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The BBC's Iain Haddow
"Rather than risk being arrested, General Oviedo appears to have skipped the country"
 real 28k

Thursday, 9 December, 1999, 23:47 GMT
Oviedo 'disappears' from Argentine refuge

Paraguay's General Lino Oviedo Paraguay's military is reportedly on stand-by for the general's possible return

Paraguay's former army commander, General Lino Oviedo, has disappeared after managing to elude his police guards in Argentina, where he has been living in exile for the last eight months.

Argentinian Interior Minister Carlos Corach said the general had disappeared from his ranch 2,300km (1,500 miles) south of Buenos Aires.

There are unconfirmed reports that the 56-year-old general, who still commands considerable support among the armed forces in Paraguay, has returned to his homeland.

After his disappearance, his wife told the press that her husband was heading for Paraguay.

menem President Menem refused to extradite General Oviedo
However, if he returns he faces likely arrest in connection with the murder of Paraguayan vice-president, Luis Maria Argana.

The Paraguayan authorities also want the general to serve a 10-year sentence for a 1996 coup attempt against a former democratic government.

Correspondents say it is believed General Oviedo's disappearance is related to a change of government in Argentina.

On Friday, President Carlos Menem - who has ignored numerous extradition requests from Paraguay - is to stand down from office.

The new president, Fernando de la Rua, has warned that the general may be expelled from the country.

The asylum issue has soured relations between the two countries, with both withdrawing their ambassadors.

Confined to barracks

As a precautionary measure, the Paraguyan authorities said they had confined all military personnel to their barracks.

de la rua Fernando de la Rua has warned that General Oviedo may be expelled
Security forces have also been put on alert and, according to correspondents, have been searching vehicles in the north of the country, after unconfirmed sightings of the general dressed as a peasant.

The BBC's correspondent in the region says the government in Asuncion will be hoping that the general is found quickly and returned to face trial.

In a country that has been ruled by the military for almost five decades, the government will want to avoid having a powerful army general at large - especially one who has declared his ambitions to become president.

There has been speculation that General Oveido could be hiding in Uruguay or Brazil, trying to secure asylum in a third country, such as Germany, Israel or South Africa.

Free to leave

The general has been living for a number of months at a secluded ranch on the icy, southern island of Tierra del Fuego.

The Argentine authorities said the heavy police presence at the farmhouse was solely for the general's protection.

They said he had not been under arrest and was free to leave the country if he chose to do so.

He will, however, lose his asylum status if he has left Argentina

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See also:
02 Sep 98 |  Americas
Paraguay general cleared
30 Mar 99 |  Americas
Oviedo: General and would-be democrat
29 Mar 99 |  Americas
Paraguay's most wanted man gets refuge
27 Mar 99 |  Americas
Analysis: Haunted by authoritarian past
03 Sep 99 |  Americas
Argentina rejects Oviedo extradition

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