Monday, November 29

The death of two girls in a military operation strains relations between Argentina and Paraguay | International


On September 2, 2020, the President of Paraguay, Mario Abdo Benítez, announced the death of two people after a “successful operation” against the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP), an armed organization that the Government blames for at least 70 murders and notorious kidnappings in the last decade. A few hours after that incursion, the Army in the jungle would learn that the dead were not guerrillas but two 11-year-old Argentine girls. One year after those deaths, the Argentine Foreign Ministry lamented to Paraguay “That to date the facts have not been clarified.”

“After a confrontation, two members of this armed group have been killed,” wrote President Abdo Benítez on the day of the operation in his account in your Twitter account. He accompanied the message with a photograph in which he is seen wearing a bulletproof vest with the soldiers in charge of the operation.

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The “abatidas”, in the language of war that the Government uses whenever it refers to the EPP, were called Lilian and María Carmen Villalba, they were cousins ​​and lived with their grandmother in Misiones, Argentina. They had gone to spend the summer holidays with their parents, Paraguayans and alleged members of the armed group that keeps the Government in suspense.

One of the girls was shot six times, the other two. It happened very close to a small country town called Yby Ya’u, about 100 kilometers from the border with Brazil. Another minor in the family, Carmen Elisabeth Oviedo Villalba, Lichita, is still missing. The Paraguayan Executive still maintains that the girls participated in the confrontation and blames the EPP for their deaths, which it accuses of recruiting minors.

In the 72 hours after the event, the government’s civilian and military spokespersons said first that the two victims were adults and then that they were between 14 and 17 years old. Their bodies were buried and their clothes burned on the same day of their deaths, with the excuse that they had to prevent a possible contagion by covid-19. Until there was a second autopsy at the request of the Argentine Foreign Ministry, the Paraguayan government did not admit that the dead were 11 years old.

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The family of the minors, the Argentine government and international organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) they reject the official version. The NGO revealed in a report the existence of “serious irregularities” and demanded, like United Nations, an urgent and impartial investigation. He also denounced the destruction of evidence and the violation of the protocols that the investigation had to comply with.

Call for a march for Lilian Mariana and María del Carmen, one year after their death at the hands of the Paraguayan Army.
Call for a march for Lilian Mariana and María del Carmen, one year after their death at the hands of the Paraguayan Army.COURTESY

The Argentine government requested this Thursday to Paraguay to facilitate access to the country for members of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, the same one that works in the identification of the soldiers buried as NN in the Falkland Islands, to help with the investigation. It also asks that “allow access to administrative and judicial proceedings to the girls’ families and representatives of the Argentine State, to which Paraguay systematically refused.” In a statement issued by the Argentine Foreign Ministry, the Government regretted “that to date the facts related to the death of the girls have not been clarified.”

The Paraguayan government also spoke out against the case, which strains bilateral relations. “The Republic of Paraguay, Within the framework of the permanent and close relationship with the Argentine Republic, it has made concrete proposals and expressed its willingness to share information related to the various investigation processes currently underway, which are within the procedural deadlines dictated by internal regulations. ”, Said the Government in a statement.

This Thursday, a demonstration called in Asunción to the Pantheon of Heroes in the Paraguayan capital will demand justice for the two minors and for the appearance alive of the third who is missing.

Caught alive

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, expressed “great concern”For the disappearance of Carmen Elizabeth, 14, and for the lack of progress in the investigation of the murder of the other two girls.

According to Michelle Bachelet’s office, on September 2, 2020 Carmen Elizabeth witnessed an operation by the Paraguayan Joint Task Force (FTC), a unit made up of the military, the National Police and the National Anti-Drug Secretariat of Paraguay ( Senad). She was then injured, survived, and escaped along with two other people. But two months later, while trying to reach Argentina, he disappeared.

“The new testimonies indicate that Carmen Elizabeth was injured during the operation on September 2, but fled, while Lilian and María Carmen were detained alive. This evidence contradicts the official account of the Paraguayan Government that the two 11-year-old girls died in a confrontation with the Joint Task Force, ”said the UN representative.

The Guild of Lawyers and Lawyers of Argentina has taken up the case and revealed that a girl and an adolescent from the same family managed to flee and reach Argentina on December 23 last. They are Tania Tamara, 19, and Tamara Anahí, 14, sisters of It does, the missing girl whose face has become the symbol of protests in Asunción and Buenos Aires.

Tania Tamara and Tamara Anahí told the UN Rapporteur for summary executions that María Carmen and Lilian were later arrested alive and shot to death. “Now we know that Carmen Elisabeth was shot in the leg, but they were able to get her out of there,” explains Laura Taffetani, a member of the Argentine Lawyers’ Union, about the missing girl. When there are girls and boys in conflict zones, there are regulations and procedures to be taken into account, the lawyer defends. “To cover up this they argue that it was a confrontation, and also that the EPP would recruit girls and boys as a policy, which is not true,” he says.

Photo uploaded to social networks by the president of Paraguay Mario Abdo Benítez on September 2, 2020, from the place of the military operation against the EPP.
Photo uploaded to social networks by the president of Paraguay Mario Abdo Benítez on September 2, 2020, from the place of the military operation against the EPP.THE COUNTRY

Girls in Paraguay

In total, six women, one adult, one adolescent, and four girls, relatives of EPP members, traveled to Paraguay in November 2019 from Argentina to meet their family. They planned to return before March 2020 to restart the school, but they were trapped on the Paraguayan side due to the closure of borders as a result of the quarantine against covid-19.

On September 2, before the attack by the Armed Forces, they were having breakfast in an EPP camp, located near the town of Yby Ya’u, an area still surrounded by the typical, although scarce, jungle forest of the South American country. wedged between Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina.

The survivors say that they did not even hear them arrive: “Lilian and Maria Carmen were not at the table with them, they see the Army come in, they hear Lilian’s screams and they see that they are taking her and they come in to shoot,” says Taffetani.

The lawyer assures that Carmen Elisabeth told the others, before disappearing, that she saw how the soldiers injured the other girl, María Carmen, but that she was alive and asking for help when they arrested her. Later, he said, “a tremendous shooting began.”

Tania Tamara and Tamara Anahí finally managed to escape. “They really had a lot of luck and a lot of help from the population through which they passed. Despite the fear, it is an area where the Joint Task Forces have the peasants very harassed and they were able to count on help up to the border ”. Thus, they managed to reach their home in Puerto Rico, Misiones, Argentina and then travel to Buenos Aires, for safety.

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