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Tuesday, 17 September, 2002, 16:24 GMT 17:24 UK
Dozens hurt in Paraguay protests
A protester is arrested and dragged away by police
Opposition supporters promise more action
At least 30 people were injured after Paraguay police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse people in the capital, Asuncion, who were demanding President Luis Gonzalez Macchi's resignation.

Paraguayan President Luis Gonzalez Macchi
The president's economic policies have not proved popular
The protesters - many thought to be supporters of Mr Gonzalez Macchi's political rival Lino Oviedo - had gathered in the city's congressional plaza when police moved in.

Four people were arrested in a crowd of up to 9,000 protesters, according to Reuters news agency. Local news reports said a further 250 were detained.

At least 11 police officers were also injured by flying stones and debris, police chief Sixto Ramirez told the Associated Press news agency.

One of those arrested, former state senator Sanchez Villagra, charged the authorities with "police brutality", Reuters reported.

However state prosecutor Alejandro Nissen said that police were sent in after authorities "exhausted all attempts at peaceful negotiation".

Economic crisis

The protests come two months after Paraguay imposed a brief state of emergency following violent protests in July against Mr Gonzalez Macchi's government which left at least two people dead and more than a dozen injured.

General Oviedo, who allegedly masterminded several coup attempts and is now in exile in Brazil, has been accused by the Paraguayan Government of orchestrating the protests.

Luis Villamayor, the current head of the UNACE party General Oviedo founded, denies such allegations, but has said that the party will conduct a populist street campaign "because our people are hungry and we absolutely don't have another choice".

Paraguay's economy has been stagnant or shrinking for the last seven years, and many people have been taking their money out of the banks, worried they will collapse.

The Paraguay Government has proposed a string of strict measures, including increasing workers' contributions to retirement funds, scrapping Christmas bonuses for all pensioners and hiking tax rates.

But these still need to be approved by the country's parliament, and have not proved popular with Paraguay's beleaguered citizens.

Much of Paraguay's economic woes stem from the crisis in neighbouring Argentina.


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