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Cablegate: Ppl Members Indicted for Kidnapping As Land

VZCZCXYZ0002
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHAC #0709/01 2941349
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 201349Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY ASUNCION
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7319
INFO RUCNMER/MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

S E C R E T ASUNCION 000709

SIPDIS

STATE FOR DS/DSS/ITA, DS/IP/WHA, AND WHA/BSC MDASCHBACH

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/16/2028
TAGS: PTER ASEC PINS PGOV PA BR AR
SUBJECT: PPL MEMBERS INDICTED FOR KIDNAPPING AS LAND
DISPUTES HEAT UP

REF: A. 06 ASUN 1208
B. ASUN 181

Classified By: DCM Michael J. Fitzpatrick for reasons 1.4 (b)
and (d).

1. (C) SUMMARY: Paraguayan authorities indicted former Free
Fatherland Party (PPL) members Manuel Cristaldo Mieres and
Osvaldo Villalba September 23 for the kidnapping (and
post-ransom release) of former Tacuati mayor and wealthy
rancher Luis Alberto Lindstron. Whether politically or just
financially motivated, the Lindstron kidnapping has
heightened already high tensions in the San Pedro and
Concepcion departments, as landless peasant movements -- some
of them armed -- appear actively seeking confrontation with
"Braziguayo" large-scale landholders. Meanwhile, press
reports suggest that Argentina has decided not to extend
political asylum to six PPL members being held there pending
extradition to Paraguay for previous kidnappings. The issues
of unjust land titling and armed violence for political
purposes are thus pushing onto the Lugo Administration's
agenda -- whether it is ready or not. END SUMMARY.

2. (C) Paraguayan authorities indicted former Free
Fatherland Party (PPL) members Manuel Cristaldo-Mieres and
Osvaldo Villalba September 23 in connection with the
kidnapping of rancher and former mayor of Tacuati (San Pedro,
Department) Luis Alberto Lindstron. Five subjects kidnapped
Lindstron July 31 in Horqueta, Concepcion Department (near
the border with San Pedro) and released him September 12
after Lindstron's family paid the kidnappers USD 300,000.
Cristaldo Miers and Villalba -- who are still at large -- are
also wanted for their alleged roles in the 2004 kidnapping
and 2005 murder of Cecilia Cubas, the daughter of former
President Raul Cubas Grau (ref A). Prosecutors indicted
Cristaldo and Villalba based on testimonies given by
Lindstron and his brother, Amado Lindstron, who publicly
claimed that he delivered the ransom money to a man he
subsequently identified from pictures as Cristaldo Miers.

3. (C) The Ultima Hora newspaper reported September 20 that
prosecutors believe Cristaldo and Mieres targeted Lindstron
as a wealthy rancher. Prosecutor Alejo Vera told the press
that the group possesses M-16 rifles, hand grenades,
camouflaged uniforms, and rubber boots similar to ones used
by the FARC. Prosecutor Sandra Quinonez told the Regional
Legal Advisor (RLA) September 22 she was certain that
Lindstron's kidnappers also abducted Cubas and Maria Bordon
de Debernardi, the wife of a wealthy businessman who was
kidnapped in 2001. Quinonez alleged that the kidnappers are
former PPL members with proven, historical ties to the FARC
based on evidence presented during the Cubas trial. She
noted that Lindstron's kidnappers repeatedly invoked a phrase
during ransom negotiated used by PPL members who kidnapped
Cubas and Debernardi -- "Don't hurt the poor; hurt the rich."
She also told RLA that prosecutors confiscated from former
PPL members in Tacumbu Prison cellphones and a list of
potential kidnapping victims that included the names of other
ranchers in Concepcion and San Pedro departments. Unlike the
urban kidnappings pursued by the PPL in years past, Lindstron
was not confined in a house or in a single place; he was kept
on the move in the countryside throughout his 42 days of
captivity. His captors received some level of support from
local communities they passed near, and, he concluded,
clearly knew the area very well. San Pedro and Concepcion
Departments, meanwhile, remain the scenes of heightened
tensions over campesino land invasions and threats of armed
conflict between various "landless" peasant movements -- some
of them now reportedly armed -- and "Braziguayo" largescale
land-holders (mostly cattlemen or soy producers) and the
police.

4. (S/NF) Post has no evidence that Lindstron's kidnappers
maintain any current direct links to the FARC or other
foreign revolutionary groups. An e-mail message from
Villalba found on FARC leader Raul Reyes' laptop computer
indicated that the PPL owed the FARC USD 300,000 for its
share of the ransom collected following Debernardi's 2001
kidnapping. Sensitive reporting has not revealed any direct
links between former PPL members and the FARC since the 2004
Cecilia Cubas kidnapping. Absent better information on the
membership of the two groups, no links have surfaced between
the so-called Paraguayan People's Army (EPP), an armed group
that vandalized a ranch in Concepcion Department March 12 and
is said to be formed by former members of the PPL (ref B),
and Lindstron's kidnappers. That said, imprisoned former PPL
member Carmen Villalba -- and Osvaldo Villalba's sister --
confirmed the existence of the EPP in March and claimed to
serve as its "spokesperson," something she has repeated to
the media as recently as October 18. However, the EPP has
not claimed responsibility for any acts of violence since
March, and Lindstron's kidnappers did not ever identify
themselves to Lindstron or the public as EPP (or anyone
else). The absence of the trumpeting of any such
revolutionary self-identification, however, is not proof of
its non-existence -- as thousands kidnapped by (or sold to)
the FARC or ELN in Colombia can attest. And if Lindstron's
brother is to be believed, he did directly pay the ransom to
an ex-PPL leader on the run and believed now tied to the
amorphous EPP.

5. (C) Coincidentally, Paraguayan media report that
Argentina's Interior Minister announced October 10 that
Argentina has decided not to grant political asylum to six
PPL members currently incarcerated at Marco Paz Prison
outside Buenos Aires pursuant to a Paraguayan extradition
request. The Argentine Supreme Court reportedly must now
confirm the government's decision before the six -- now on
hunger strikes -- can be returned to Paraguay.

6. (C) COMMENT: Despite using weapons, clothing, and
rhetoric that mimic the FARC, witness testimony and
prosecutors' statements thus far suggest Lindstron's
kidnappers are operating autonomously. But there is no
evidence upon which to conclude that the band has given up
armed struggle and are now purely commercial kidnappers. It
seems more likely that, like the FARC, PPL remnants are
intent -- no matter the long odds -- on using seemingly
apolitical kidnappings both to destabilize rural society and
to obtain an important revenue stream ultimately destined for
promoting revolutionary activity. While any armed group --
political or not -- in rural San Pedro or Concepcion is not
now an existential threat to the Lugo government, continuing
reports of their presence comes in the midst of rising
numbers of campesino land invasions (some of which have led
to deaths in police confrontations), heightened fears of
kidnappings, new restrictions on land titling, increased
anti-Brazilian sentiments -- and the potential for much more
of the same. As such, it is an issue the Lugo government
cannot afford to ignore. END COMMENT.

Please visit us at http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/asuncion

AYALDE

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