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Friday, February 12, 1999 Published at 01:28 GMT

World: Americas

Paraguay Congress to impeach president

President Raul Cubas is standing by his ally

By South America Correspondent Stephen Cviic

The Paraguayan Congress has voted by a large majority to call for the impeachment of the President Raul Cubas.

The resolution approved by both houses in a joint session accuses him of failing to fulfill his role as president. It is the latest development in the row over the fate of his ally, the controversial former army commander, Lino Oviedo.

Mr Cubas's opponents say he has violated the constitution by refusing to send him to jail.

Over the past week or so the Paraguayan capital, Asuncion, has been swept by rumours of coups and counter-coups.

Tension rises

On Wednesday, the President of Congress, Luis Macchi, predicted that members of the armed forces loyal to Lino Oviedo, were about to prevent legislators from carrying on with their work.

On the same day the Paraguayan Foreign Ministry issued a statement accusing a group of Congressmen of being on the point of launching their own coup.

None of these events have so far taken place but the rumours are a good indication of the heightened tension in the landlocked South American republic.

President Cubas's opponents say he acted illegally last August when he released General Oviedo from a 10-year prison sentence imposed for leading an abortive coup in 1996.

The opposition also accused the president of violating the constitution by refusing to accept the Supreme Court ruling which ordered the former army commader back behind bars.

The latest vote by congress does not mean that Mr Cubas will necessarily go on trial. That requires a further vote in the Chamber of Deputies and it is by no means certain that the opposition will muster the necessary two thirds majority.

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