Reports of supporters of Lino Cesar Oviedo intimidating, harassing, physically assaulting or kidnapping opposition activists, particularly those who supported Luis Maria Argana; police response to these actions, if any (1996-2002) [PRY39234.E]

On 2 December 1998, the Paraguayan Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a decree by President Raul Cubas Grau freeing retired general Lino Cesar Oviedo, who was serving a 10-year prison term (Weekly News Update 4 Jan. 1999) for having attempted to overthrow then-President Wasmosy in 1996 (El Universal 23 Dec. 1998). To protest this decision, on 22 December 1998, some 400 of Oviedo's supporters (also called "oviedistas") "set up roadblocks with burning tires on international highways, shut down bus service, and attacked the Supreme Court building in the capital, Asuncion, with gunfire, homemade explosives and rocks" (Weekly News Update 4 Jan. 1999). The supporters were asking for the resignation of the five Supreme Court judges who voted in favour of Oviedo's return to prison (El Universal 23 Dec. 1998; AFP 22 Dec. 1998). The same month, Oviedo had reportedly "threatened to bury alive his enemies on the Supreme Court" (Los Angeles Times 24 Mar. 1999). Some reporters who were on-site said they had been attacked by the crowd (AFP 22 Dec. 1998), and Asuncion's former archbishop Ismael Rolon was hit in the face with a rock (Weekly News Update 4 Jan. 1999; El Universal 23 Dec. 1998).

On 23 December 1998, supporters of Oviedo amassed in front of the home of former President Juan Carlos Wasmosy and shouted insults at him (ibid.). Senator Amado Yambay, who is reportedly a supporter of Oviedo, had ordered sympathizers to seize Wasmosy so he could be imprisoned for acts of corruption he allegedly perpetrated during his mandate (ibid.). On 29 December 1998, a small group of Oviedo supporters "staged protests at the homes of the five Supreme Court justices who refuse to resign and insist that their ruling must be enforced" (Weekly News Update 4 Jan. 1999).

On 11 March 1999, while Paraguay's Chamber of Deputies was discussing the possibility of impeaching President Cubas for having released Oviedo, an explosion occurred on the roof of the Congress building (IPS 11 Mar. 1999). The legislature had been requesting special security measures for its members "due to a string of episodes of stone-throwing by Oviedo supporters waiting outside the building" (ibid.).

Before the assassination of Vice-president Luis Maria Argana in March 1999, of which Lino Oviedo was blamed by Argana's allies, it was reported that "[i]n recent months, gunmen had opened fire on Argana's house" (Los Angeles Times 24 Mar. 1999). The Los Angeles Times also reported that "supporters of the vice president scuffled with people loyal to Oviedo at Colorado Party headquarters" (ibid.). A 24 March 1999 report in La Tercera stated that during the previous weeks, Molotov cocktails had been thrown against the residences of Supreme Court judges and that dozens of parliamentarians and journalists opposed to President Cubas and Lino Oviedo had received death threats. Also, Country Reports 1999 indicated that on two occasions in January 1999, "unknown attackers--allegedly Oviedo supporters--threw Molotov cocktails and fired shots into the residences of Supreme Court justices. Similarly, shots were fired into the home of former president Juan Carlos Wasmosy in the same month" (25 Feb. 2000). Jose Luis Chilavert, Paraguay's star goalkeeper, also reported receiving death threats shortly after Argana's assassination, because he had been "a frequent critic" of Lino Oviedo, and having been physically assaulted by eight Oviedo supporters at Buenos Aires' airport (DPA 25 Mar. 1999).

