The Americas

Paraguay’s president fires interior minister, police chief amid election protests

Demonstrators start fires and smash windows

 

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

Cartes said Saturday that Interior Minister Tadeo Rojas and national police chief, Crispulo Sotelo, had been let go.

Rodrigo Quintana, 25, was killed at the headquarters of a liberal youth activist group, a different location than the congress building where most of the violence took place.

Demonstrators set fires around the legislative building after the vote to allow Cartes to run again in a country haunted by the 35-year rule of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner.

Protesters broke through police lines and entered the first floor. Police used water cannons and rubber bullets to drive demonstrators away from the building while firefighters extinguished the blazes inside.

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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.

The amendment has been called illegal by opposition members and opposed by the Senate president himself.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.