Lino Oviedo: Politician who helped lead the 1989 coup in Paraguay


Lino Oviedo, who died in a helicopter crash on 2 February at the age of 69, was a Paraguayan presidential candidate who helped the lead the 1989 coup that overthrew the former dictator Alfredo Stroessner. A retired general known as a dynamic public speaker – and the country's most controversial politician – Oviedo was running in the April presidential election in the impoverished and politically unstable South American country.

Police rescuers found his body the following day in the wreckage in northern Paraguay, where he was travelling for a campaign event. It was exactly 24 years since the coup that ended Stroessner's dictatorship. Six months after being sworn in for his eighth full term, Stroessner was overthrown in a bloody coup d'état led by General Andres Rodriguez; it was rumoured, though never confirmed, that Oviedo had threatened Rodriguez with a grenade if he did not launch the coup.

Oviedo – known as "the Bonsai horseman" because of his height – was also accused of plotting to overthrow governments in the 1990s and jailed. He was pardoned and returned to politics as leader of the National Union of Ethical Citizens party.

Born into poverty in 1943. Oviedo went into the military, studying in Germany and eventually becoming a close aide to General Rodriguez. He was named Chief of the Army in 1993 but jeopardised the fragile democracy in April 1996 when President Juan Carlos Wasmosy – the country's first elected leader since the 1950s – asked him to step down.

Oviedo refused and threatened a coup; after days of tension, Wasmosy offered him the Defence Ministry, but when Oviedo went to the presidential palace to take the oath the President, backed by popular demonstrations, withdrew the offer. Oviedo set up his own faction within the governing Colorado Party, rapidly becoming its most popular politician thanks partly to his rhetorical skills.

A month before the national elections, and while leading the polls, he received a 10-year prison sentence for his 1996 mutiny. His running mate Raul Cubas won the 1998 presidential election, largely based on the promise to free Oviedo, which he did days after taking office, over the protest of the Paraguayan Supreme Court and opposition leaders.

In March 1999, the vice president Luis María Argaña, a key political enemy of Oviedo and Cubas, was assassinated. Amid riots and political turmoil, Cubas resigned, abandoning Oviedo, who fled into exile, first in Argentina and then in Brazil.

In 2004 he returned to Paraguay and was sentenced to 10 years in jail. In 2006, a Paraguayan man, Tomas Velázquez, held a hunger strike before he crucified himself publicly as a protest in Asuncion. He maintained that Oviedo was the target of persecution and that the military tribunal that convicted him was illegal according to the constitution, as it had been conducted in time of peace.

Oviedo was released in 2007, initially on parole for good behaviour; his conviction was then overturned in a majority ruling by the country's Supreme Court following testimony from former officers that there had been no coup attempt.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot