Clashes, fire at Paraguay congress after re-election vote

In his address, Cartes warned civilians against committing acts of violence and bloodshed after protesters set the Congress building in Paraguay on fire.

Ruling Colorado party senators and their allies, in a so-called "parallel Senate", unexpectedly approved an amendment Friday that would allow President Horacio Cartes to run for reelection in 2018, triggering protests that led to clashes between opposition demonstrators and the police.

Paraguay's constitution allows presidents to serve only a single term in office to guard against a return to dictatorship after Alfredo Stroessner ruled from 1954 until 1989, the BBC reported.

Violent protests initially broke out Friday at Paraguay's Congress after the country's Senate secretly voted for a constitutional amendment to allow presidential re-election.

Security camera footage showed people in a corridor running desperately away from police and Quintana falling to the ground, apparently hit from behind.

"A congressional coup has been carried out".

Opponents of the move include Senate President Roberto Acevedo of the opposition Authentic Radical Liberal Party.

"I didn't expect to witness something like this", speaker of the lower house, Hugo Velázquez, said.

Newly-appointed Interior Minister Lorenzo Dario Lezcano said one of his first tasks will be to identify those responsible for the riots, which left one young political activist dead and the congress building in shambles after it was set on fire. "We continue to live in a state of law and we must not allow barbarians to destroy the peace, tranquillity and welfare of the people".

Due to Friday's violence, Saturday's and Monday's sessions of the Chamber of Deputies were canceled.

If changes will be approved, it will also allow former president Fernando to run again.

Currently, presidents in the small Central American country are limited to one five-year term.

The controversial proposal now goes from the Senate to the House, where it appears to have strong support from lawmakers. Twenty five voted for the measure, two more than the 23 required for passage in the 45-member chamber.

Others, including Colombia and Venezuela, have changed their constitutions to give sitting presidents a chance at re-election. Pro-Cartes sources have meanwhile maintained that an amendment and a referendum is the most democratic way to decide the contentious issue of re-election.

However, with the new constitutional amendment, the incumbent president and his successors will be able to seek re-election if they wish to remain in power in future.

  • Leroy Wright