Colorado Party Takes Surprising Lead in Paraguay's Vote

IN a surprise reversal of opinion poll forecasts, the civilian presidential candidate backed by Paraguay's military, Juan Carlos Wasmosy, took the lead, according to early returns after the May 8 elections. Voter turnout was reportedly at least 70 percent.

Opinion polls for the past two months made Christian Democrat Guillermo Caballero Vargas of the National Encounter Party the favorite.

But Mr. Wasmosy, candidate of the conservative Colorado Party that has dominated political life here for almost 40 years, appeared to have retained all its traditional countryside votes to emerge as the front-runner.

Mr. Wasmosy, a rich businessman and landowner, was the prot of outgoing President Andres Rodriguez Pedotti, and had strong backing from the top echelons of the armed forces, which openly threatened to act if an opposition candidate won.

Wasmosy's Colorado Party has inextricably close historic ties to the Army and the government, and was the political organization of dictator Gen. Alfredo Stroessner Mattiauda, who was ousted after a 35-year rule in February 1989.

It also is the party of President Rodriguez, the general who led the coup that toppled General Stroessner, and then was elected president himself three months later. He did not stand for re-election. Ruling on Venezuela's president

Venezuela's military leadership, moving to quell public fears of another coup attempt, pledged Sunday to respect an imminent Supreme Court ruling that could topple the country's president, Carlos Andres Perez.

In a rare public display of unity, Defense Minister Ivan Dario Jimenez Sanchez denied published reports the military is divided over how to respond after the ruling on whether to try President Perez on corruption charges.

"We will respect the decision of the Supreme Court," Mr. Jimenez Sanchez said in a statement broadcast by state television. "We will allow no one to harm the democracy.

"There might have been coup attempts, subversive acts, and a lot of problems, but the armed forces are united and we guarantee there will be no coup d'etat."

Perez and two former ministers face charges of embezzlement and misuse of funds.

They allegedly bought $17 million of US currency, at a preferential exchange rate against the Venezuelan bolivar, and then sold the dollars on the free market for about $10 million in profit.

The government has denied the charges and insisted the sum was used for state security. But Perez has said he cannot reveal exactly how the funds were spent because security matters are classified.

Chief Justice Gonzalo Rodriguez Corro has handed high court members a report in which he favors trying Perez. The court must now rule by May 25 on whether there is merit to the case. A trial would, by law, force the president to step aside. Brazil's finance minister may resign

Brazil's Finance Minister, Eliseu Resende, is reportedly considering resigning his post. He would be the third finance minister in five months to resign from that position.

Mr. Resende has been accused of using his office to benefit a former employer. Apparently, government loans of $18 million to Ecuador and $136 million to Peru were granted for projects to be executed by the Brazilian construction firm Norberto Odebrecht, for which Resende was a consultant from 1983 to 1990.

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