Paraguay leader fires interior minister after protester dies

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Paraguay leader fires interior minister after protester dies

Asuncion (Paraguay), Apr 2 (AP) President Horacio Cartes has fired Paraguay’s interior minister and top police official following the killing of a young opposition party leader and violent overnight clashes sparked by a secret Senate vote for a constitutional amendment to allow presidential re-election.

Dozens of people, including a police officer, were on arrested Friday evening in demonstrations that saw protesters break through police lines and enter the first floor of Paraguay’s legislature, setting fire to papers and furniture.

Police used water cannon and fired rubber bullets to drive protesters away from the building while firefighters extinguished blazes inside.

In the early hours yesterday, 25-year-old Rodrigo Quintana was shot and killed at the headquarters of the Authentic Radical Liberal Party, a different location than the congress building where most of the protests took place. Anti-riot police with rifles and their heads and faces covered by helmets had stormed the opposition headquarters amid the anti-government protests.

Security camera footage showed people in a corridor running desperately away from police and Quintana falling to the ground, apparently hit from behind. Seconds later, a policeman carrying a gun is seen stepping on Quintana, who is laying face-down to the ground.

Before stepping down, police commander Crispulo Sotelo identified Gustavo Florentin as the police agent responsible for Quintana’s death and said he had been arrested. Later yesterday, Cartes announced that he had accepted the resignations of Sotelo and Interior Minister Miguel Tadeo Rojas.

Because of the violence, yesterday’s and tomorrow’s sessions of the Chamber of Deputies were cancelled. “We will evaluate the situation on Tuesday,” said legislative president Hugo Velazquez.

The protests broke out after a majority of senators approved the amendment allowing for presidential re-election, a move opponents said was illegal because the vote was taken without all members of the senate present.

Presidents are limited to a single 5-year term and the proposal would allow Cartes and Paraguay’s previous presidents to run for the top job again in the 2018 election — a hot button issue in a country haunted by the 35-year rule of Gen.

Alfredo Stroessner. (AP)

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.