Clashes, fire at Paraguay congress after re-election vote

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Protesters set fire to the Congress building during a demonstration against a possible change in the law to allow for presidential re-election in Asuncion

Protesters set fire to the Congress building during a demonstration against a possible change in the law to allow for presidential re-election in Asuncion, Paraguay, March 31, 2017. Photo by Jorge Adorno/Reuters

ASUNCION, Paraguay — Violent clashes erupted between police and protesters outside Paraguay’s congress after senators approved a constitutional amendment to allow a president to run for a second term. Some protesters broke through police lines and entered the first floor, setting fire to papers and furniture.

Police late Friday used water cannon and fired rubber bullets to drive demonstrators away from the building while firefighters extinguished blazes inside.

A protester, who is wounded by a rubber bullet in clashes with police during a demonstration against a possible change in law to allow for presidential re-election, stands in front of the Congress building in Asuncion

A protester, who is wounded by a rubber bullet in clashes with police during a demonstration against a possible change in law to allow for presidential re-election, stands in front of the Congress building in Asuncion, Paraguay, March 31, 2017. Photo by Jorge Adorno/Reuters

The protests broke out after a majority of Paraguayan senators approved the amendment, a move called illegal by opposition members and opposed by the Senate president himself.

The measure was backed by 25 of the country’s 45 senators. The yes votes came from members of the governing Colorado Party and from several opposition groups.

Police on horseback ride past a statue of a cannon during a protest against a possible change in law to allow for presidential re-election in front of the Congress building in Asuncion

Police on horseback ride past a statue of a cannon during a protest against a possible change in law to allow for presidential re-election in front of the Congress building in Asuncion, Paraguay, March 31, 2017. Photo by Jorge Adorno/Reuters

Opponents of the move included Senate President Roberto Acevedo of the opposition Authentic Radical Liberal Party. He argued the process used to bring the amendment to a vote violated Senate rules and he filed an appeal to the Supreme Court seeking to have the vote overturned.

President of Paraguay’s congress Roberto Acevedo is seen during a demonstration against a possible change in the law to allow for presidential re-election in front of the Congress building in Asuncion

President of Paraguay’s congress Roberto Acevedo (C) is seen during a demonstration against a possible change in the law to allow for presidential re-election in front of the Congress building in Asuncion, Paraguay, March 31, 2017. Photo by Jorge Adorno/Reuters

The proposal would allow current President Horacio Cartes and Paraguay’s previous presidents to run for the top job again in the 2018 election. Presidents are now limited to a single 5-year term.

After approval in the Senate, the proposal went to the Chamber of Deputies, where 44 of the 80 members belong to the Colorado Party. Approval there would require the scheduling of a national referendum on the amendment.

Protesters set fire to the Congress building during a demonstration against a possible change in law to allow for presidential re-election in Asuncion

Protesters set fire to the Congress building during a demonstration against a possible change in law to allow for presidential re-election in Asuncion March 31, 2017. Photo by Jorge Adorno/Reuters

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