Following the announcement of Argana's death on 23 March 1999, demonstrations "immediately erupted in Asuncion" at the Plaza de Armas just outside Congress (Weekly News Update 29 Mar. 1999) and escalated until 26 March (ibid.; AI 31 Mar. 1999). Among the thousands of demonstrators were union leaders who had already scheduled a strike for 24 March and peasants (campesinos) (Weekly News Update 29 Mar. 1999). Members of Youth for Democracy (Jovenes por la Democracia), an "organisation which had scored its first political victory back in 1996, when it spearheaded the opposition to Oviedo's abortive rebellion," were also present (LAWR 30 Mar. 1999). The demonstrators stayed in the plaza despite having been attacked by police with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons (Manchester Guardian Weekly 4 Apr. 1999; Weekly News Update 29 Mar. 1999). Oviedo supporters also gathered in the plaza and started clashing with anti-government demonstrators (ibid.). One report stated that "[f]ollowers of Oviedo added to the tension by threatening violence over the airwaves. 'Blood will flow here,' warned the pro-Oviedo station Nanawa, calling on [Oviedo's] supporters to 'garrotte anyone who opposes us'" (Reuters 25 Mar. 1999). Senators and deputies inside the Congress building who were discussing Cubas' fate reportedly feared for their safety because "[r]umours spread that Gen. Oviedo's loyalists planned to kidnap opposition senators to defeat the dismissal motion" (Manchester Guardian Weekly 4 Apr. 1999).

Anti-government and pro-Oviedo protesters started throwing sticks, shields, fireworks, chains and bottles at each other until police became overwhelmed and had to retreat (ibid.; El Mundo 28 Mar. 1999). At that point, snipers from a nearby building started firing into the crowd (Manchester Guardian Weekly 4 Apr. 1999; Weekly News Update 29 Mar. 1999). These shots reportedly came from the Zodiac building where the offices of senators loyal to Oviedo are located (ibid.; Manchester Guardian Weekly 4 Apr. 1999). Some oviedistas in the crowd were also reportedly armed and started firing into the crowd (Weekly News Update 29 Mar. 1999; LAWR 30 Mar. 1999). Some reports claim that officially, only four people were shot dead, but that this number could be as high as 13 (El Mundo 28 Mar. 1999; Weekly News Update 29 Mar. 1999). One report stated that four members of Youth for Democracy were killed by "rival protesters" and snipers and that two others remained in critical condition (IPS 29 Mar. 1999), but a later report stated that seven members of this organization were shot dead by snipers on 26 March 1999 (EFE 4 Aug. 2000). The number of people injured reported by various sources ranges from "more than 60" (LAWR 30 Mar. 1999) to "at least 200" (Manchester Guardian Weekly 4 Apr. 1999). Amnesty International also reported on 31 March 1999 that eight people had disappeared on the night of 26 March 1999.

On 27 March 1999, President Cubas had national police commander Nino Trinidad Ruiz Diaz removed from his post (Weekly News Update 29 Mar. 1999; IPS 29 Mar. 1999), reportedly for "having kept his forces as passive onlookers while the shooting was taking place" (LAWR 30 Mar. 1999). The attorney general immediately had Nino Trinidad arrested on homicide charges (Weekly News Update 29 Mar. 1999). Paraguayan authorities also stated that Nino Trinidad "was acting on orders from general Lino Oviedo" when the shootings started on 26 March (AFP 6 Apr. 1999). Retired police chief Carlos Duria was also arrested for having "supplied weapons to the Oviedo supporters who fired on the protestors, who witnesses say were neither provoking police nor clashing with pro-Cubas demonstrators" (ibid.). Another report stated that "opponents blame President Cubas for the bloodshed, charging that he ordered police to leave the scene" (Weekly News Update 29 Mar. 1999).

On 28 March 1999, Cubas announced his resignation and Luis Angel Gonzalez Macchi, a supporter of Argana, was sworn in as his replacement (ibid. 4 Apr. 1999). One report stated that the next day, an Asuncion judge ordered Cubas and Oviedo arrested in connection with the killing of the Youth for Democracy members, but the two men had already fled, respectively to Brazil and Argentina (ibid.). However, another source reported that "Paraguay's new government said ... it will not seek to prosecute former President Raul Cubas and former army chief Lino Oviedo" in connection with the shootings (CNN 29 Mar. 1999). According to the New York Times, a judge had ordered that Cubas be put under house arrest on charges of "negligent homicide," but Paraguayan Interior Minister Walter Bower stated that Cubas "had Parliamentary immunity and could not be detained. As a former President, he is a senator for life" (30 Mar. 1999).

