Paraguayan lawmakers vote to begin impeachment hearings
Government searches for vice president's assassins
March 24, 1999
ASUNCION, Paraguay (CNN) -- The lower house of the Paraguayan Congress voted Wednesday to begin impeachment hearings against President Raul Cubas, one day after the assassination of the country's vice president.
The measure, unprecedented in Paraguay's fledgling democracy, was approved by a 59 to 24 vote.
Cubas and Vice President Luis Maria Argana were rivals for control of the ruling Colorado Party, which split when Cubas refused to jail a political mentor accused of leading a coup in 1996.
In a vote last week, Paraguay's Congress determined that freeing former army chief Gen. Lino Oviedo last August was an unconstitutional act on the part of Cubas. Wednesday's vote remanded the case to Paraguay's Senate for trial. No date has been set.
Cubas became the Colorado Party's candidate for president last March when Oviedo was convicted of leading the coup against then-President Juan Wasmosy. Argana, defeated by Oviedo in a party primary, became Cubas' deputy.
Argana was killed Tuesday by assassins who ambushed his vehicle and shot him as he arrived at work.
Argana's followers and family say Cubas is indirectly responsible for the vice president's death, which plunged the country into turmoil.
Cubas closed Paraguay's borders and began a hunt for the assassins. He also sent anti-riot police into the streets of the capital to quell demonstrations that sprang up in the wake of Argana's death.
He called for "exemplary punishment" for the assailants, and said he wanted "the world to know I repudiate this attack."
The president appointed his brother to head up the assassination investigation. Carlos Cubas replaces Ruben Arias Mendoza, who resigned abruptly Tuesday with no explanation, as interior minister.
Labor union officials, who had already scheduled a general strike for Wednesday to demand wage increases, promised to step up their protests, calling for Cubas' resignation.
Cubas has repeatedly refuse to resign.
Argana's body was to lie in state early Wednesday before burial later in the day.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Paraguay hunts for vice president's assassins
Presidencia de la Republica del Paraguay (in Spanish)
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