From Mon Nov 26 08:00:32 2001
Date: Sat, 24 Nov 2001 13:08:32 -0600 (CST)
Subject: A Terrorist (& Fall-Guys) at Work in Paraguay
Article: 130885
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A Terrorist (& Fall-Guys) at Work in Paraguay

By John Clancy, [24 Nov 2001]

SECRETS OF THE GENERAL; Notes on a BBC Documentary (1992)

For the first time in Latin America, complete records of a military dictatorship have just been discovered. After three decades of systematic persecution in Paraguay, opponents have been given complete access to detailed documents referring to a dictator's regime propped up by the West.

The files tell of thousands of Paraguayans tortured and killed. There is new evidence of Martin Borman and other Nazi fugitives hiding in Paraguay.

Revelations too of an official trade in Paraguayan passports, and international crooks and murderers. The documents add a whole new dimension to the Iran/Contra arms scandal. They show how President, General Stroessner helped the United States to illegally sell arms to Iran, details that have been hidden till now.

Paraguay has for centuries been cut off from the outside world, its stories hidden behind its vast rivers. Powerful neighbours and a series of harsh dictators have dominated it. Paraguay is in the very centre of South America, hemmed in by the two giants of the region, Argentina and Brazil. The waterfalls at Iguassu have become a symbol of the country's tragic history.

These falls are the greatest in the world and used to belong to Paraguay but in a disastrous war of 130 years ago, Paraguay lost one third of its territory, which was taken by Brazil. Today Paraguay is discovering being robbed yet again, this time being given away by their own rulers, the military elite building fortunes for themselves, turning the country into a haven for the world's crooks, arms dealers, drug barons, even Nazi war criminals.

The regime has tortured its citizens, propped up by Western Governments who used it for their own ends. A bastion against communism, Paraguay regime was an absurd by-product from the cold war. Until President Alfredo Stroessner was overcome by the collapse of the cold war five years ago, his was the longest reign of terror in Latin America. Now his dreadful secrets are coming out.

Paraguay's first democratic elections were held on Sunday. Four months ago a young Judge seized the chance to test the new freedom. Using a new statute called Habeas Acta, which gives everyone the right to see their personal police files, he challenged the police secretly.

In Spanish (the Judge), Evidently from somewhere reappeared integrity and courage, because to confront the police and say, ‘I am the Law’, is not usual in Paraguay. It was never usual, and even now it is not usual.

He requested the file of this man Martin Almada, a school teacher, who had been imprisoned and tortured under Stroessner. The police had always denied that the documents still existed. First they said they were locked away and they couldn't find the key.

But when they got in, there was not just Almada's file but the entire secret police archives, records of arrest, confessions and list of employments, evidence of prisoners who had disappeared. After years of denials, here at last was the proof. It was a highly charged moment for Martin Almada, a mixture of joy and pain, the final end to his months of fear.

No-one could believe how much they found. Lists of political prisoners, a mass of new evidence to indict the Stroessner regime. In Spanish, There is a mountain of evidence, most relative to the past which we do not want to relive again.

The documents reveal the day-to-day methods of an absolute dictator.

Stroessner ruled by fear and favour. Paraguay was his personal fiefdom.

(Spanish voice in English):

He was a hard worker. He started working at 4.00 in the morning. He did not trust in anyone. He was the only one. Even his senior ministers, when talking to with Stroessner, were standing like this and not one would open his mouth before Stroessner spoke first. No one single idea, they closed their mouth, ready to listen to what Stroessner wanted to say. Their answer was always, Yes, my General. Other than that, not a single word, not a single suggestion, nothing.

Stroessner steamrollered the country into building a huge dam in partnership with Brazil. It is the largest hydro-electric plant in the world. 62 million litres of water flow through it every second.

Contracts went to the president's favourites, including costs spiralling to 17 billion dollars.

Today Stroessner is accused of selling the country short. Paraguay got just 2% of the energy but in terms of the treaty the rest was sold cheaply to Brazil. In return, the Brazilian Government always supported the dictator

Profits from the contract for the supply of the mountains of sand and stone for the dam helped to build this, Paraguayan Versailles . Its owned by his own right-hand man, who doesn't like it being filmed.

(here the British film crew were warned away by security guards).

General Andres Rodriguez was already a multi-millionaire, building the dam was just one of his many ventures. It was alleged he was involved in contraband and drug smuggling too. The wealth of Paraguay's super-rich rulers led to a villa building boom. For a poor agricultural economy we find a surprising number of high-rise banks. In the capital of Asuncion modern luxury cars are everywhere.

But with the cold war over, Stroessner was redundant. Friends abroad and at home deserted for him. On the night of 2nd February 1989 he was toppled in a coup. Television stations were closed down and this is a reconstruction of the events. Paraguayans woke up to find the nightmare was over after 45 years in power, Stroessner was exiled to Brazil.

The man who then headed the new regime was none other than General Rodriguez, a protigi of Stroessner. The Americans were now pushing for free elections, and the military became democrats overnight. And the new President was swept along by the tide. In his first interview since the coup, he spoke with all the conviction of a recent convert.

In Spanish.(Gen Rodriguez) Many times during the independent life of the countries which form Latin America, the armed forces have carried out brutal activities aimed at seizing power, however, in Paraguay our armed forces have left their head-quarters, not to seize power, but to open the doors of freedom and the democracy that the people of Paraguay are enjoying today.

The secret police archives contained every detail of Stroessner's repression. Torture was routine. This report details the experience of a young woman, a member of the communist party who was starved, drugged and beaten. But anyone could be accused of being a communist, even this twelve year old girl. Owning an album of postcards from Moscow was enough to trigger arrest.

These documents belonged to the Investigations Dept. It was the centre of a web of informers and spies that watched everyone, the people, the opposition, foreigners, even members of the ruling party. No-one was safe. People's homes were ransacked and personal photographs taken away. The debris of cold war paranoia is all here in the archives.

Stroessner's terror stretched even beyond Paraguay. The so-called operation Condor formally co-ordinated a seizing of dissidents throughout neighbouring military regimes. Stroessner's police could reach into Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay and Chile to catch his enemies.

A Doctor, Agostine Goiburu, was one of the victims of Operation Condor.

They are now digging for his remains. Ever since they found the documents leading to his arrest, the doctor's family have been searching in the grounds of this prison. His only crime was that he was a member of the progressive wing of the ruling party. He was kidnapped from Argentina by the secret police and taken back to Paraguay. His daughter, Vana was 9 years old. The father has never been seen since.

They've even searched under the pig sties. The family had assumed that in Argentina they would be safe, but they under-estimated Stroessner's power.

In Spanish(the doctor's wife) I never thought, I did not believe that to that place, the Stroessner regime and the long hand of Plan Condor could get my husband and bring him back to Paraguay, just because he denounced death by torture in our country.

We took Martim Almada back into the police archives, now in the Palace for Justice under Stroessner. It was only now that he was able to study his own police files.

In Spanish (Martin Almada) The things written here are all lies. I never participated in the revolutionary army, or the communist party. I was a teacher who wanted to get a better standard of life for teachers only, nothing else.

The innocent couldn't escape torture. The,‘Tecnico’ prison was right in the centre of the city. Loud music was played to drown out the screams or sounds of torture. But almost every family knew someone who was tortured here. Martin Almada showed where he was held here for almost a year. Prisoners called it the living grave. Some were kept here for twenty years. Often they were deprived of food and subjected to endless harassment from the guards. As many as 30 prisoners were kept in a cell which had just one toilet.

Spanish (Martin Almada) We did not have light or sun. When I was desperate for sun I put my arm outside like this and my arm was warmed to this point.

They used to hear the cries of the tortured in the neighbouring cells.

Martin was himself tortured for over a month just for writing a book on education.

Spanish (Martin Almada) Just because I had written this book, they burned my eyes with strong lights, high reflectors, to punish me.

