The lower house of Paraguay’s Congress voted Thursday to impeach Defense Minister Luis Bareiro Spaini after he declined to appear for a committee hearing. Sixty-two of the 80 lawmakers voted in favor of subjecting the minister to a trial in the 45-seat Senate, where a two-thirds majority would be necessary to remove Bareiro. The impeachment motion was presented by Jose Lopez Chavez, a member of Unace, the party led by controversial retired Gen. Lino Oviedo.
Legislators accused Bareiro of malfeasance because he declined to answer questions from a congressional committee about last weekend’s theft of three M-16 combat rifles from army headquarters in Asuncion. “The event of the alleged robbery of army rifles by suspected EPP guerrillas is currently under investigation by military justice,” the minister said in a message to the committee “In my character as minister of National Defense, it is not for me to advance opinions or observations about the matter while the investigation continues,” retired Gen. Bareiro said. Army Gen. Bartolome Pineda was charged Thursday with obstruction of justice for failing to share information about the robbery with civilian prosecutors.
Six hooded assailants suspected to be with the EPP rebel group overpowered three sentries on overnight duty at army HQ and took their rifles, according to the first official account, provided Monday. But prosecutors say they found evidence the guns were stolen by the sentries, a theory endorsed Thursday by Bareiro, who said after the impeachment vote that he is the victim of political persecution.