RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The daughters of former vice president Óscar Denis described as “indolent” the government presided by Mario Abdo Benítez for failing to find their father, 75 years old when this Thursday marks one year since he was kidnapped by the guerrilla Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP).
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The politician was kidnapped after leaving his cattle ranch between Amambay and Concepcion (north) departments by a group of armed men. Since then, the family has not received the proof of life they asked the guerrillas for.
At a press conference in the city of Concepción, Beatriz Denis, daughter of the former vice president, read a statement in which she referred to Abdo Benítez as “commander in chief” and showed her indignation at the failure to dismantle an armed group which the government estimates to be made up of some twenty members.
“We feel absolutely defrauded, Mr. Commander in Chief, defrauded in terms of our right to freedom and security, defrauded as Paraguayans before the failure of an indolent Government that does not give answers, that does not give results and does not show its face either,” said the family spokeswoman.
“Either they are truly not only 20 outlaws, or the key positions in terms of security agencies are occupied by incompetent or incapable people, or the means available are insufficient for our security agencies to act with the necessary effectiveness to combat these armed groups,” she added.
The spokeswoman, accompanied by her two sisters, pointed out that “it cannot be so easy to kidnap in Paraguay and hide a person for so long without its security forces being unable to find their whereabouts.”
She also said that the Government “is subjected to the will of 20 criminal outlaws, recruiters of defenseless children and merciless murderers,” in relation to the Government’s claim that the EPP recruits minors.
“No more than 20 who have a whole country in suspense, 20 people who do and undo as they please. They kill, rob, kidnap and extort. No more than 20 people who a year ago kidnapped our father. And along with him, they have also kidnapped us,” said the spokeswoman.
“(We demand to) our commander in chief, who is the head of security in Paraguay, to give us an answer, if he cannot tell us where our father is, to tell us where the EPP is, because they have been looking for him for 20 years,” she added.
The spokeswoman thanked all the people who have supported the family, mentioning Pope Francis “who has been in solidarity with the case” and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet, who responded to a letter sent to her.
She recalled two others kidnapped by the guerrillas years ago and whose whereabouts are unknown: police non-commissioned officer Edelio Morínigo, kidnapped in 2014, and cattle rancher Félix Urbieta kidnapped in 2016.
Denis was abducted along with an indigenous worker from his ranch who was released a few days later. The family claimed to have fulfilled the condition imposed by the EPP to free the retired politician: the distribution among peasant communities of food worth two million dollars.
The other demand was addressed to the Government: the release of two historical guerrilla prisoners, which the government discarded as unfeasible.
Denis was vice-president of the cabinet of President Federico Franco (of the Liberal Party) between 2012 and 2013 and the governor of Concepción.
The EPP, founded in 2008 and to which authorities attribute some 60 murders, including police, military, and civilians, has its area of influence in the area between the departments of San Pedro and Concepción.
The group, which claims to be a defender of poor peasants, finances itself through extortion and the kidnapping of ranchers.