Rioters set Paraguay's Congress on fire

Two Paraguayan protesters pause to take selfies during the attack on Congress in Asuncion. Photo / AP
Two Paraguayan protesters pause to take selfies during the attack on Congress in Asuncion. Photo / AP

Protesters have stormed Paraguay's Congress building and set it on fire after a secret Senate vote to approve a bill that would allow President Horacio Cartes to run for another term.

Hundreds of people clashed with riot police in Asuncion and broke into Congress, battering down entrances and fences and shattering windows.

Inside, they ransacked the first floor offices of politicians who backed the reform and started fires. Police used water cannon and fired rubber bullets to drive demonstrators away from the building while firefighters extinguished the blazes.

The fire service said 30 demonstrators and police were injured in the violence.

Earlier the vote on the constitutional amendment took place during a special session held in a closed office in Congress rather than on the Senate floor.

Opponents of the measure, who say it clears the way for dictatorships, said the vote was illegal.

The measure was backed by 25 of the country's 45 senators. The yes votes came from members of the governing Colorado Party and from several opposition groups.

Opponents of the move included Senate President Roberto Acevedo of the opposition Authentic Radical Liberal Party.

He argued the process used to bring the amendment to a vote violated Senate rules and he filed an appeal to the Supreme Court seeking to have the vote overturned.

The proposal would allow current President Horacio Cartes and Paraguay's previous presidents to run for the top job again in the 2018 election. Presidents are now limited to a single 5-year term.

After approval in the Senate, the proposal went to the Chamber of Deputies, where 44 of the 80 members belong to the Colorado Party. Approval there would require the scheduling of a national referendum on the amendment. AP

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