A former Roman Catholic bishop running for president of Paraguay said yesterday his opposition coalition has split over a dispute with factions loyal to a former coup plotter.
Fernando Lugo, who is seeking to end six decades of one-party rule in the April 2008 election, said the 10-party National Unity coalition that backed him earlier this year has broken up. He said he is in talks to form a new coalition, the Patriotic Alliance for Change, that would include seven of the parties but exclude backers of former Gen. Lino Oviedo. Oviedo was paroled this month after serving about half of a 10-year prison term on charges of trying to overthrow the government in 1996. He says he was unjustly convicted and has hinted strongly at a run for the presidency. Calling the former general ''a figure from the past,'' Lugo told reporters that ''we need to look to the future with optimism, because the country is in need of profound and urgent change.'' President Nicanor Duarte, whose term ends next August, has argued that the military court that convicted Oviedo in 1998 stripped him of the right to run for office. He says only the Supreme Court could restore Oviedo's eligibility, an issue the court hasn't addressed. Duarte himself is constitutionally barred from seeking immediate re-election, and several rivals are jockeying for the long-ruling Colorado party nomination. Meanwhile, Duarte has so far failed to make good on threats to challenge Lugo's candidacy. Paraguay's Constitution prohibits members of the clergy from seeking office, although Lugo says he resigned.