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Paraguayan Congress set on fire after vote to lift presidential term limits

Protesters on March 31 set fire to Paraguay's Congress after a majority of senators privately voted in favor of a controversial bill that would allow President Horacio Cartes to run for re-election after his term ends in 2018.

The event was an attempt to stop an amendment from taking place in the country's 1992 constitution that limits the president to a single five-year term, and the crowds were dispersed after police used rubber bullets and water cannon, BBC News reported April 1.

Twenty five senators of the 45-member house backed the bill, slightly more than the 23 votes needed for passage.

The 1992 constitution was codified after the fall from power of General Alfredo Stroessner, who seized control of the government following a coup in 1954 and ruled until 1989.

A number of politicians, journalists and police officers were injured while the head of Paraguay's opposition Liberal party, Efrain Alegre, claimed that a male activist was killed as a result of police action at party offices, according to the EFE news agency. A doctor who treated the deceased did not specify what had caused the injury.

President Cartes called for calm and said the government would do its best to maintain order.

The fire at the Congress building was controlled by firefighters after the activists left the congress building but similar demonstrations and riots continued in other parts of Asuncion and Paraguay, according to The Guardian.

"A coup has been carried out. We will resist and we invite the people to resist with us," said Desiree Masi from the opposition Progressive Democratic Party.

The bill must also be approved by the other house of parliament — the Chamber of Deputies — where Cartes' party holds a majority.