Fire at Paraguay’s polling station destroys thousands of voting machines

A fire broke out in Paraguay’s Supreme Electoral Court on Thursday, destroying thousands of electronic ballot boxes and other equipment just two months ahead of the South American country’s presidential primary, officials said.

“So far we have lost 8,500 voting machines, notebooks and voting materials, but we guarantee citizens that the December elections will go ahead as planned,” Jamie Bestard, the president of the Judiciary, said outside the burned building in Asuncion.

Two missing court officials are wanted by authorities, national police chief Gilberto Fleitas said.

More than 300 firefighters were on scene to fight the blaze, which was brought under control after six hours.

Guillermo Ferreiro, leader of the opposition Liberal Party, claimed the fire was a premeditated act.

“I have no doubt that it is sabotage,” he said.

Court spokesman Luis Alberto Mauro did not dismiss the idea but said there was no evidence of arson yet.

“We still need some time to investigate the origin of the fire,” he said.

Paraguay’s primary elections are scheduled for December 18, and the general presidential election for April 30, 2023.