The No. 2 army commander seized power Friday in a military coup that ousted President Alfredo Stroessner, who has ruled Paraguay since 1954.
Gen. Andres Rodriguez, the second-in-command of the army and a close associate of Gen. Stroessner, said in a nationwide radio address that the army commander-in-chief was under house arrest.Stroessner, who had been the Western Hemisphere's longest ruling leader, was given 12 hours to leave Paraguay and had chosen exile in Chile, the Roman Catholic station Radio Caritas reported.
The arrest before dawn followed eight hours of gunfights and cannon fire in the capital's streets Thursday night between rebel soldiers backed by tanks and mortars and forces loyal to Stroessner.
Local radio stations reported military and civilian casualties, but the toll was not known. The country's borders were closed.
Radio Caritas also reported that Rodriguez would be sworn in as Paraguay's new president later Friday along with members of the new government. The station did not identify its source.
Residents who ventured out Friday saw bloodstains on the pavement of the capital. Bullets from small arms fire had pockmarked the police headquarters and shredded metal on the outside of the nearby National Telephone building.
"Order has been re-established, and with it all the human values of our entire constitution will be respected," said Rodriguez, who is father-in-law to Stroessner's youngest son, Alfredo.
"I communicate to you that Gen. Stroessner has surrendered and finds himself in perfect health, deprived of liberty, being shown all human rights, at a residence within the First Army Corps," he said in the broadcast.
Diplomats and political sources said shortly before the coup that Rodriguez for undetermined reasons apparently was ordered to give up his command and retire or accept the post of defense minister. He refused.
The rebellion also followed a dispute within the ruling Colorado Party between a militant pro-Stroessner faction and traditionalists who wanted to distance the 100-year-old party from the authoritarian general.
In Washington, a senior U.S. official said the United States was monitoring the situation. "We don't like violence, of course, and we hope that whatever government emerges will embrace democracy."
Stroessner, 76, has been the absolute ruler of this landlocked South American country for 34 years. He was a staunch U.S. ally and has been in poor health following prostate surgery five months ago.