1 killed in Paraguay protests

Indo Asian News Service

Asuncion, April 1 (IANS) Tensions in Paraguay heightened on Saturday after an activist was killed, following a night of rioting during which demonstrators set the Congress building on fire to protest a deal that would allow the President to run for a second term.

Leader of the opposition Authentic Radical Liberal Party (PLRA), Efrain Alegre, told Efe news that 25-year-old Rodrigo Quintana, who himself led a regional body of the PLRA's youth wing, was killed by a rubber bullet when police stormed the party's premises in downtown Asuncion.

"The police barged in, threw people face down to the ground. They came in aggressively, breaking the doors, it was savagery," said Alegre.

He said police had fired on the demonstrators inside, some of whom were seriously injured.

Paraguay's Interior Ministry launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death and said that those responsible would be brought to justice.

Violence erupted in Paraguay's capital late Friday night after news broke that senators had passed a constitutional amendment to authorise re-election of a president during a closed-door session.

Current legislation in Paraguay limits the nation's president to just one term,.

The motion was due to be brought to the country's lower chamber for another vote on Saturday, but plans were postponed by Chamber of Deputies president, Hugo Velázquez, after protesters stormed and set fire to the Congress building, where both parliamentary chambers are seated.

The measure, if passed, could benefit Paraguay's incumbent president, Horacio Cartes of the right-wing Colorado Party, whose tenure was due to end in 2018.

Members of the Guasu Front, a leftist coalition, also backed the bill as it could benefit their former President Fernando Lugo who was impeached in 2012.

The PLRA and other opposition parties decried the vote as an attempted coup d'état.

Alegre took to Twitter on Friday to write: "Brutal infringement of the Republic! Coup d'etat in Paraguay! Urgent call to Paraguayan citizens to defend the homeland!"

President Cartes also used Twitter to share an image of a statement, in which he called for calm and unity against the "few barbarians" who wanted to damage the peace and well-being of Paraguay.

Firefighters extinguished the fire in Congress, which sustained heavy material damage, while demonstrators moved to the National Pantheon of the Heroes, also in the Paraguayan historic city centre.

--IANS

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