Because of this book they pulled my nails out, and because of my militancy or participation in the Union, my leg, so, and to make a fool of me they threw me into a bath of excrement and I had to swallow that.

The police recorded Martin's screams on cassette and played it down the telephone to his wife. They sent his blood-stained clothes to her house.

Spanish (Martin Almada) That same night about 12, they rang my wife, telling her that the ‘subversive teacher has passed away, come and get the corpse of your husband. She had a heart attack then and died of sorrows.’

Spanish (mixed) This is the man who supervised the atrocities. The chief of the Secret police was called Colonel Coronel who reported daily to Stoesner. Thousands suffered because of him and many died.

Even after being sentenced to 25 years of prison, he is not apologetic.

To the question, Was there any death because or torture in the Dept of Investigation, Colonel?, his reply was, No! Not on the Dept of Investigation.

Dr. Coronel's name is on virtually every document. His instructions for this prisoner were typical. Do what you like with her. Tear her to pieces. The archives revealed damning evidence of American co-operation with Stroessner's secret police secret police and there were suspicions of close links with the CIA. An American Police Interrogation manual was found among the files. There was this State Dept memo which asked for the posting of an American police technician at the Tecnico to be extended beyond the six months of the original assignment.

And this is a letter dated 1976, addressed to Pastor Coronel from the director of the FBI. It says, I wish to thank you for the assistance you have so willingly given the FBI. The Stroessner regime, ruling over four million people, was one of the top recipients of United States aid to the world.

Martin Almada came to see the Ambassador to ask for reparations for the US role in propping up Stroessner.

Spanish (Martin Almada) A petition was taken to the US Ambassador to forward a letter to President Clinton requesting an investigation to know the truth. Who are the real culprits of this repression, of this dirty war?

The Press were not allowed in. But we were told afterwards that it was an explosive meeting. The Ambassador was furious at the suggestion of American complicity in the torture. The Embassy spokesman claimed US hands were clean.

The Ambassador indicated that we received no indication whatever that any American official was involved in the abuses associated with the previous Govt or the arm of that Govt known here locally as,‘il Tecnico'.

Were the Americans not aware of the torture that was going on? He replied, We haven't seen any indication of that at all. Question.

There was close communication, wasn't there, between the Americans and the Stroessner Govt? um, there was communication between Governments, but the US had nothing whatsoever to do with the Tecnico. Question.

Almada said that US officials actually visited the Tecnico.

Ambassador. I really can't say who visited where. I know there was, through the sixties until early 70's a police training programme, but that involved conventional police techniques and had nothing whatsoever to do with any of the abuses, which the local media have reported in recent months.

Everyone is papering over the past. Today at the police station they are learning to enforce justice instead of tyranny. But the new chief of police defends his men as they were only acting according to the law of the time.

Question. But was it legal to actually torture members of the opposition?

In Spanish (Police Chief) There was no torture, but a repressive law.

Question. Why was it allowed? For the police force to be allowed to torture. Was it really necessary? The police chiefs in Paraguay are not used to being asked about the torture. But now, more image conscious, he wanted to get the correct official line on the past.

Answer in Spanish: (police Chief.) Well, we are going to make things clear. At that time the premises in which here is evidence of torture, it was a political necessity, not from the corrective police and now that is gone.

All Paraguay institutions are having to convert themselves to the new orthodoxy, including the Catholic Church. It was divided under Stroessner. Some priests condemned torture, and used the church to criticise the govt. The others abused their position and gave support to the regime. The Archives revealed at least one Bishop reported to the police chief. Bishop Aquino of Caapuce is still presiding over his flock and still helping the govt. President Rodriguez does not like too many recriminations, he prefers to forget about uncomfortable truths of the past. In Spanish he said: ‘I had some knowledge that some people had been detained and passed to Justice. In the area of Justice, we had nothing to do; that's why I would not know how to answer, despite that they may have been communists. During that regime they used that method—putting pressure on to get information’.

