President Andres Rodriguez Monday denied reports linking him to drug trafficking and said he will try to curtail cocaine shipments through his country.
The army general, who took power in a coup Friday, also said his overthrow of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner was necessary for the sake of the country, but he said Stroessner might be allowed to return from exile in the future.Stroessner, who ruled for 34 years as president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, left Paraguay on Sunday to the jeers of "Dictator Get Out!" He was in a remote farming town in central Brazil, and the Brazilian Foreign Ministry said today he would remain there indefinitely.
"I detest drugs," Rodriguez said. "I swear as a Catholic and as a family man, I swear on my children, I have no connections with drugs," Rodriguez told The Associated Press.
At a news conference earlier at the National Palace, he said allegations he protects or sponsors drug shipments "were spread by people trying to defame me."
He said he would cooperate with foreign governments and agencies, including the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, to curtail the flow of illegal drugs through Paraguay.
Rodriguez said he ousted Stroessner because the general "was not producing good results for his party, which had trusted him."
The remark was an apparent reference to jockeying for power and infighting between pro-Stroessner militants within the ruling Colorado Party and those who wanted to distance the group somewhat from the 76-year-old Stroessner.
Rodriguez, 65, added, "(He) was not a dictator. His situation is being studied by the court system. He could come back in two or three years. He has gone for a rest in Brazil."
He dismissed reports from diplomatic sources and local media that casualties from fighting during the coup topped 300. "Believe me, total casualties - dead plus injured - do not exceed 50," he said.
The government has issued no official tally
As soon as Rodriguez was sworn in Friday, talk began about allegations he allowed drug traffickers to use Paraguay to move cocaine out of South America.
The Buenos Aires Herald commented in an editorial Saturday: "There are reasons to link him (Rodriguez) to the rampant corruption and even the drug trafficking under the Stroessner regime. Yesterday's events (the coup) might not improve the system and could even make things worse if Rodriguez becomes the Manuel Noriega of the region."