ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) — Paraguay's Congress granted President Horacio Cartes power Thursday to order military interventions inside the country, a move that leftists called a dangerous backward step for a country still emerging from the legacy of a dictatorship.
With majorities in both the House and Senate, the president's Colorado Party and its allies agreed with Cartes' request for the power to unilaterally send troops to fight armed leftists in the northern jungles without Congress declaring a formal state of emergency.
Such declarations have been required whenever constitutional rights are suspended because Paraguay's charter says the military can be used only against foreign threats or to protect government stability.
But with the Senate's 29-11 vote Thursday, a day after approval in the House, Cartes can now send the military to undertake police work without prior legislative approval. The only requirement added by legislators was that the president inform Congress within two months of invoking the decree power.
Lawmakers moved quickly after five private security guards watching over a ranch in northern San Pedro province were killed Saturday, allegedly by the so-called Paraguayan People's Army, or EPP. A Facebook posting claimed EPP responsibility for the attack, which also injured two police officers and destroyed their trucks. The claim could not be verified independently.
"It's necessary to give the executive branch the necessary tools to combat this criminal group that operates in the north, because if we don't do this urgently, they could eventually reach the capital and other cities," governing party Sen. Luis Castiglioni said during debate.
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