ASUNCION – The Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP) has demanded that the government in Asuncion release six imprisoned rebels in exchange for a police officer they are holding hostage, a demand rejected Wednesday by Interior Minister Francisco de Vargas.
The EPP issued its demand in a video in which Edelio Morinigo and another hostage, Arlan Fick, appear – the first “proof of life” provided by the guerrillas for both since they were captured months ago.
“We’re giving the government one last opportunity to exchange six EPP political prisoners ... for ... Morinigo, a prisoner of war of the People’s Army,” said a man identified as the EPP spokesman in the video.
The government made the video public at a press conference in the northern province of Concepcion.
On Oct. 14, the EPP had issued a written ultimatum in which they said they would kill Morinigo if the government did not release the imprisoned rebels, a demand which the government refused.
The government is adhering to its position and De Vargas said that there will be “no type of negotiations with criminals who don’t enjoy a single bit of credibility, who have not fulfilled what they promised.”
In the video, Fick reads from a text that says “the EPP will comply with what was promised to my parents at the proper time.”
Fick, 17, was captured on April 2 on a farm near the town of Paso Tuya, in Concepcion, and his family said they paid a ransom of $500,000, distributed $50,000 worth of food and released a propaganda video, as the guerrillas had demanded, but the teen still has not been released.
Also appearing in the video, armed men dressed in military uniform and camouflaged with branches are seen guarding the two hostages under a tent.
The Paraguayan government attributes 38 murders to the EPP, including civilians, soldiers and police officers.