Protest turns violent and political party leader killed in police raid

Peaceful Assembly

In the evening of 31st March 2017, hundreds of people assembled outside the Paraguayan Congress to protest a decision by the Senate majority to change the rules of the upper chamber and pass a constitutional amendment allowing for presidential re-election. The decision would ultimately allow previous presidents to run again, including the incumbent, Horacio Cartes, a conservative who has been in office since 2013, and Fernando Lugo, a leftist, former Catholic bishop who served as president from 2008 to 2012.

During the demonstration, a group of protesters managed to break into the government building, where they lit fires and caused severe damage. The police responded by indiscriminately using tear gas and firing rubber bullets at the crowds. According to various sources, a large number of citizens were injured, including legislators opposed to the draft constitutional amendment, as well as activists and journalists.

The following morning, on 1st April 2017, the police raided the headquarters of the opposition political party - Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico (Authentic Radical Liberal Party) and indiscriminately beat and shot at demonstrators who were inside the office. A young PLRA leader, Rodrigo Quintana, was killed with multiple gunshot wounds.

More than 30 people were injured and over 200 arrested during the demonstration and police raid the next day. Further reports showed that women were taken to police headquarters and forced to strip naked, supposedly to determine whether they were hiding drugs.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed deep concern over the serious and indiscriminate acts of violence used against demonstrators and opposition party members. IACHR urged the Paraguayan government to:

"urgently adopt all measures that may be necessary to guarantee the rights to life, physical integrity, and security, as well as political rights, the right to assembly, and the rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression of everyone under its jurisdiction. This includes the obligation of the authorities—particularly those responsible for law and order and internal security—to take operational measures to facilitate the right to peaceful assembly, and adhere strictly to the general principles governing use of force in these contexts".