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Wednesday, March 24, 1999 Published at 16:01 GMT

World: Americas

Paraguay Senate asked to impeach president

An unexploded grenade lies next to the car in which Mr Argana was shot

Members of the lower house of Paraguay's parliament have voted to start impeachment proceedings against President Raul Cubas.

The deputies voted by 49 to 24 in favour of impeachment, alleging the misuse of public office.

The impeachment request will be considered by the upper house, the Senate, in an extraordinary session later on Wednesday.

[ image: Police and protesters in Asuncion clashed after the killing]
Police and protesters in Asuncion clashed after the killing
No date was set for any debate in the upper house, but if Mr Cubas were to be removed from office, the Senate President, Luis Gonzalez Macchi, also a member of the governing Colorado party, would take over.

The vote in the Chamber of Deputies took place one day after gunmen killed Paraguay's Vice-President, Luis Maria Argana.

Mr Argana had been the leader of an effort within the Colorado Party to oust the president. An impeachment vote had been scheduled for early April.

President blamed

Supporters of Mr Argana immediately blamed the president and his allies for the murder.

[ image: President Cubas faces impeachment]
President Cubas faces impeachment
They demanded his resignation and the arrest of his close political ally, the retired populist General Lino Oviedo. Mr Argana's loyalists were infuriated by President Cubas' decision last August to commute Oviedo's 10-year prison sentence for a failed coup attempt.

In a nationwide address on Tuesday, the president pleaded for calm, and ordered the country's borders closed to initiate a search for Mr Argana's killers.

Members of the armed forces patrolled the streets, and the authorities suspended public transport for 24 hours.


Hundreds of Paraguayans, angered by the news of Mr Argana's killing, clashed with police late on Tuesday as they called for the president's resignation.

Paraguayan television showed anti-riot police dispersing rock-throwing demonstrators with truncheons and water cannons, as the angry mob defied a law banning demonstrations around the presidential office building.

Mr Argana's funeral is due to be held later on Wednesday.

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