Paraguay Imposes State of Emergency

Paraguay's president decreed a state of emergency on Monday, (July 15), following protests against the government's free-market policies.

The state of emergency, declared by Gonzalez Macchi, allows the government to ban demonstrations, search homes and arrest individuals over the next five days, and gives permission to the armed forces to quell protests.

Paraguay Imposes State of Emergency Amid Rioting

Mon Jul 15, 8:20 PM ET
By Daniela Desantis

ASUNCION, Paraguay (Reuters) - Paraguay's president decreed a
state of emergency on Monday, suspending some civil rights, after
at least four people were shot and seriously injured followed by
dozens of arrests in escalating nationwide protests against his
economic policies.

In the capital, police officers with water cannons took up
positions outside Congress in downtown Asuncion. Soldiers
surrounded the legislature and a military helicopter hovered
overhead as about 400 protesters dispersed after 33 demonstrators
were arrested, police said.

Earlier on Monday, baton-wielding police battled with hundreds of
protesters who blockaded roads across the recession-hit South
American nation, which often has been rocked by coup attempts and
political instability since democracy was restored in 1989 after
35 years of military dictatorship.

President Luis Gonzalez Macchi's government blamed the protests on
followers of Lino Oviedo, a former general living in asylum in
Brazil suspected of masterminding three failed coup attempts since
1996. Oviedo denied he was involved.

The state of emergency — the first declared by Gonzalez Macchi
since a failed coup attempt led by Oviedo's regiment in May
2000 — allows the government to ban demonstrations, search homes
and arrest individuals over the next five days, and gives
permission to the armed forces to quell protests.

The riots were the latest in often-violent protests against the
free-market policies of a government that already has been forced
to backtrack on its privatization plans. A series of corruption
scandals have added to the president's troubles.

Four people, including an 11-year-old, were treated for bullet
wounds after one clash between 800 protesters and police in Ciudad
del Este, some 200 miles east of Asuncion, when police removed
protesters from Puente de la Amistad bridge, which links Paraguay
to Brazil, officials said.

Police also fired tear gas and water cannons, television showed.

"We came here to say we're tired of so much corruption and
poverty. We want this useless president to resign," said one
protester outside Congress in the capital, where another 600
protesters demonstrated.


Many of Paraguay's 5.7 million people live in poverty, as
subsistence landless farmers. Famed for its rampant smuggling,
isolated Paraguay was ruled by military strongman Alfredo
Stroessner for 35 years until he was deposed in 1989.

Buffeted by neighboring Argentina's worst-ever economic crisis and
Brazil's slumping currency, the California-sized nation devalued
its currency this year, adding to the woes of an economy mired in
stagnation since 1995.

Paraguay's troubles come as South American nations face a backlash
against free-market policies of the 1990s. In Brazil, a leftist
heads public-opinion polls ahead of October presidential
elections. In Peru, the government last month was forced to
suspend privatizations due to violent protests.

The main opposition Liberal party, which controls the vice
presidency, said it agreed with the protesters, and encouraged
Liberal party followers to take part in demonstrations.

Former Senate head Gonzalez Macchi was appointed president in 1999
when then-President Raul Cubas — an Oviedo loyalist — resigned
amid violent protests after his vice president, Luis Argana, an
avowed Oviedo rival, was slain in Asuncion.

Oviedo had begun a presidential campaign in 1998 but stepped down
when he was charged with plotting a 1996 coup. The next
presidential election is scheduled for May 2003.

The International Monetary Fund, pressing for privatizations, has
been negotiating new loans with the government. Congress also has
been talking to the World Bank to help shield it from the effects
of Argentina's economic woes.

Luchas en Paraguay | IMF/ WB Struggles | PGA