BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (Reuters) -- Argentina will banish exiled
Paraguayan coup leader Lino Oviedo to a remote part of the country, far
from Buenos Aires, for violating the terms of his asylum by making political
comments, an official said on Thursday.
The cashiered general was the strongman behind disgraced President Raul
Cubas. They fled Paraguay in March accused of plotting the murder of Vice
President Luis Maria Argana, their political rival. Argana was gunned down
in the street in Asuncion on March 23.
"Mr. Lino Cesar Oviedo has violated his asylum conditions by giving a press
interview of a political nature," Argentine Interior Minister Carlos Corach
told reporters. He will be "taken to his new place of residence in a very short
Corach said this would happen in a few days. He would not comment on
reports that Oviedo's new place of exile would be on the Patagonian island
of Tierra del Fuego in the frozen far south, or on the vast, empty plains of La
Paraguay wants Oviedo extradited to face murder charges and serve out a
10-year jail sentence for his 1996 coup attempt. Argentina has twice refused
to send him home for trial. It argues, as with neighbouring Brazil which
granted asylum to Cubas, that his return to Paraguay would destabilize the
Landlocked Paraguay emerged from the 35-year dictatorship of Gen.
Alfredo Stroessner in 1989.
Though a partner of Argentina and Brazil in the Mercosur trade bloc, its
development is hostage to power struggles in the Colorado Party, which has
ruled for half a century.
The 55-year-old cavalryman, who has caused a row between Argentina and
Paraguay, appeared on the front pages of the press on Wednesday vowing
to be Paraguay's next president.
La Nacion quoted Oviedo saying, "If conditions arise for my return to
Paraguay, I can assure you I would beat the rest of them together in
elections, as already happened once before."
When Oviedo's coup failed in 1996 he turned to politics, founding his own
Colorado faction and winning party primaries in 1997. He was later
belatedly jailed for his revolt and his sidekick Cubas stepped in, won the
presidency and freed him.
Oviedo's lawyers denied he had given an interview, but Corach, who had
already issued Oviedo a "final warning" for carrying out political activities,
promised to investigate.
Members of the new government of Paraguay, led by President Luis
Gonzalez Macchi, accuse Argentine President Carlos Menem of sheltering a
killer. Menem denied reports that Oviedo is his friend, but acknowledges
that they have met.
Oviedo first found shelter in Argentina on the ranch of an associate of
Menem. He then moved to a rented chalet near Buenos Aires and has been
accused of hosting meetings there of up to 30 followers at a time, violating
asylum rules banning all political activity.
Diplomatic relations between Argentina and Paraguay, which have
withdrawn their ambassadors, still appeared sour on Thursday. Argentina
insisted Paraguay apologize for comments by Argana's son Nelson, now
defense minister, calling Menem "shameless."
"We are waiting for the government of Paraguay to honor its tradition and
our friendship and historic links by apologizing for the absurd, outrageous
comments by one of President Macchi's cabinet ministers," said Corach.
Macchi, asked in Asuncion for his reaction to news Oviedo would be
banished from Buenos Aires, responded, "Seeing is believing." He made it
clear he did not plan to apologize to Argentina. "We haven't yet and we are
not going to."
Copyright 1999 Reuters.