Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes has expressed “deep regret” over the killing of a young opposition activist by police, firing those he deemed responsible for the incident.
“I deeply regret the events that took place. Any act that leads to the death of a young person is unjustifiable and a significant calamity. I offer my most sincere condolences to the family of Rodrigo Quintana,” Cartes said in a video posted on social media sites on Saturday night, referring to the activist killed by his name.
Quintana, the 25-year-old leader of the Authentic Radical Liberal Party’s youth branch, was killed by a rubber bullet fired by the police forces who had raided its headquarters in Asuncion during clashes in the early hours of Saturday.
In the video speech, Cartes pledged, “These acts will not go unpunished. Everyone responsible for this horrendous episode will face justice and will pay for what they’ve done.”
On Saturday, the president fired Interior Minister Miguel Tadeo Rojas and top police official Crispulo Sotelo over the violence, which was sparked by a secret Senate vote for a constitutional amendment to allow presidential reelection.
Security camera footage showed people in a corridor running desperately away from police, and Quintana falling to the ground, apparently hit from behind. Seconds later, a policeman carrying a gun is seen stepping on Quintana, who lies face-down on the ground.
Before his dismissal, Sotelo, the police official, identified Gustavo Florentin as the police agent responsible for Quintana’s death and said he had been arrested.
Later on Saturday, Cartes announced that he had accepted the resignations of Tadeo Rojas and Sotelo.
Cartes added that Vice Minister of Internal Security Lorenzo Lezcano would replace Rojas as interior minister, and police subcommander Luis Carlos Rojas would take over Sotelo’s portfolio.
“I submit to a self-criticism because we politicians have not been able to settle our differences with dialog and peace,” President Cartes further said in his vidoe speech. “It is upsetting that civilians and police officers were injured.”
Riot police move in during a protest against the approval of a constitutional amendment for presidential reelection, outside Congress in Asuncion, March 31, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
However, President of the Democratic Progressive Party Rafael Filizzola said President Cartes himself was responsible for the violence and had to be ousted from his post.
“Some members of congress are already working on a constitutional accusation against Horacio Cartes with the aims of him being politically prosecuted and eventually removed [from power],” said Filizzola. “We, as a party, and also those from the parties sitting here, support this measure because there are constitutional reasons for Cartes to have to go.”
The right-wing Cartes, who took office in mid-August 2013, is striving to make changes in the constitution in order to allow him to run for office again in an election in 2018.
Since 1992, the South American country has banned reelection, and Paraguayan presidents are limited to a single five-year term. The proposal would allow Cartes and Paraguay’s previous presidents to run for the top job again in the 2018 election.
The reelection of a president is regarded as undemocratic in the country still remembering the 35-year iron rule of General Alfredo Stroessner, who gained power in an army coup in 1954.
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