September 4, 2006

Paraguay faces fight over 2nd term for president

ASUNCION, Paraguay (Reuters) - Opposition lawmakers in
Paraguay vowed on Monday to block all government legislation in
a protest of the center-right president's plans to change the
constitution in order to seek re-election.

President Nicanor Duarte Frutos, who has led the
impoverished country since he was elected with 37 percent of
the vote in 2003, wants to change the constitution to allow him
to seek a second term in 2008.

Opposition leaders have hardened their stance against his
plans, accusing the president of raising political tensions in
the unstable nation that has seen several coup attempts since
democracy was restored in 1989.

"The line of communication between the government and the
opposition parties is broken," Blas Llano, president of the
country's main opposition party, told reporters as he announced
the plan to block all government-sponsored bills in Congress.

The protest will last "until (the president) changes his
attitude to re-election because the only thing he's doing is
adding to political tensions," said opposition Sen. Miguel

Duarte Frutos, who lacks a majority in Congress, is seeking
political alliances to back his constitutional reform plan.

Two recent opinion polls have shown his popularity falling.
A survey by First Analysis and Studies published on Monday
showed half the population opposed a second term, with 35.5
percent in favor. The poll surveyed 1,000 people across the
country between August 27 and last Friday and had a margin of
error of 3.3 percent.

Among the projects that could be hit by the opposition
boycott is the approval of $216 million in loans by
multinational lenders, which the government calls crucial to
revitalizing the economy.

Congress is also due to elect a director for the country's
central bank, which has been hit by resignations and infighting
in the past year.