According to Amnesty International, there were allegations that the "judicial investigations into the killings were obstructed by police," adding that there were "eyewitness accounts that police officers assisted the attackers and that some police officers fired on protesters" (2000). Country Reports 1999 also stated that there are "credible allegations that Oviedo and the police command ordered supporters to fire on protesters" (25 Feb. 2000, section 1a). Amnesty International reported that judicial proceedings had been initiated against more than 20 politicians and journalists who were supporters of Oviedo or Cubas for inciting the violent incidents of March and that there was "concern at the apparent lack of evidence against a number of the accused" (2000). Similarly, Country Reports 1999 reported that Paraguayan authorities were detaining people suspected of being involved in the shootings "on weak or no evidence" and that there were "plausible accusations that the police tortured two of those persons they arrested" (25 Feb. 2000, section 1a). Amnesty International also expressed concern over a report issued by a parliamentary commission set up to investigate these events, whose "apparent bias ... contributed to a climate of political persecution against those who had shown support for Lino Oviedo or President Cubas" (2000).

The Manchester Guardian Weekly reported on 11 April 1999 that 200 arrest warrants had been issued against suspected supporters of Lino Oviedo and that "a pro-Oviedo senator had been attacked in the congress, narrowly escaping a lynch mob by barricading himself in an office until police reinforcements arrived" (ibid.). Thirteen oviedista deputies and senators reportedly asked Argentina for protection in light of the "persecution" they say was being "brutally directed" against the National Union of Ethical Colorados (UNACE), the pro-Oviedo faction of the Colorado Party (Clarín 9 Apr. 1999). The congressmen wrote a letter to the Argentinean newspaper Clarín denouncing "the systematic violations of basic human rights that the current Paraguayan government is carrying out in the name of democracy, but which are acts of revenge" (ibid.). In August 2000, in the lead-up to the election for Vice-president, Oviedo, who was then detained in Brazil, urged his followers to vote for Julio Cesar Franco of the Authentic Liberal Radical Party (PLRA) (Weekly News Update 7 Aug. 2000; AFP 14 Aug. 2000). In the first defeat of the Colorado Party in 53 years, Franco won the vice-presidential elections (Sun-Sentinel 14 Oct. 2000). Oviedo supporters, who took credit for defeating Felix Argana, Luis Maria Argana's son, said they had cast their vote for Franco "to protest their perceived persecution by the Colorado Party" (ibid.).

In late February 2002, Raul Cubas Grau returned to Paraguay to face the charges against him (Knight Ridder 24 Feb. 2002; Weekly News Update 24 Feb. 2002). Presidential spokesperson Carlos Podesta denied that Cubas had negotiated his surrender with President Macchi and stated that in court, Cubas would deny his involvement in Argana's assassination and the killing of demonstrators in March 1999 and would blame Lino Oviedo for these crimes (ibid.; Knight Ridder 24 Feb. 2002). Podesta said that the government had no doubt that "every ill deed Cubas committed was instigated by Oviedo [and that] Cubas' errors were errors caused by Oviedo, but we cannot speculate what he (Cubas) will tell the judge" (ibid.).

On 18 December 2001, Oviedo was freed from his detention after Brazil refused to extradite him to Paraguay and was allowed to stay in the country (ibid.; Weekly News Update 24 Feb. 2002). In 2002, Oviedo announced his intention to return to Paraguay and run for president in the 2003 election (EFE 13 Mar. 2002; LARR 16 Apr. 2002). He also arranged for the withdrawal of his political faction, UNACE, from the Colorado Party "to pave the way for his presidential candidacy" in 2003 (ibid.). For more information on the split of this faction from the Colorado Party, see PRY38606 of 3 May 2002.

