Paraguay president fires top officials after violent protests

ASUNCION – Paraguay’s President Horacio Cartes has sacked the interior minister and the police chief following the killing of a young opposition party leader and violent clashes sparked by a secret Senate vote for a constitutional amendment to allow presidential re-election.

Dozens of people, including a police officer, were arrested Friday evening in demonstrations that saw protesters break through police lines and enter the first floor of Paraguay’s legislature, setting fire to papers and furniture.

Read more: Protesters burn Paraguay parliament over constitutional reform bill

Police used water cannon and fired rubber bullets to drive protesters away from the building while firefighters extinguished blazes inside.

In the early hours Saturday, 25-year-old Rodrigo Quintana was shot and killed at the headquarters of the Authentic Radical Liberal Party, where most of the protests took place.

His body was laid out at the headquarters of the opposition Liberal party in the capital, Asuncion.

Political leaders on Saturday paid their respects to the dead man. They condemned the killing and called for an investigation into his death.

Around 200 protesters were detained but many have since been released.

The protesters had taken to the streets following a private meeting of 25 senators – a slight majority of the house – which approved a bill to amend the constitution.

Paraguay was controlled by military ruler General Alfredo Stroessner, who seized power in a coup, from 1954 until 1989.

The current constitution, created in 1992 after the dictatorship, limits the head of state to a single five-year term.

Protesters were angered by the bill which would have allowed President Cartes’ to remove the restriction and run for re-election.

President Cartes’ term is due to end in 2018.