Paraguay senator drowning appears accidental, officials say

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Authorities investigating the apparent drowning death of a senator in Paraguay say signs point to an accidental trip-and-fall followed by drowning, but emphasize the investigation remains open as they await the results of a toxicology report.

Paraguayan authorities found the body of Sen. Zulma Ramona Gómez Cáceres, 61, in the Acaray Lake Sunday morning next to her country house located in Ciudad del Este, in the Alto Paraná department.

“All signs point to an accidental event,” prosecutor Cinthia Leiva, who oversees the investigation into the senator’s death, said in an interview with a local radio station Monday morning.

Pablo Lemir, the coroner who examined the senator’s body, said that there were “no signs of either a fight, nor defense, nor anything of the sort,” and there was no evidence of any “blows to the face.”

The injuries located in Gómez’s bodies “are compatible with a fall,” Lemir said.

The water around the dock where Gómez apparently drowned has a depth of some seven to eight meters (23 to 26 feet), Leiva said.

For now, “the cause of death has all the characteristic of an asphyxiation,” Lemir said, adding that the results of the toxicology report would likely be available within the next three weeks.

The senator from the Authentic Liberal Radical Party (PLRA) had taken a mattress to the dock of the country home on Saturday night and told family members she wanted to be alone.

“She was in the habit of going to sleep there in the dock,” Leiva said. “She told her granddaughter she wanted to reflect, she wanted to think.”

At around 2:30 a.m., family members were not able to locate the senator and alerted authorities.

Danel Rojas López will be sworn-in to take over Gómez’s seat in the Senate on Thursday.

“We would like to be guided by what the investigation that has already been carried out says. Anyone can have an accident, right?” Sen. Fernando Lugo, the vice president of the Senate, told journalists on Monday. “It’s profoundly painful for the Senate, for the PLRA and surely also for her family.”