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  HOME | Latin America (Click here for more)

Paraguay Files Charges Against Chilean Student Leader

ASUNCION – A Chilean student leader who took part in a protest in the Paraguayan capital was formally charged on Tuesday with disturbing public order, his lawyer said.

Paraguay’s 40,000-strong National Federation of Secondary Students, known by the acronym Fenaes, said earlier Tuesday that Patricio Javier Flores had been the victim of an “arbitrary” arrest.

Prosecutor Christian Bernal formally accused the 26-year-old Flores and he will remain in custody, attorney Gustavo Noguera told Efe.

“He charged him without offering any reason. That’s how prosecutor Bernal is, rather casual about pressing charges,” Noguera said.

Bernal proceeded to charge Flores even after a Chilean diplomat who visited the detainee at an Asuncion police station asked for an investigation of the arrest, the defense lawyer said.

The prosecutor ordered Flores and four Paraguayan student activists to report on Wednesday for questioning, Noguera said.

“They detained him without explanation. Armed men in civilian dress who did not identify themselves put him in an SUV without any logo. We realized later the police took him,” an aide to Paraguayan lawmaker Karina Rodriguez told Efe, describing Flores’ arrest on Monday.

Police interrogated Flores about Fenaes and about his relationship with Camilo Soares, an official in the 2008-2012 government of Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo, the legislative aide said.

“In the conversation at the police station he realized they have been following him for a while and that they have information and photographs of student leaders,” Rodriguez’s assistant said. “They asked him: how are you financed?, why did you come?, do you know Camilo Soares?”

Flores, who is active in Chile’s powerful student movement, took part in an Oct. 2 demonstration at Paraguay’s Education Ministry to demand more money for schools, Fenaes members said.

Paraguayan authorities are threatening student leaders in ways reminiscent of the 1954-1989 dictatorship of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner, Fenaes member Federico Enciso said.

“It is a political persecution and as (Flores) was in contact with us, they use him as an element to say that we are manipulated by political parties when that is a lie,” Enciso said.

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