But the disturbing evidence from the other regime keeps emerging.

Documents leaked from the military archives reveal 700 million dollars worth of covert arms deals between 1980–1984. The deals include American F4 fighters, helicopters, tanks and Italian mines and ammunition from Greece. All ordered for the Paraguayan armed forces.

But there is no trace of them in Paraguay. Much of the Paraguayan equipment dates from world war 2. So where did these imported arms go?

Documents show Paraguay was immune to the great international road- blocks against countries like Iran and South Africa. The leaked documents provide a rare insight into the way the illegal arms trade operates. Western arms exporters who want to break international embargoes could launder their deals here. It was easy. The military dictatorship in Paraguay would do anything for money. This is how it was done. The Govt issued false end-use certificates. These allowed countries to pretend to sell to Paraguay when the arms were destined to somewhere else.

The Joint Chief of Staff, Franco Davalos, signed them all, like his one issued in Sept 1983, It guarantees that 23 American F4 fighter planes would be based in Paraguay, for the defence of and security of our territory against all foreign belligerents. But there is certainly no sign of $100 million worth of planes in the Paraguayan Air Force. The most modern aircraft are Brazilian-made Sokarnos, and Cervantes, all 70's vintage. There are only 17 operational planes in the air force.

The 23 F4's must have been paid for by somebody else, and destined for another air force.

At the time, F4's were highly advanced aircraft and Iran desperately needed them for defence against Iraq. American planes couldn't be sold anywhere in the world without permission from Washington.

Kindrib, a London based company brokered the F4 deal for the Ministry of Defence in Iran. Kindrib was set up just the year before in 1982. It had an accommodation address at 47 Brunswick place London. Payment for the planes was made through the National Westminster Bank in the city.

Kindrib's director as a Swiss named Jean Pierre Delaine, and the company was dissolved in 1987. The contact in Paraguay was Gestabo Saba. His commission for the deal was $2,800,000.

Saba is the son-in-law of President Rodriguez. Saba has admitted that he began negotiations with Kindrib in 1983, but he said he pulled out when he wouldn't get the commissions he'd been offered. His lawyer said Saba only took part in the commercial side of the trade and arms dealing is not illegal. Gestabo Saba said he decided to drop out of the deal at the beginning of 1984, but there is a note from G on the 20th of March to the Paraguayan chief of staff, which says, the papers supplied by you have been accepted by the State Dept and the planes have already left the United States. That is to Iran. The payment of our will be made upon the delivery of the first five. Then on the 4th April there is a telex to Saba from the director of Kindrib, who was by then at the Sheraton Hotel Tehran, confirming payment to Mr Saba immediately after first delivery. It said the first five units are being inspected. In other words the deal went through.

But President Rodriguez dismisses all this evidence saying In Spanish What can be attributed to Mr Saba, sincerely I can tell you, is the participation in the preparatory sage. But he did not have anything to do with the final decision, and that is important.

The Paraguayan ABC newspaper was closed for 5 years under Stroessner.

Its been investigating the arms deal. The owner Aldo Zuccollillo is confident the documents are genuine and the deal complete. I think that all this weapons took place. Not only this, there may have been a lot more. It cannot be finished because the President of the Republic is an obstacle to determine changes. It is obvious that the President agreed with any sort of smuggling.

We approached the US embassy in Asuncion. Paraguay was under an arms embargo at the time of the F4 deal. But neither the Ambassador nor his spokesman would comment.

Q. Is the matter under investigation? Did it go through the State Dept or the Embassy?

A. Neither the Dept of Defence or the Dept of State know of it.

Q. Did it actually go through the Embassy?

A. As I have already said in answer to the first question, I am subject to the Dept. Thank you.

So we called the US State Dept and were told that the United States did not authorise arms shipments through Paraguay to Iran. The paper editor Aldo commented, What did you expect. they say this and that (laughter). They can't say ‘Yes, we did that’. In America, they still do not know about these arms shipments! (more laughter), about the Iran Contras, about the Sandinistas! They never know, they are always looking, their statesmen are always selling weapons around the world, but the Govt are always looking at the other side (or turning a blind eye!) ‘The whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God! I do!’, is the voice of Oliver North defending himself before the American justice system.

