ASUNCION – A second round of talks on a possible constitutional amendment to allow Paraguayan presidents to seek a second term in office – a controversial proposal that sparked violent protests last week – took place Friday without the presence of members of the main opposition party.
President Horacio Cartes, who organized the talks, had expressed hope Thursday that the new attempt at dialogue would help the two sides overcome their differences.
But the president of the Senate, Roberto Acevedo of the main opposition Authentic Radical Liberal Party (PLRA), did not attend the gathering at the Metropolitan Seminary in Asuncion, having said after the first round of talks on Wednesday that he would not sit down again unless the proposal was withdrawn.
The PLRA’s chairman, Efrain Alegre, has adopted the same stance as Acevedo against presidential re-election and also was absent on Friday.
Asuncion Archbishop Edmundo Valenzuela participated in the meeting along with the head of the lower house of Congress, Hugo Velazquez, a member of Cartes’ conservative Colorado Party; the ruling party’s chairman, Pedro Alliana; and Sen. Esperanza Martinez, chairwoman of the Guasu Front, a leftist coalition
The Guasu Front also backs the bill as it could benefit its former president, Fernando Lugo, who was impeached in 2012.
Friday’s meeting ended with a call for the opposition to attend a new round of talks after Easter.
Violence erupted in Paraguay’s capital on March 31 after news broke that senators had passed a constitutional amendment to authorize presidential re-election during a closed-door session.
Protesters stormed and set fire to the legislative building, where both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies are seated.
Dozens were injured and more than 200 arrests were made when police intervened to quell the protests, while 25-year-old Roberto Quintana was shot dead when officers stormed the PLRA’s headquarters just after midnight on March 31.
Alegre has called on authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the activist’s death.
Although the bill had been due to be taken up by the lower house, Velazquez said Monday that the chamber would not consider the measure until an agreement was reached through the talks organized by Cartes.
Current legislation in Paraguay limits the nation’s president to just one term, in line with measures implemented after the fall in 1989 of the Stroessner dictatorship in the landlocked South American country.