December 18, 2001

Paraguay's Ex - Army Chief Oviedo Leaves Brazilian Jail


BRASILIA, Brazil (Reuters) - Former Paraguayan army chief Lino Oviedo walked out of a Brazilian jail on Tuesday and gave a thumbs-up
sign to celebrate Brazil's rejection of Paraguay's request to extradite him on murder charges.

Oviedo emerged from the prison where he spent the last three weeks and headed by car to his cousin's home in an elegant neighborhood of
Brazil's capital, one day after Brazil's highest court denied the extradition request.

``I'm very happy,'' said a smiling Oviedo, who has been in Brazilian police custody since June 2000.

Paraguay wanted to extradite the charismatic former general to stand trial for allegedly masterminding the 1999 shooting of Paraguayan Vice
President Luis Maria Argana and a guard.

Oviedo, 58, is also wanted for alleged involvement in the deaths of seven demonstrators killed in the political upheaval following Argana's
murder. Oviedo and Argana belonged to rival factions of Paraguay's fractious Colorado Party.

But Brazil's 11 Supreme Court judges on Monday unanimously denied the extradition request on the grounds that it was politically motivated.

Oviedo's family and lawyers argued that the government of Paraguayan President Luis Gonzalez Macchi, a foe of the ex-general, was behind
a political persecution campaign against Oviedo.

Oviedo had been battling extradition since he was arrested in June 2000 in an apartment in the city of Foz de Iguacu, on the border with
Paraguay. He was found with a revolver and 10 cellular telephones.

Oviedo's lawyer Walter Costa Porto said the ex-general would be free to return to Paraguay once he addressed some pending bureaucratic

But Oviedo's opponents argue he must serve out a 10-year prison sentence in Paraguay for leading a failed coup attempt in 1996 against
President Juan Carlos Wasmosy.

Oviedo served less than a year of that sentence before being freed by his ally, ex-President Raul Cubas. Paraguay's Supreme Court ratified
the jail sentence, however.


Oviedo hugged his son as he arrived at his cousin's home in Brasilia, which is a stone's throw from the home of former Paraguayan dictator
Alfredo Stroessner, who has been living in asylum since he was overthrown in 1989.

Stroessner, who ruled Paraguay for 35 years with an iron fist, is in poor health and keeps to himself.

Cubas also lives in asylum in Brazil. Oviedo filed for asylum while fighting extradition but it was denied.

Brazil, Latin America's largest country, is a natural choice for Paraguayans or other Latin Americans seeking asylum, said James Cavallero of
human rights group Global Justice.

Its size and Portuguese language helps distance it from the rest of Spanish-speaking Latin America, allowing men like Cubas and Stroessner
to maintain a low profile, Cavallero said.

                                       Copyright 2001 Reuters Ltd.