The Miami Herald
Jan. 27, 2004

Duarte returns home amid reports of a plot

The Paraguayan president makes a detour on his return from a vacation in Brazil after a plot to assassinate him is reported.

  Knight Ridder News Service

  RIO DE JANEIRO - Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte Frutos delayed by one day his return to his country from a beach vacation in Brazil after
  intelligence services detected a plot to assassinate him, Duarte told reporters Monday.

  Duarte, a reformer in a notoriously corrupt nation, was due home with his family on Sunday, but his whereabouts were a mystery until Monday afternoon
  when he appeared at Mburubicha Roga, Paraguay's presidential palace.


  The daily Ultima Hora, where Duarte once worked as a reporter, said on its website late Monday that Brazilian and Paraguayan intelligence services had
  learned about the presence of six hired assassins with machine guns and shoulder-fired weapons that are capable of downing the president's aircraft.
  There were apparently no arrests.

  Duarte canceled his return by plane to Asunción, according to Ultima Hora, and instead flew to the Uruguayan border city of Ciudad del Este on Sunday
  afternoon. He then was taken by car to the town of Coronel Oviedo, where he was born and raised. He returned to Asunción in the late hours Sunday or
  early Monday.


  Duarte speculated that criminal gangs and members of the armed forces were behind the assassination plot in retaliation for his pledge to crack down on
  corruption. He said U.S. Ambassador John F. Keane earlier this month had warned him to beef up his personal security before traveling abroad.

  There was no immediate comment from the U.S. Embassy in Asunción, Paraguay's capital.

  ''We will triple our effort and bring concrete, direct actions to the places where impunity has historically been doctrine and privileges have prevailed,''
  Duarte told reporters, according to the newspaper ABC Color's website.

  Duarte also hinted at military involvement, noting ``there will not be tolerance for those who dishonor the armed forces.''

  He promised dishonorable discharges for those ``who steal arms from the military.''


  Since returning to democracy in 1989 after a 35-year military dictatorship, Paraguay has seen repeated coup attempts and almost annual battles between
  the chief executive and armed forces commanders.

  In March 1999, Vice President Luis María Argana was shot to death and the president, Raúl Cubas, fled to exile in Cuba.

  Former Gen. Lino Oviedo was charged with being the mastermind of the Argana killing but has enjoyed informal asylum in Brazil.