Asuncion, Paraguay – Lino Oviedo, a presidential candidate who was set to run for Paraguay’s third largest party in April’s election, has died in a helicopter crash. He was 69.
At the time of the crash, Oviedo was returning from a rally. His helicopter came down just north of Paraguay’s capital, Asuncion. Authorities have announced that an inquiry into the cause of the crash has begun.
The pilot and Mr. Oviedo’s bodyguard also died in the crash, with police finding all three bodies in the province of Presidente Hayes.
It was reported that a storm had developed along the flight path of Mr. Oviedo’s helicopter. Paraguay’s Defense Minister, Maria Liz Garcia, told press that residents in the area had heard a loud, single explosion, and that the aircraft had “disintegrated”.
In response to the tragedy, Paraguyan president Federico Franco has declared three days of mourning in the South American country.
Oviedo had been chosen to run for the National Union of Ethical Citizens party (Unace) in Paraguay’s forthcoming elections, scheduled for April 21. The former army colonel enjoyed a long history in politics, helping to lead the coup which overthrew military ruler Alfredo Stroessner in 1989. At the time, Oviedo was first to deliver the news that Stroessner had been placed under arrest.
By 1993, Oviedo was army chief, yet his career in the military saw him endure numerous challenges. Then-president Juan Carlos Wasmosy criticized Oviedo’s constant political campaigning and asked him to step down from his position, an order that was duly ignored.
In the 1998 presidential election, Oviedo ran for the center-right Colorado Party. However, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison before the election took place for plotting to overthrow President Wasmosy. When running mate Raul Cubas was elected, he immediately ordered Mr Oviedo’s release.
In 1999, accusations by his relatives over the killing of Vice-President Luis Maria Argana sent Lino Oviedo into exile. He returned to Paraguay in 2004, and would eventually run in (but lose) the 2008 election.