Paraguay presidential candidate and coup plotter dies

ASUNCION Sun Feb 3, 2013 10:13am EST

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ASUNCION (Reuters) - Paraguayan presidential candidate Lino Oviedo, who helped the lead the 1989 coup that overthrew former 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 impoverished and politically unstable 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 dictatorship.

"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.

Oviedo was accused of plotting to overthrow governments in the 1990s and sentenced to 10 years in jail. He was pardoned before completing the term and returned to politics as leader of the National Union of Ethical Citizens party.

Paraguay's previous president, Fernando Lugo, was removed from power by Congress in June when lawmakers voted to remove Lugo for failing to keep the peace after 17 police and peasant farmers died in clashes over a land eviction. The leftist leader was a year from completing a five-year term.

Lawyers for the former Roman Catholic bishop questioned the constitutionality of his lightning-quick impeachment. But the country's top electoral court ratified its legitimacy.

(Reporting By Daniela Desantis and Mariel Cristaldo, Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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