From Mon Feb 26 06:43:37 2001
Date: Sat, 24 Feb 2001 22:56:49 -0600 (CST)
Organization: The Soylent Green Party
From: Clore Daniel C <>
Subject: [smygo] Paraguay Conceals Records of its Reign of Abuse
Article: 115639
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Colonial past, troubled present

By Kevin G. Hall, San Jose Mercury News, Sunday 18 February 2001

Little Paraguay, reluctant to reform, conceals records of its reign of abuse

ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay—In a musty, water-stained office in Paraguay's main Justice building, thousands of documents from the darkest days of former dictator Gen. Alfredo Stroessner's 35-year reign are rotting.

In most Latin American countries nowadays, such an archive would be well-preserved grist for numerous lawsuits brought by a former dictator's victims or their survivors. But in Paraguay, There has never been the will to look back and ask what happened, said Alfredo Boccia Paz, an activist who is studying the Terror Archives.

In Paraguay, the fox guards the henhouse: Stroessner's Colorado Party, still in power after 54 years, runs the country like a family business and has no interest in confronting its past sins.

If ever a country needed a look backward, it is Paraguay. During Stroessner's rule, the police state welcomed fugitive Nazis such as Dr. Josef Mengele, the director of gruesome experiments on Jewish children in World War II concentration camps. Stroessner's government sold passports not just to Nazi war criminals but also to terrorists and global crime syndicates.

The archive, discovered in a warehouse outside Asunción in 1992, also documents many of the operations of Operation Condor, a sinister pact among dictators in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay to hunt down, torture and often kill leftists and other opponents in the 1970s and 1980s. Evidence of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's cooperation with Latin American dictators is archived, too.

Information on more than 11,000 Paraguayans detained between 1954 and 1989 by authorities in Stroessner's right-wing police state is available. Some disappeared while in custody; how many is unknown. Estimates range from hundreds to thousands.

In many cases, the files offer only hints. Take Mario Schaer, a schoolteacher whose file says he died in a shootout April 5, 1976. A log kept by Paraguay's intelligence service, however, reports that Schaer was detained for several days afterward. From similar cases, human rights activists think Schaer probably was tortured to death.

Paraguay's political genealogy suggests why such cases remain unexplored.

When Stroessner fell, he was overthrown by Gen. Andrés Rodr(acu)guez, whose daughter was married to Stroessner's son.

Current President Luis González Macchi's father, Saúl González, was a police official and justice minister under Stroessner.

González Macchi and his top aide, Jaime Bestard, also the son of an influential Stroessner-era official, declined to be interviewed for this article.

Several of González Macchi's Cabinet members have ties to the Stroessner era. So does Colorado Party leader Bader Rachid Lichi. Among other duties, he oversaw Stroessner's militant youth movement at one point.

The so-called democratic process in Paraguay was born out of the very heart of the dictatorship; the same actors, the same party, the same clan, said Victor-Jacinto Flecha, a sociologist and historian.

Flecha, accused of being a Communist Party leader in Stroessner's day, says he was merely an intellectual considered a threat to the regime. This earned him beatings, torture, nearly two decades of exile in France and a fat file in the Terror Archives.

There are people who say that while Stroessner has gone, ‘Stroessnerism’ has not left Paraguay, said Julio César Franco, Paraguay's vice president and a member of the opposition Liberal Party.

The burly, bearded Franco—a physician affectionately called Yoyito by his followers—was held and beaten during the Stroessner days, and his father was exiled to neighboring Argentina. So many Paraguayans fled to Argentina that Buenos Aires today is home to more Paraguayans than the capital, Asunción.

Paraguay's judiciary has shown little interest in investigating past human rights violations. In 1993 then-Attorney General Luis Escobar formed a five-member civilian investigative panel but the judiciary never funded it adequately.

In the 12 years since Stroessner's fall, only one of his top henchmen, former state intelligence chief Pastor Coronel, has been convicted in Paraguay. He was sentenced to 25 years in jail in August 1999 and died Sept. 29, 2000.

The country is small enough—5.6 million people—that victims can still meet their Stroessner-era tormentors on the street. A downtown hotel was once a torture center.

Paraguay has pledged to protect human rights in the future and even to elect a human rights ombudsman. But looking into past abuses would not be part of the job.