The Americas

Clashes, fire at Paraguay congress after re-election vote

  • Relatives carry a coffin with the remains of Rodrigo Quintana, a member of the Authentic Radical Liberal Party, who was killed in an incident at party's headquarters away from congress at the party's headquarters on Friday, in Asuncion, Paraguay, Saturday, April 1, 2017. Clashes erupt between police and protesters outside Paraguay's congress, with demonstrators setting fires around the building after a majority of senators carry out what some was called an irregular vote to allow presidential re-election. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)

    Relatives carry a coffin with the remains of Rodrigo Quintana, a member of the Authentic Radical Liberal Party, who was killed in an incident at party's headquarters away from congress at the party's headquarters on Friday, in Asuncion, Paraguay, Saturday, April 1, 2017. Clashes erupt between police and protesters outside Paraguay's congress, with demonstrators setting fires around the building after a majority of senators carry out what some was called an irregular vote to allow presidential re-election. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)  (The Associated Press)

  • Paraguay's Foreign Minister Eladio Loizaga, left, speaks during a news conference accompanied by Brazil's Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes, from second left, Argentina's Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, and Uruguay's Foreign Minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Saturday, April 1, 2017. The South American trade bloc called an emergency meeting of Mercosur nations' foreign ministers to discuss the Venezuelan political crisis which suspended Venezuela in December. (AP Photo/Agustin Marcarian)

    Paraguay's Foreign Minister Eladio Loizaga, left, speaks during a news conference accompanied by Brazil's Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes, from second left, Argentina's Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, and Uruguay's Foreign Minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Saturday, April 1, 2017. The South American trade bloc called an emergency meeting of Mercosur nations' foreign ministers to discuss the Venezuelan political crisis which suspended Venezuela in December. (AP Photo/Agustin Marcarian)  (The Associated Press)

  • Argentina's Foreign Minister, Susana Malcorra, center, and Paraguay's Foreign Minister Eladio Loizaga arrive to a press conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Saturday, April 1, 2017. The South American trade bloc called an emergency meeting of Mercosur nations' foreign ministers to discuss the Venezuelan political crisis which suspended Venezuela in December. (AP Photo/Agustin Marcarian)

    Argentina's Foreign Minister, Susana Malcorra, center, and Paraguay's Foreign Minister Eladio Loizaga arrive to a press conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Saturday, April 1, 2017. The South American trade bloc called an emergency meeting of Mercosur nations' foreign ministers to discuss the Venezuelan political crisis which suspended Venezuela in December. (AP Photo/Agustin Marcarian)  (The Associated Press)

Violent clashes erupted between police and protesters outside Paraguay's congress after senators approved a constitutional amendment to allow a president to run for a second term. Some protesters broke through police lines and entered the first floor, setting fire to papers and furniture.

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

The protests broke out after a majority of Paraguayan senators approved the amendment, a move called illegal by opposition members and opposed by the Senate president himself.

The measure was backed by 25 of the country's 45 senators. The yes votes came from members of the governing Colorado Party and from several opposition groups.

Opponents of the move included Senate President Roberto Acevedo of the opposition Authentic Radical Liberal Party. He argued the process used to bring the amendment to a vote violated Senate rules and he filed an appeal to the Supreme Court seeking to have the vote overturned.

The proposal would allow current President Horacio Cartes and Paraguay's previous presidents to run for the top job again in the 2018 election. Presidents are now limited to a single 5-year term.

After approval in the Senate, the proposal went to the Chamber of Deputies, where 44 of the 80 members belong to the Colorado Party. Approval there would require the scheduling of a national referendum on the amendment.