The F4 deal appears to be an earlier episode of the Iran/Contra scandal. (Oliver North voice over hers) Oliver North then testifies about the sale of American anti-tank missiles to Iran. The hearing never investigated deals prior to 1985.

The United States wasn't the only embargo breaker. Italy used Paraguay to export arms to South Africa. there were close links between Paraguay and the South African Governments. Dear Friends, as one letter in the archives addressed to Pastor Coronel, the secret police chief. It's from the Director General of the South African Intelligence Service. It says Thank you for all you've done in making our visit such a memorable one.

A congressional committee in Paraguay is now investigating the whole range of covert arms deals. Apparently all part of the business of Government of General Stroessner. Because of the involvement of President Rodriguez’ son-in-law, it is unlikely that anyone will be prosecuted. But the deals show that even while Paraguay was being condemned for human rights violations, Western governments were using it to break their own arms embargoes.

Even after Stroessner was overthrown, arms trafficking continued. 66 Kash? Israeli machine guns were smuggled through the airport in September 1989, most of them on their way to drug barons in Columbia.

Spanish (Gen Rodriguez). I don't know of it. There are no documents to let us verify that operation of sale through Paraguay.

Union officials blame general Rodriguez for failing to stop the traffic, so he replied, (Spanish), But many goods are not controlled by customs or authorities in the airport; that makes it possible that weapons entered by the same mechanisms and continue to do so without inconvenience.

Under Stroessner all sorts of creative ways of making money were dreamed up. In the archives there is evidence of corrupt officials who were selling passports to non-Paraguayans. This illegal trade was said to bring in at least $24 million each year. Individual passports cost $12,000. Top of the range were diplomatic passports costing up to four times that price. An International Herald tribune Ad in 1986 invited anyone to apply to become a Paraguayan honorary Consul. Hundreds did.

Some of the applicants were British. one enquiry was from an inmate of Pentonville prison. Others were from a gentleman from Henley-on-Thames and a doctor from Kensington. The Doctor was offered a number of options. it was possible to become Hon, Consul of Paraguay for $48,000, of Kingapasso? for $45,000, and of Namibia for a mere $38,000.

the documents show that international criminals could also get Paraguayan passports. A French heroin smuggler whose crimes were portrayed in the film The French Connection, the Italian terrorists who blew up the Bologna railway station in 1980, and the infamous Jackal who tried to assassinate president De Gaul. All were actually granted asylum in Paraguay.

Even more notorious were the Nazis. Joseph Mengele was given Paraguayan citizenship and lived here long before going to Brazil. Dr. Mengele, known as the Angel of Death, experimented on children in Auschwich.

It's always been believed that Hitler's Deputy, Martin Borman had died at the end of the war in Berlin. there is a document in the archives that says that Borman came to Paraguay in 1956. A West German Intelligence source is quoted as saying Borman died in Asuncion three years later. If correct, it raises the question, Why didn't the West German Intelligence report Borman's whereabouts before.

Borman, according to new evidence, lived in a small town called Hohehau, founded by Germans nearly a hundred years ago. today they dance to Paraguayan music. But there are still many signs of their German roots. the people of Hohenau always welcomed fellow Germans who turned up looking for a place to stay. In the local bar they remember the so-called Angel of Death, arriving on a horse.

(speech in German)

We visited the hotel today. Herman Krug's son remembers his father sheltering Mengele all those years ago. Mengele was a man they admired.

(In Spanish Mr Krug), As a man—an excellent person. he had nothing and was very different to many Germans who came over—a very good clean man. I remember that I heard him tell my dad that the persecution was not because of the killings, but because of the knowledge he had of their great inventions.

