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Cablegate: Embassy Is Not Spared As Crime Continues to Rise in Asuncion

VZCZCXYZ0011
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHAC #0661 3272120
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 232120Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASUNCION
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0206
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION

id: 236241
date: 11/23/2009 21:20
refid: 09ASUNCION661
origin: Embassy Asuncion
classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
destination: 09ASUNCION512
header:
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RR RUEHWEB
DE RUEHAC #0661 3272120
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 232120Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASUNCION
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0206
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION
----------------- header ends ----------------
UNCLAS ASUNCION 000661
SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
DEPARTMENT FOR WHA DAS MCCMULLEN, WHA/BSC MILTON DRUCKER, MARY DASHBACH
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC AMGT ALOW
SUBJECT: EMBASSY IS NOT SPARED AS CRIME CONTINUES TO RISE IN ASUNCION
REF: ASUNCION 512
1. (U) SUMMARY: Over the course of the past six months, Asuncion
has experienced a notable increase in crime. The crime wave has
impacted the Embassy community, but most recently the Paraguayan
National Police have reacted quickly to arrest suspects. Case in
point: on November 16 the Paraguayan National Police successfully
arrested the suspected assailant in the armed robbery of two
Fulbright Scholars in downtown Asuncion. The robbery took place on
November 11, at approximately 10:00 P.M. local time in a busy
public area of central Asuncion. The investigation and successful
arrest represents a rare success in what has been a year of rising
crime and instability in Asuncion and Paraguay as whole. END
SUMMARY.
--------------------------------
Rising Anxiety over Crime
--------------------------------
2. (U) In July 2009 the Paraguayan National Police Office of
Public Affairs released updated crime statistics showing that
violent crimes in Asuncion for 2009 had already surpassed the
annual total for 2008 and that crime levels throughout the country
were also up sharply. This information, although of debatable
statistical veracity, added to the already rising sense of
insecurity among Paraguayans. The media contribute to the general
anxiety over crime by highlighting spectacular robberies and
violent crimes with front page headlines and horrific photos. The
overall sense of rising insecurity is only exacerbated by
perception of widespread corruption and incompetence within the
Paraguayan law enforcement elements. The Paraguayan National
Police have been directly involved in several high profile criminal
incidents this year; one being the attempted assassination of a
Lebanese businessman by a police officer and another the kidnapping
and eventual death of a teenager by a group involving police.
Senior levels of the police are also tainted by allegations of
corruption, with three different individuals holding the position
of Commander of the National Police with the last calendar year,
and one recently replaced Commander holding an ostentatious 15th
birthday for his daughter with over 600 invited guests.
Paraguayans can frequently be heard referring nostalgically to the
days of the Stroessner dictatorship when crime was supposedly
nonexistent and people could sleep soundly without locking their
doors.
---------------------------
Embassy Not Immune
---------------------------
3. (SBU) Embassy personnel have not been immune to increasing
criminal activity in Asuncion. Within the last year Embassy
housing has suffered one break-in, with a laptop computer and
jewelry stolen, and another attempted burglary. Six vehicles
belonging to mission personnel have been broken into with laptop
computers, cash, and personal belongings stolen. Most seriously,
a member of the Embassy staff was drugged, beaten, and robbed in
early 2009. The armed robbery of November 11 is merely the latest
criminal incident against Embassy personnel. The Regional Security
Office has responded with regular security advisories, updated
briefings, enhanced training for the local guard force, and
strengthened cooperation with the Paraguayan National Police. The
successful arrest and ensuing confession in the armed robbery on
November 11, following a joint investigation and ruse operation, is
an outstanding example of the Regional Security Office working with
the Paraguayan National Police to protect American citizens.
4. (U) Although it is not surprising that the Embassy has not been
spared from Asuncion's increasing crime, the large number of events
that affect Embassy personnel is cause for concern. As the
Government of Paraguay struggles to improve security, with the
still unresolved kidnapping (see Reftel) shaking the confidence of
the public, criminal activity is expected to continue to increase
- and the Embassy will increase its vigilance accordingly.
AYALDE
=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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