Paraguayan authorities Monday confirmed Paraguayan People's Army (EPP) guerrilla leader Osvaldo Villalba had been gunned down Sunday in a clash with law enforcement officers in the northeastern department of Amambay, in which other alleged rebels were killed.
President Mario Abdo Benítez explained that the Paraguayan Joint Task Force (FTC) had engaged in the fight after more than a year of intelligence work led to the detection of the rebel cell.
This morning three members of the terrorist group called Paraguayan People's Army have been killed, Abdo said. He also confirmed that the 39-year-old Villaba was among the dead. Also killed in the operation was a suspect identified as Luciano Argüello and a third fighter whose identity is yet to be confirmed.
Abdo, who toured the FTC headquarters in the town of Arroyito, in the department of Concepción alongside Interior Minister Federico González, regretted that two members of the local native communities had been killed by the guerrillas and a third one was wounded.
This is not the way to fight for what one thinks, for the ideals they defend, we call again for peace in Paraguay so that we do not have these acts of violence among Paraguayans, Abdo said while offering all guarantees of due process to those who lay down their arms so that these acts of violence are left behind.
Prosecutor Lorenzo Lezcano explained that the third person killed was an indigenous man yet to be identified but who was referred to as alias Simón.
Lescano said two indigenous people were executed by members of the EPP and that one more had been rushed to an Asunción hospital in critical condition.
National Anti-Kidnapping Police Chief Nimio Cardozo pointed out that the so-called Zeus operation had led to the killing of the EPP commander and main leader, who had joined the rebel group when he was a minor. Villalba was in charge of all the operational direction of the EPP, Cardozo underlined. For us, it is the most important operation that has been carried out to date against a terrorist structure in our country, he also pointed out.
Cardozo accused Osvaldo Villalba of having participated, among other things, in the kidnapping of Cecilia Cubas, daughter of former Paraguayan President Raul Cubas (1998-1999).
Osvaldo Villalba, also known as Commander Alexander or Javier, is the brother of Carmen Villalba, who was arrested in 2003 and has been in prison since 2004. Carmen Villalba is considered to have founded the EPP in 2008 along with Alcides Oviedo, her now ex-husband, who is serving a 40-year prison sentence.
The EPP has held former Paraguayan vice-president Óscar Denis in captivity since September 2020 and police officer Edelio Morínigo since 2014.
In a separate operation, Interpol officers in Paraguay have arrested an Uruguayan national linked to drug trafficking. The suspect had been a fugitive from Uruguayan authorities since 2018 when a shipment of 400 kilos of cocaine was detected at the Port of Montevideo.
We are in front of one of the branches of 'Operation Antwerp' and now we can emphasize that Interpol is making a gigantic step to the group of investigators of Uruguay in order to capture all the participants of this fact, Carlos Duré, head of Interpol's office in Paraguay, said in a press conference.