General Stroessner himself was part German and welcomed Nazi fugitives to Paraguay. If Martin Borman was one of them, he has left little trace. One of those who does remember Borman is the man who was the accountant in Hohenau. In Spanish he says, I have seen him at only one opportunity, in a toilet in a place that I don't want to identify. he was a man of good presence. In Paraguay Nazis were treated with care. They were well regarded.

And then there is Mrs Fisk. she remembers the night in 1958 when her doctor husband was called out secretly to treat an unknown patient who was seriously ill. Later on he recognised martin Borman from photographs. the document said Martin Borman died of stomach cancer and was buried in the cemetery of Ita. this is the cemetery. The corpse was brought here in the middle of the night back in 1959. the daughter of the local grave-digger remembers her father burying it at this spot, in an unmarked grave. The daughter (in Spanish), My dad participated in the burial with three more people. they buried him in the front cemetery. Question., Was he Martin Borman? Reply, Yes, he was that Martin Borman. The exhumation of the grave would be the only way to prove Borman was buried there, but so far no-one has asked for it.

Bringing Paraguay into the modern world is not going to be easy. the legacy of the past hangs over the country. the only rail line was built in 1861 by the English. The engine dates from the 1900's. It still runs once a day and is the only one in Paraguay. Social progress here has always been slow. Nowadays the country is opening up. Democracy has arrived, and all the attendant excitements of the first free elections ever.

The President has been touring the country, paving the road for democracy. Democracy which prevents him from standing for re-election.

the archives have so far not implicated Rodriguez in any of the wrongdoing of the past, but he is still criticised for being slow to purge Paraguay of corruption.

Paraguay is still a major artery for International crime. Hundreds of stolen cars are taken over this bridge to be swapped for cocaine. A single road block would stop it. But Rodriguez, alleged to have links with cocaine barons in the past, lacks the political will to clamp down. Vested interests continue to feed the division between rich and poor, but Democracy demands a state that respects the law instead of breaking it. ordinary people are now finding a voice, exposing the secrets underlining the scale of the battles to come.

Zuccollillo says that this was a paradise for corruption. In this country there was no law, no restriction, no regulation, nothing. In Spanish he says, Exposing corruption was my mission in my struggle against impunity in Paraguay. I used this as a missile and the whole apparatus of repression fell against the force of this missile and its intelligence. I am convinced that peoples who forget the past can repeat history all over again. We are now writing a new history to prevent human rights violations occurring again.

Many people are tainted by the old regime. Martin Almada and other civil activists are now worried that the archives may be destroyed after the election because the files have revealed only a handful of their secrets. [My notes—jc]

I have another note from 1993—Paraguay's Baby trade

A Nat'l TV segment from,‘Foreign Correspondent’ disclosed some disturbing news of Paraguay's illegal sale of babies. The country is known for its beautiful and rather fair-skinned people. As with most natural assets however, there is always the downside, especially when men with money must stick their filthy fingers into the equation.

Recently in other parts of Latin America here has been widespread theft of body parts to assist the medical profession of North America to replace the faulty hearts, lungs, kidneys etc of their ailing clients.

Z.Brzeinski has written of the effect on future US culture if his kind of oppression of Latin America continues. The position is that people of all ages are being killed, even murdered, to satisfy the northern market; not just prison inmates or the naturally deceased (abridged).

Final note-Stroessner is being cared for by his benefactor -some say in Bolivia, which is totally controlled by Terrorist CIA who choose the Govt, Army, Media and police. (Its peasants had only one income since the days of mining. For decades they grew and needed coca-leaf to offset the pain of their toil. Then the US enforcers have stopped nearly all of that (certain CIA appointees are allowed to grow coca for their profit and export). Then the same old US story—fumigate the land and the peasants and tell them to grow vegetables. This was tried, but the mountains and the markets have kept them at starvation level. The upper-crust form a US kind of democracy with both sides getting rich while the peasants, deprived poor workers live and die. Does this remind anyone of the WTO rules?

Some say Stroessner went to Brazil which would have or had similar Terrorist control by the great democracy.