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Cablegate: Release of Kidnap Victim Boosts Lugo Administration

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHAC #0039 0192232
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O R 191851Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY ASUNCION
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0398
INFO MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USSOCOM FP MACDILL AFB FL
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA

C O N F I D E N T I A L ASUNCION 000039

SIPDIS
WHA/FO CMCMULLEN, WHA/BSC MDRUCKER, BFRIEDMAN, MDASCHBACH

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2035/01/19
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KCRM SNAR PA CO BR
SUBJECT: RELEASE OF KIDNAP VICTIM BOOSTS LUGO ADMINISTRATION

REF: A. ASUNCION 33; B. 09 ASUNCION 677; C. 09 ASUNCION 613

CLASSIFIED BY: Perry Holloway, DCM; REASON: 1.4(B), (C), (D)

1. (U) The Paraguayan People's Army (EPP) released wealthy
cattle rancher Fidel Zavala Serrati January 18 after 94 days in
captivity. EPP members seized Zavala at gunpoint from his rural
ranch October 15 (reftel C). To comply with the EPP's three
pre-release demands, the Zavala family paid a ransom of USD
550,000, distributed meat to poor communities (reftel A), and urged
government security forces to abandon their rescue efforts. The
Paraguayan government pledged to capture the perpetrators.

2. (C) While the Zavala family maintained discrete contact
with elements of the Paraguayan government during the crisis, they
did not overtly cooperate with the Paraguayan National Police, and
publically opposed government intervention. The family worked
closely with Columbian government anti-kidnapping experts brought
to Paraguay by President Fernando Lugo's government. Interior
Minister Rafael Filizzola mobilized elite forces at his disposal
for two security operations designed to capture EPP members. The
GOP brought Brazilian technical teams to Paraguay to intercept
telephone calls between the EPP and the Zavala family, and to
triangulate radio signals to determine the kidnappers' locations.

3. (U) Lugo and Filizzola held a press conference near
midnight January 18 to praise Zavala's release and announce
immediate actions to apprehend those responsible for the
kidnapping. Lugo proclaimed "this government is not going to rest
until security has been returned to the people." The public and
most politicians overwhelmingly praised the outcome and
congratulated the government.

4. (C) COMMENT: Zavala's successful release provides an
immediate boost to the beleaguered Lugo administration. Lugo's
ability to work well with the Colombians and Brazilians also
highlights successful international cooperation. If the Interior
Ministry is able to follow-through on promises to apprehend EPP
kidnappers in the coming weeks, the Lugo administration may find an
opportunity to focus on advancing its agenda after months of bad
press, no major achievements, and calls for Lugo's impeachment.
END COMMENT.
HOLLOWAY

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