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People celebrate rejection of the amendment in front of the Congress after members discuss during a session at the Lower House amendment to allow presidential second terms of Congress in Asuncion, Paraguay April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Adorno


ASUNCION (Reuters) - Paraguay's lower house of Congress on Wednesday rejected a constitutional amendment that would have allowed for presidential re-election, ending a month-long political crisis that aroused violent protests.

Under the measure, centre-right President Horacio Cartes could have sought re-election in 2018. But last week, the former soft drinks and tobacco mogul who took office in 2013 said he would not run regardless of whether the amendment was approved.

Protesters set fire to Congress on March 31 after the Senate secretly voted in favour of the amendment. Police later stormed an opposition political party's headquarters and killed a protester.

Re-election is a sensitive subject in Paraguay, a landlocked South American country where memories still abound of a brutal 35-year dictatorship that fell in 1989. The constitution has prohibited re-election since it was passed in 1992.

"We have lost interest in continuing to push for this due to our candidate's decision," said Hugo Velazquez, a member of the lower house and member of Cartes' Colorado Party.

The lower house's move was also a blow to former leftist President Fernando Lugo, whom lawmakers ousted in 2012. Several of his congressional allies had supported the proposed amendment in the hopes he would run again in 2018.

Investors favour Cartes' low-tax policies and credit him with spurring growth in Paraguay, the world's No. 4 soy exporter and long one of South America's poorest countries. But business groups had urged him not to seek another term, in order to avoid more riots.

(Reporting by Mariel Cristaldo and Daniela Desantis; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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