------------------------------------------- --------------
23. (SBU) PolOff met separately with XXXXXXXXXXXX, the
XXXXXXXXXXXX for the departmental capital, San Pedro de
Ycuamandyyu, which is located approximately 65 miles east of
Lima and Carumbey. XXXXXXXXXXXX said XXXXXXXXXXXX biggest obstacle as a XXXXXXXXXXXX was an unreliable, untrustworthy police force. XXXXXXXXXXXX said that XXXXXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXXXXX colleagues simply ""cannot work with
the PNP."" The second biggest obstacle XXXXXXXXXXXX faced was a lack of support from the government. XXXXXXXXXXXX cited the GOP's failure to do more to resolve the campesino crisis as an example, saying no matter how much XXXXXXXXXXXX did as a XXXXXXXXXXXX, the crisis would persist until the government decided to address the underlying social issues.

24. (SBU) XXXXXXXXXXXX described how corruption and a general lack of resources hindered efforts to combat marijuana production
in San Pedro. The first difficulty was locating the
marijuana. Since XXXXXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXXXXX colleagues did not have helicopter support, they had to rely on corrupt, local police
in remote areas to tell them where the marijuana was growing.
The vast majority of police withheld information to protect
the growers in exchange for bribes. The second difficulty
was reaching areas where marijuana was grown. Even when
civic-minded residents reported marijuana cultivation, it was
difficult to launch operations, given the lack of cooperation
from the police and the inaccessibility of target sites (accessible in some instances only by motorcycle or helicopter). XXXXXXXXXXXX noted that XXXXXXXXXXXX also had to work against corruption among XXXXXXXXXXXX colleagues in the XXXXXXXXXXXX. XXXXXXXXXXXX is currently processing a case against a fellow XXXXXXXXXXXX, two or three other employees from XXXXXXXXXXXX office, and three or four police officers in XXXXXXXXXXXX district for their involvement in marijuana trafficking.

... and Describes the ""Militarization"" of Campesinos
--------------------------------------------- -------
25. (SBU) XXXXXXXXXXXX described the more radical campesinos in
San Pedro as ""militarized."" XXXXXXXXXXXX said they have been
indoctrinated to follow orders according to a military-style
hierarchy of authority. XXXXXXXXXXXX said campesino
organizers/agitators routinely manipulated campesinos' plight
and exploited the government's lack of attention to the
problem. XXXXXXXXXXXX did not know where the organizers/agitators learned their militaristic doctrine, since they were locals. XXXXXXXXXXXX acknowledged the presence of Cuban doctors in the region. XXXXXXXXXXXX did not know whether the doctors played a role in fomenting unrest, but XXXXXXXXXXXX did not rule out the possibility.

26. (SBU) XXXXXXXXXXXX opined that the current lull in radical
campesino activity was just the calm before the next storm.
XXXXXXXXXXXX expressed concern about possible unrest in January, when XXXXXXXXXXXX expects to indict four campesino leaders. XXXXXXXXXXXX counterpart in Caaguazu, XXXXXXXXXXXX, expressed a similar sentiment, opining that Paraguay was enjoying a
""temporary calm"" in the long-standing campesino crisis.

27. (SBU) Bio Note: XXXXXXXXXXXX appears less seasoned and
knowledgeable than XXXXXXXXXXXX, but equally serious and honest.
End Bio Note.

28. (SBU) Comment: The insights and opinions each of these
officials offered put into perspective some of the region's
challenges and priorities. Those challenges are security
related, but also hinge on a lack of economic opportunity,
particularly as regards the land-dependent campesino
population. A number of officials are trying in earnest to
improve the situation, but their isolation, lack of
resources, and an unreliable police force present very real
obstacles on the path to establishing a significant state
presence in the country's more remote areas. They are also
handicapped by the central government's inability to meet
impoverished, under-employed campesinos' demands for more
land, support and social services. There is no indication
that a major crisis is imminent, but national officials
continue to neglect much of the countryside, allowing
long-standing and deep-rooted problems to persist. Until the
government finds a comprehensive solution to those problems,
the potential for future unrest will remain. End Comment.

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