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.
BY KEVIN G. HALL
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
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
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
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
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
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.