Former Paraguay VP Oscar Denis spends 600th days in captivity

Picture taken on June 28, 2012 showing (then) new Paraguayan Vice-President Amancio Oscar Denis during his swearing-in ceremony at the Congress in Asuncion.
Óscar Denis

The family of a Paraguayan politician who was kidnapped by left-wing rebels in September 2020 have demanded that more be done to free him.

Óscar Denis, who served as vice-president from 2012 to 2013, has spent 600 days in captivity.

His daughter Beatriz said they had been “600 days of anguish” for his family.

Mr Denis, 76, was abducted from his ranch by members of the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP), a Marxist rebel group.

“Today we mark 600 days of defeat while this government engages in navel gazing and pats itself on the shoulder for achievements that do not exist,” Beatriz Denis said in a statement she read out to local media.

Ms Denis also questioned whether Paraguay’s security forces had achieved a strategic victory over the guerrilla group, as they had recently claimed.

She said that the EPP continued to abduct people, pointing out that the rebels had seized three people in March, two of whom were later found dead.

The third abductee, retired teacher Carlos González, was released after nine days bearing a message from the EPP.

He told police that the rebels were willing to “trade” information about Ms Denis and a policeman they had been holding since 2014 in exchange for news about Carmen Elizabeth Oviedo Villalba, the daughter of two of their leaders.

The teenager, better known as Lichita, disappeared on 30 November 2020 and is believed to have been illegally detained by the Paraguayan army.

Lichita is the daughter of Alcides Oviedo and Carmen Villalba, two EPP leaders who are serving long prison sentences for attempted murder and kidnapping.

She and her twin sister were born in prison but grew up with their aunt in neighbouring Argentina. Lichita went missing while she was trying to cross back in to Argentina after a visit to an EPP rebel camp in Paraguay.

Beatriz Denis said she was willing to swap information with the rebels.

“We are searching for our father but also for Lichita, because we know what it is to have a loving person missing from one’s home,” she told local radio. “We want them [the rebels] to tell us what they did to our father, where he is,” she added.

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