No reports of supporters of Lino Cesar Oviedo intimidating, harassing, physically assaulting or kidnapping opposition activists between 2000 and 2002 could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within time constraints.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France Presse (AFP). 14 August 2000. "Paraguay-élections : les deux candidats au coude à coude." (NEXIS)

______. 6 April 1999. "Paraguay Blames Retired General Oviedo for Protestors' Death." (NEXIS)

______. 22 December 1998. "Los seguidores del General Oviedo paralizaron el país." (Ciudad Libertad de Opinión) [Accessed 8 July 2002]

Amnesty International. 2000. Annual Report 2000. "Paraguay." [Accessed 5 July 2002]

______. 31 March 1999. "Paraguay: El nuevo gobierno debe acabar con la impunidad." (Index AI: AMR 45/02/99/s) [Accessed 8 July 2002]

Clarín [Buenos Aires, in Spanish]. 9 April 1999. "Oviedo Supporters Ask Argentina for Protection." (BBC Summary 12 Apr. 1999/NEXIS)

CNN. 29 March 1999. "Paraguay Grants Immunity to Former Leaders." [Accessed 8 July 2002]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1999. 25 February 2000. "Paraguay." United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 5 July 2002]

Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA). 25 March 1999. "Paraguay's Goalkeeper Chilavert Receives Death Threats." (NEXIS)

EFE News Service. 13 March 2002. "Paraguay-Oviedo: I Will Run for Paraguayan Presidency in 2003." (NEXIS)

______. 4 August 2000. "Paraguay-Elections: Paraguayan President Denounces Vying for Oviedo Support." (NEXIS)

Inter Press Service (IPS). 29 March 1999. Christian Torres. "Politics-Paraguay: New President Embraces Opposition Parties." (NEXIS)

______. 11 March 1999. Carlos Montero. "Politics-Paraguay: Explosion in Congress and Political 'Bomb'." (NEXIS)

Knight Ridder [Washington]. 24 February 2002. Kevin G. Hall. "Exiled Paraguayan Leader Returns Home to Face Murder Allegation." (NEXIS)

Latin American Regional Reports: Southern Cone Report (LARR) [London]. 16 April 2002. "Oviedo Will Run in Presidential Elections; Gonzalez Macchi Embroiled in Corruption Scandal." (NEXIS)

Latin America Weekly Report (LAWR) [London]. 30 March 1999. "Dramatic Upheaval Forces Cubas Out; Assassination & Shootings Turn Tables on Government." (NEXIS)

Los Angeles Times. 24 March 1999. Sebastian Rotella. "Vice President of Paraguay is Assassinated; Latin America: Allies of the Slain Politician Accuse a Former Coup Leader of Responsibility." (NEXIS)

Manchester Guardian Weekly. 11 April 1999. Michael McCaughan. "Paraguay Plunged into Diplomatic Crisis." (NEXIS)

______. 4 April 1999. Michael McCaughan. "Paraguay Leader Quits in Wake of Riots." (NEXIS)

El Mundo [Madrid]. 28 March 1999. Alfonso Rojo. "Francotiradores matan a cuatro manifestantes en Asunción ante la pasividad policial." [Accessed 5 July 2002]

New York Times. 30 March 1999. Clifford Krauss. "Argentina Refuses to Extradite Ex-General Back to Paraguay." (NEXIS)

Reuters. 25 March 1999. "Paraguay's Senate Starts Trial of President Cubas." (Rose-Hulman Institute, Latin American Studies Program) [Accessed 5 July 2002]

Sun-Sentinel [Fort Lauderdale, Fla.]. 14 October 2000. "Jailed General Casts Long Shadow; Oviedo Remains Political Force." (NEXIS)

La Tercera [Santiago de Chile]. 24 March 1999. "Magnicidio sacude a Paraguay: Asesinado adversario político de Lino Oviedo." [Accessed 8 July 2002]

El Universal [Caracas]. 23 December 1998. "Oviedistas protagonizan violenta protesta." [Accessed 8 July 2002]

Weekly News Update on the Americas. 24 February 2002. "Paraguay: Ex-President Returns." (NEXIS)

______. 7 August 2000. No. 549. "Paraguay to Hold Vice Presidential Elections." (NEXIS)

______. 4 April 1999. No. 479. "Paraguayan President Resigns." (NEXIS)

______. 29 March 1999. No. 478. "Paraguay: President Impeached, Vice President Murdered." (NEXIS)

______. 4 January 1999. "Paraguay: Ex-Army Chief's Followers Attack Supreme Court." (NEXIS)

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB Databases


Internet sites including:, Paraguay news

Amnesty International



Latin American Network Information Center (LANIC)

Washington Post

World News Connection (WNC)

Search engines including: