Paraguay senators vote in secret to allow presidential re-election | Reuters

ASUNCION Paraguay appeared headed for a constitutional crisis on Friday after a group of senators voted behind closed doors for a bill that would allow President Horacio Cartes to run for re-election, while protesters confronted police outside Congress.The Senate vote took place during a special session held in a closed office in Congress rather than on the Senate floor. Twenty five voted for the measure, two more than the 23 required for passage in the 45-member chamber.Opponents, who claim the measure would weaken democratic institutions, said the vote was illegal. Protesters who marched in front of the Congress building in capital city of Asuncion were met by water hoses and rubber bullets fired by police.

"A coup has been carried out. We will resist and we invite the people to resist with us," said Senator Desiree Masi from the opposition Progressive Democratic Party.Televised images showed protesters bleeding and others breaking the windows of police cars, with local media reporting that several politicians and journalists were injured.

The senators have sent the proposal to the lower House, where it appeared to have strong support but it was not yet clear when the vote would take place.

If passed by the lower House, the measure would apply to future presidents and Cartes, a soft drink and tobacco mogul elected to a five-year term in 2013. His strongest backers want him to be allowed to run for another term next year. Critics have said a constitutional change aimed at benefiting a sitting president would be unfair. The new law would also apply to former President Fernando Lugo, whose supporters want to be allowed to run for another term as well."Everything was done legally," said Senator Carlos Filizzola of the leftist Guasu Front coalition, which supports the constitutional amendment as a way of allowing Lugo to come back as Paraguay's leader. (Reporting by Daniela Desantis; writing by Hugh Bronstein; editing by Diane Craft)

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Published Date: Apr 01, 2017 04:45 AM | Updated Date: Apr 01, 2017 04:45 AM

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