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The BBC's Bob Berry
"Not even the Government seemed prepared for it"
 real 28k

Saturday, 20 May, 2000, 01:58 GMT 02:58 UK
Arrests follow failed Paraguay coup
Aftermath: A soldier guards the Legislative Palace
Some 75 people have been detained in Paraguay in connection with Thursday's failed coup.

Most of those arrested are members of the security forces, said to be supporters of the country's former army commander, General Lino Oviedo, who has been blamed for the uprising.

A state of emergency is in place throughout Paraguay, but a BBC correspondent in the capital Asuncion says people are going about their business as normal.

Soldier and woman
A state of emergency is in force
The situation became tense after the rebels attacked parliament with tanks and took over several radio stations, calling for the overthrow of the government. Four hours later they surrendered to soldiers loyal to President Luis Gonzalez Macchi.

General Oviedo has denied any involvement in the coup attempt. He is wanted in Paraguay in connection with the March 1998 assassination of vice-president Luis Maria Argana, and an earlier coup attempt in 1996.

President Macchi said late on Friday that of the 75 people arrested, 72 were members of the military and police. Seventeen were currently serving in the military, 13 were retired, 24 were non-commissioned officers, and 18 police officers, he said.

The interior ministry had earlier identified the three civilians arrested as Luis Talavera, a parliamentary deputy for the ruling Colorado Party, prominent Liberal Party member Hermes Rafael Saguier and Miguel Corrales, a driver employed by another Colorado legislator.

'Last battle'

In the aftermath of the coup attempt, the Paraguayan president declared a 60-day state of emergency - which was later shortened to 30 days by Congress.

The state of siege allows police greater powers of arrest and suspends certain constitutional guarantees for what the authorities called a need to ensure domestic security.

President Macchi assured public that order had been restored
In an address to the nation, President Macchi described the coup attempt as "the last battle" which the government would need to fight against political conspirators, and said it had been orchestrated by General Oviedo.

Speaking from a secret location, however, General Oviedo told a Paraguyan radio station: "I had nothing to do with that movement."

The failed coup was condemned by the United States.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said: "We reaffirm our strong support for the constitutional government of President Gonzalez Macchi (and) congratulate the soldiers who recognised and acted on their responsibility to defend democracy and constitutional order."

The Organization of American States (OAS) strongly rejected the coup attempt and expressed "full support... for the constitutional government of Paraguay".

Series of coups

President Macchi said his government's response to the coup would be to accelerate economic and social reforms sought by many in Paraguay, which is struggling with high unemployment and discontent.

The president went on television to assure citizens that the "anti-democratic" forces believed to be loyal to General Oviedo had been defeated.

"Rest easy, countrymen! Public order has been restored. The destabilising and anti-democratic forces have been disbanded, the crisis brought under control and the mutineers detained," he said.

Since emerging from dictatorship in 1989, Paraguay has lurched from one political crisis to the next.

The latest upheaval came in March 1999, when Raul Cubas was deposed as president to be replaced by Mr Macchi.

There have been 45 coups or attempted coups in Paraguay in the past 100 years.

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19 May 00 | Americas
Paraguay uprising foiled
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