Protesters Torch Paraguay Congress

Clashes follow vote on re-election measure
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 1, 2017 5:41 AM CDT
Protesters Set Paraguay Congress Building on Fire
Protesters chant slogans outside the Congress building, in Asuncion, Paraguay, Friday, March 31, 2017.   (Jorge Saenz)

(Newser) – Protesters smashed the windows of the Congress building in Asuncion, Paraguay and set fire to the interior Friday after a majority of Paraguayan senators approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the election of a president to a second term, the AP reports. The amendment was called illegal by opposition members and opposed by the Senate president himself. The vote was followed by clashes outside the Congress building. Some protesters broke through police lines and entered the first floor, where they set fire to papers and furniture. Police fired rubber bullets to drive demonstrators away from the building while firefighters extinguished blazes inside.

The measure was backed by 25 of the country's 45 senators. Most of the yes votes came from members of the governing Colorado Party. "A coup has been carried out," opposition senator Desiree Masi said, per the BBC. "We will resist and we invite the people to resist with us." The proposal would allow current President Horacio Cartes and Paraguay's previous presidents to run for the top job again in the 2018 election. Presidents are now limited to a single 5-year term. After approval in the Senate, the proposal went to the Chamber of Deputies, where 44 of the 80 members belong to the Colorado Party. The clashes are believed to be the worst political violence since Paraguay became a democracy in 1992. (Read more Paraguay stories.)

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