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ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay – Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo received a threatening letter on Sept. 21.
The threats, attributed to the terrorist group Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP), came through “the Secretariat of Information and Communications for Development [of the Paraguayan presidency] on my personal e-mail address,” said Augusto Dos Santos, minister of Paraguay’s Secretariat of Information and Communications for Development. “The same message was sent to the media by fax, according to the information we have.”
The letter uses aggressive and pejorative language in reference to the president of Paraguay, the former president of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe, as well as Paraguay’s Minister of the Interior, Rafael Filizzola, and his wife, Congresswoman Desirée Masi, Dos Santos said.
The EPP allegedly called Lugo in the letter “walking cadaver” and the Filizzolas “oligarch bullies” and “money wasters.”
Masi told Asunción’s radio AM 780 that this is not the first time she and her family received threats attributed to the EPP, and that one of her sons was threatened last year.
“I basically have no activities scheduled in the interior of the country,” Masi said. “It’s unpleasant having to travel with a security detail.”
The threats come in the wake of the death of EPP member Gabriel Zárate Cardozo, who was killed by the National Police in the eastern department of Canindeyú earlier this month.
The EPP also has suffered the loss of Severiano Martínez, fatally shot by police in the Agua Dulce area of Chaco region in July, and Nimio Cardozo Cáceres, who was killed by police in the department of Concepción on Sept. 24.
Several media outlets received the letter by email, while other radio and television stations were faxed the document, Dos Santos said.
“We are carefully watching the course of the investigations,” he said. “We are avoiding becoming alarmed or alarming the population until the investigation determines the veracity of the origin of these emails, the text of which is supposedly signed by the EPP.”
Sebastián Talavera, chief of the National Police Public Relations Department, refused to divulge specific details since the matter is under investigation.
“What we can say is that security around the president, as well as the minister of interior and his wife, has been reinforced,” he said, refusing to specify how many have been assigned to Lugo’s detail.
In the letter, the EPP expresses anger for the $600 million guaraníes (US$124,618) that the Ministry of the Interior has paid so far for information leading to the capture of its members.
Congress endorsed a decree allowing rewards for tips after businessman Fidel Zavala was kidnapped by the EPP on Oct. 15, 2009 at his ranch, 417 kilometers (259 miles) north of Asunción. He was released in January.
From 2005 to Oct. 2009, the EPP allegedly has perpetrated 27 kidnappings in Paraguay, according to the Ministry of the Interior. Cecilia Cubas, daughter of former president of Paraguay, Raúl Cubas, was kidnapped in Sept. 2004 and was found dead in February, 2005, after a ransom was paid.
Dos Santos said specialized national police units are investigating the threatening letter, and the Office of the Attorney General will also carry out its own investigation.
The EPP does not interfere with the normal activities of the government, Dos Santos said, but he warned that the threat should not be underestimated.
“It’s not a minor issue,” he said. “That is why investigative and oversight actions that have never been considered before through all Paraguayan history are being considered now, since the birth of this group of armed civilians.”