Paraguay coup fear after assassination

PARAGUAY WAS thrust into the worst turmoil of its 10-year-old democracy yesterday after the Vice-President, Luis Maria Argana, 64, one of the country's longest-serving politicians, was assassinated in the capital, Asuncion.

The whole city shut down and residents expressed fears of a new military takeover as news spread that gunmen had fired on Mr Argana's vehicle as he drove to work yesterday morning. He was hit by at least 10 bullets in the head and body. Tension rose as troops and police poured into the streets to maintain order when the Vice-President's supporters gathered at the murder scene.

There was little doubt that the killing was the result of apower struggle among politicians of the long-ruling Colorado party, closely tied with the military that ruled for 35 years until 1989 under the dictatorAlfredo Stroessner. Mr Argana had been foreign minister and head of the Supreme Court under General Stroessner.

Mr Argana was in line to take over from the President, Raul Cubas, if the leader were to be removed. Congress began impeachment proceedings against the President last week, accusing him of abuse of power.

President Cubas has ordered the release of General Lino Oviedo, who had tried to launch a military coup against then president Juan Carlos Wasmosy in 1996 and was later sentenced to 10 years' jail. General Oviedo's release late last year led to a split within the Colorado party between factions supporting either Mr Cubas or Mr Argana. Paraguayans knew the split was deep but only yesterday did they realise it was deadly.

Mr Argana felt he had been robbed of the party's presidential nomination, and in effect the presidency, in 1993 as a result of a military-inspired intrigue to install Mr Wasmosy as the candidate. Mr Wasmosy won the presidency and ruled until last year.

Mr Argana felt robbed again last year. He was defeated in the party primary for presidential candidate by General Oviedo, who planned to run his campaign from jail but was later barred from the race. Mr Cubas was then given the candidacy, won the presidential election last May and freed General Oviedo later in the year.

Mr Argana's role as Vice-President was becoming increasingly uncomfortable after Congress, despite a Colorado party majority in both chambers, voted to start impeachment proceedings against Mr Cubas. Mr Argana had persuaded his supporters within Congress, although from the same party as the President, to vote in favour of the impeachment move. Mr Cubas's supporters were furious.

There was no indication yesterday who the gunmen were but the authorities blocked all land borders and launched intensive airport checks to stop them leaving the country.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back