[Marxism] PARAGUAY: Ruling allows Paraguayan ex-army chief to run

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu Nov 1 04:46:53 MDT 2007


PARAGUAY
Ruling allows Paraguayan ex-army chief to run
In a last-minute decision, Paraguay's Supreme Court voided a conviction 
  of controversial ex-army leader Lino Oviedo, 
  clearing him to run in the presidential elections.
Posted on Thu, Nov. 01, 2007
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BY JACK CHANG
McClatchy News Service

RIO DE JANEIRO --

The race for Paraguay's presidency took a dramatic turn when the
country's Supreme Court late Tuesday voided the mutiny conviction of
popular ex-army commander Lino Oviedo, freeing him to run for the top
job.

One of Paraguay's most controversial and colorful figures, Oviedo
announced in September that he would seek the office, shortly after
he was released on parole for a conviction of fomenting a coup d'etat
against the government in 1996.

But it was unclear whether he'd be allowed to seek the post until
Tuesday's action. The election will be held April 20.

The court's decision drew howls of outrage from some political
analysts and politicians, who accused the Colorado Party of
manipulating the court to allow Oviedo's candidacy and split possible
opposition to its candidate, who will be chosen in December.

The party, which has ruled Paraguay for 60 years, is facing a tough
election battle against former priest Fernando Lugo, who has wide
support from the poor among Paraguay's 6.7 million population.

''All the evidence we have shows this was the product of a pact
between the Colorados and the supporters of Oviedo,'' said Lugo
spokesman Ausberto Rodriguez. ``This will have an impact on the
election, but Fernando Lugo's candidacy is already consolidated.''

The court ruled that judicial authorities erred by trying Oviedo in
both a military court and a civilian court for his role in connection
with a plot to overthrow then-President Juan Carlos Wasmosy. The
court also said that authorities erred by not allowing Oviedo's
attorneys to cross-examine witnesses against him.

The ruling came at the last minute.

Under Paraguayan law, all candidates must be registered to vote and
those serving prison sentences cannot register. The court decision
came out shortly before Tuesday's midnight registration deadline, and
Oviedo rushed to get on the voter rolls.

''It's such a visible and vulgar manipulation of justice on the part
of President Nicanor Duarte Frutos,'' said Paraguayan political
columnist Alfredo Boccia Paz. ``You'd have to be pathologically naive
not to see the Colorado hand behind this.''

Speaking to reporters before registering, Oviedo denied that Duarte
Frutos had arranged his court victory. He promised a campaign
``without hate, without lies and without bitterness.''

Colorado Party spokesman Adan Ledezma also said the court had acted
independently. He warned that Oviedo, who left the party in 2005 and
now leads a rival party, UNACE, represented as big a threat to the
Colorados as he did to Lugo. UNACE stands for the National Union of
Ethical Citizens.

''The promptness of this decision has raised questions in some
sectors of society, but we think the Colorado Party did not
manipulate anything,'' Ledezma said. ``The party is watching what's
happened with the Oviedo case with much worry and fear.''

The 64-year-old ex-general has been one of Paraguay's most popular
figures for more than a decade. He helped oust longtime dictator
Alfredo Stroessner in 1989 but was then convicted of mutiny when he
refused to obey orders to resign his command of the army in 1996.

He also has been indicted for his alleged role in the assassination
of one of his political rivals, Vice President Luis María Argana in
1999, and the murders of seven protesters who were demanding his
imprisonment in connection with Argana's death.

Despite the accusations, Oviedo draws enthusiastic support with his
mix of militaristic bravado and populist appeal.





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