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World - Americas

Gunmen ambush, kill Paraguayan vice president

March 23, 1999
Web posted at: 11:19 a.m. EDT (1119 GMT)

ASUNCION, Paraguay (CNN) -- Gunmen armed with automatic weapons and hand grenades assassinated Paraguayan Vice President Luis Maria Argana as he arrived at his office early Tuesday.

Aide Jorge Alberto Planas told reporters that doctors at the American Hospital confirmed Argana's death. Juan Carlos Galaverna, a senator from the ruling Colorado Party, also said the vice president was fatally wounded.

Details of the attack were sketchy, and in some cases conflicting. Some reports said two gunmen attacked the vice president's vehicle, and others said there were three assailants.

Argana became vice president last year when former army chief Lino Oviedo was sentenced to 10 years in prison for attempting to oust then-President Juan Wasmosy in 1996. Oviedo had defeated Argana in a party primary.

The Paraguayan Congress voted last week to accuse President Raul Cubas of abuse of power for freeing Oviedo, an ally and mentor. The controversy split the Colorado Party into rival factions headed by Argana and Cubas.

The Colorado Party has ruled Paraguay for half a century, first under the dictatorship of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner, then under democracy since Stroessner was toppled in a coup in 1989. Argana had served as Stroessner's finance minister and as the country's Supreme Court chief.

No motive for the attack was immediately known. Cubas called an emergency meeting of his aides to assess the situation. Congress announced an emergency session scheduled for Wednesday.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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