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Thursday, 8 March, 2001, 07:41 GMT
Paraguay president 'drove stolen car'
Luis Gonzalez Macchi
Mr Gonzalez Macchi denies any wrongdoing
By Latin America correspondent Tom Gibb

In Paraguay, three government ministers have resigned following allegations that the president, Luis Gonzalez Macchi, is driving a stolen car smuggled into the country.

The resignations put further pressure on Mr Gonzalez Macchi to carry out a full cabinet reshuffle and remove other ministers accused of corruption.


The Interior Minister told journalists that the president driving an illegal car was not a big deal. He said that journalists, priests, even the police drive them as well

Mr Gonzalez Macchi denies any wrongdoing.

But the latest accusation comes after allegations that another minister has been involved in torture, which could be a further blow to the president's credibility.

Luxury car

According to Paraguayan police, well over half the cars on the roads in Paraguay have been brought into the country illegally.

The president's car, a grey 1999 BMW costing $81,000, appears to be one of them.

The country's finance minister is now being investigated in connection with the case.


The president is considering suing the company which sold it to him for abusing his good faith.

This was the final straw which prompted the government ministers to offer resignations.

They are all from the National Encounter Party, which is in coalition with the President's much larger Colorado Party.

Pressure

They want the government restructured and urged other ministers to also offer resignations to allow the President to do this.

In particular they want the Finance and Public Works Ministers to go.

The Public Works Minister, Walter Bower, is accused of torturing prisoners from a failed coup attempt last year as well as corruption.

President Gonzalez Macchi said he would consider the proposals, however some of the other ministers were less impressed.

The Interior Minister told journalists that the president driving an illegal car was not a big deal.

He said that journalists, priests, even the police drive them as well.

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See also:

07 Mar 01 | Americas
Paraguayan Indians fight for rights
14 Aug 00 | Americas
Opposition man leads Paraguay poll
12 Aug 00 | Americas
Paraguay awaits vice-president vote
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