Paraguay politician who helped oust dictator dies in crash

Sun Feb 3, 2013 11:47am EST
 

By Daniela Desantis and Mariel Cristaldo

ASUNCION (Reuters) - Paraguayan presidential candidate Lino Oviedo, who helped the lead the 1989 coup that overthrew dictator Alfredo Stroessner, died in a helicopter crash over the weekend.

A retired general known as a dynamic public speaker, the 69-year-old Oviedo was running in the April presidential election in the landlocked, grains-exporting South American country.

Police rescuers found his body on Sunday in the wreckage of a helicopter crash in northern Paraguay where he was traveling for a campaign event. The day, February 3, marked exactly 24 years since the coup that ended Stroessner's 35-year dictatorship.

Oviedo's popularity was based on the story - often repeated by his supporters but never independently verified - of him breaking into Stroessner's bunker with a grenade in his hand to force the dictator to surrender.

Polls showed he was in fourth or fifth place, with 8 percent support, going into the April election.

"On behalf of the government, we send our sincere condolences to the family of General Lino Cesar Oviedo," Paraguayan President Federico Franco said in a Tweet.

The government decreed three days of mourning and suspended all official activities.

Oviedo, known for his fluency in the indigenous "Guarani" language spoken in Paraguay's poor neighborhoods, was accused of plotting to overthrow governments in the 1990s and sentenced to 10 years in jail.   Continued...