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Paraguay's military commander fired

Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo was elected to a five-year term last year.
Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo was elected to a five-year term last year.
  • Paraguay's president revamping military commands
  • President Fernando Lugo fired military branch commanders earlier this week
  • Opposition says Lugo trying to bring leftist agenda to military
  • Military shakeup is fourth since Lugo took office

Asuncion, Paraguay (CNN) -- Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo continued to purge the top ranks of the nation's military Friday, removing the armed forces' commander.

Lugo fired the commanders of the country's army, air force and navy on Wednesday. The armed forces commander, Rear Adm. Cibar Benitez Caceres, had been the only top official to survive Wednesday's dismissals.

Lugo has given no reason for the firings, publicly denying rumors of a coup plot.

Benitez Caceres will be replaced as armed forces chief by Brig. Gen. Juan Oscar Velazquez Castillo, the president's executive order said. The handover ceremony was scheduled to take place Friday afternoon.

The military held a ceremony Thursday for the new army, navy and air force commanders. Lugo did not attend.

Brig. Gen. Bartolome Ramon Pineda Ortiz was installed as the new army commander. Brig. Gen. Hugo Gilberto Aranda Chamorro took over the top post at the air force and Rear Adm. Egberto Emerito Orie Benegas, at the navy.

Benitez had said at Thursday's swearing-in ceremony that other changes would be coming in the lower ranks, but denied there was any truth to talk of a coup.

Some opposition politicians said Friday that Lugo, a leftist, is trying to install military commanders more in tune with his political and ideological leanings. Opposition Sen. Enrique Gonzalez Quintana was quoted in the digital newspaper as saying Lugo has an agenda similar to that of leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Paraguay's history is filled with unstable transitions of power since it emerged in 1989 from Gen. Alfredo Stroessner's 35-year dictatorship. There were attempted coups in 1996 and 2000, and President Raul Cubas resigned amid controversy in 1999.

Friday's military shakeup is the fourth since Lugo took office. The former Catholic bishop was elected to a five-year term last year, bringing an end to six decades of one-party rule in Paraguay. But the goodwill did not last long.

In April, Lugo admitted that he fathered a child while he was still a priest and that he may have fathered more. Three women have accused him of fathering a child.

The revelation, which came as a shock to most, hurt his political image. Calls for his resignation began, and have continued as Lugo has struggled to push reforms through a majority-opposition legislature. Oppositions lawmakers, who say Lugo also has been ineffective in battling the nation's crime wave, are trying to impeach him.