Alfredo Stroessner

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Alfredo Stroessner
Full Name: Alfredo Stroessner Matiauda
Alias: The Last Dictator
Colonel Trunk
El Tiranosauro
Origin: Encarnación, Paraguay
Occupation: Dictator of Paraguay (1954 - 1989)
Skills: Military training
Hobby: Torturing dissidents
Goals: Rule Paraguay for as long as possible (successful until 1989)
Eliminate communism in Paraguay (partially successful)
Crimes: War crimes
Political repression
Crimes against humanity
Mass murder
Ethnic cleansing
Human rights abuses
Harbouring fugitives
Illegal drug trade
Money laundering
Type of Villain: Military Dictator

There just don't seem to be many dictators about nowadays. Certainly not here in South America, for these are the days of the generals. In most countries the military have got together and thrown out their strongmen. Argentina and Peru, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, Colombia and Guatemala. They've all sent their dictators into exile to live near their numbered bank accounts. But not here. This is Paraguay, still firmly in the hands of the last of the hemisphere's old style dictators. A military despot who's ruled his little known land sternly and absolutely for 16 years. His Excellency, General of the armed forces Don Alfredo Stroessner, President of Paraguay - a man with power over life and death whose grip shows no sign of weakening, who remains the Last Dictator.
~ Introduction to the documentary The Last Dictator.
Alfredo Stroessner (November 3rd, 1912 - August 16th, 2006) was a Paraguayan military officer and the country's president from 1954 to 1989. HIs rule was the 14th longest ever by state leaders as well as the longest in South American history and second-longest among 20th-century Latin American leaders; only Fidel Castro's tenure as leader of Cuba was longer and the longest of all Latin American Dictatorships.

Early life

Stroessner's parents were Hugo Strößner, who emigrated from Hof, Bavaria, Germany, and worked as an accountant for a brewery, and Heriberta Matiauda, who grew up in a wealthy Paraguayan family of Criollo Spanish descent. Stroessner was born in Encarnación on November 3, 1912. He enrolled in the Francisco López Military Academy in 1929, and received his commission as a lieutenant in the Paraguayan Army in 1931.

In 1932, he fought against Bolivian forces in the Battle of Boquerón during the Chaco War. After the war he rose steadily in rank; by 1940, he had risen to the rank of major and joined the general staff in 1946.

When the Paraguayan Civil War broke out in 1947, he commanded the artillery division at Paraguarí that ensured that President Higinio Morínigo won the war by destroying a working-class rebel area of Asunción. President Morínigo found Stroessner's military skills very useful and promoted him rapidly.

As one of the few officers who had remained loyal to Morínigo, Stroessner became a formidable political and social player once he entered the higher echelons of the Paraguayan armed forces. He became a brigadier — and the youngest general officer in South America — in 1948.

His accurate political sense failed him only once, when he found himself in 1948 on the wrong side of a failed coup attempt and had to be driven to the Brazilian embassy in the trunk of a car, earning him the nickname of "Colonel Trunk". Stroessner backed Felipe Molas López in a successful coup against Juan Natalicio González. He then backed Federico Chávez against Molas López and by 1951 he was Commander-in-chief of the Armed forces of Paraguay in 1951.

Human rights violations

Under Stroessner Paraguay was a leading participant in Operation Condor, a campaign of state terrorism and security operations which were jointly conducted by the right-wing military governments of six Latin American countries (Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil). Human rights violations characteristic of those in other Latin American countries such as kidnapping, torture, forced disappearance and extrajudicial killing, were routine and systematic during the Stroessner regime. Following executions, many of the bodies of those killed by the regime were dumped in the Chaco or the Rio Paraguay. The discovery of the "terror archives" in 1992 in the Lambaré suburb of Asunción, confirmed allegations of widespread human rights violations.

Under Stroessner, egregious human rights violations and acts of ethnic cleansing were committed against the Ache Indian population of Paraguay's eastern districts. The Ache Indians resided on land that was coveted by foreign multinationals and had resisted relocation attempts by the Paraguayan army. The government retaliated with massacres and forced many Ache into slavery. In 1974 the UN accused Paraguay of slavery and genocide. During his regime Stroessner also sheltered many exiles including Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle, Argentine dictator Juan Perón, and Nazi Party scientist Josef Mengele.

Paraguay enjoyed close military and economic ties with the United States and supported US invasion of the Dominican Republic. The Stroessner regime even offered to send troops to Vietnam alongside the Americans during the Vietnam War. The United States played a "critical supporting role" in the domestic affairs of Stoessner's Paraguay. Between 1962 and 1975 the US provided $146 million to Paraguay's military government and Paraguayan officers were trained at the US Army School of the Americas. Although the military and security forces under Stroessner received less material support from the United States than other South American countries, strong inter-military connections existed through military advisors and military training.

Between 1962 and 1966, nearly 400 Paraguayan military personnel were trained by the United States in the Panama Canal Zone and on US soil. Strong Paraguayan-U.S. relations continued until the Carter Administration emphasized a foreign policy that recognized human rights abuses, although both military and economic aid were allotted to the Paraguayan government in Carter's budgets. The Reagan Administration restored more cordial relations due to Stroessner's staunch anti-communism, but by the mid 1980s relations cooled, largely because of the international outcry over the regime's excesses, along with its involvement in narcotics trafficking and money laundering. In 1986, The Reagan administration added his regime to its list of Latin American dictatorships.

As leader of the Colorado Party, Stroessner exercised nearly complete control over the nation's political scene. Although opposition parties were nominally permitted after 1962 (the Colorado Party had been the only legal party in the country since 1947), Paraguay remained for all intents and purposes a one-party state. Elections were so heavily rigged in favor of the Colorados that the opposition had no realistic chance of winning, and opposition figures were subjected to varying degrees of harassment.

Stroessner's rule brought more stability than most of the country's living residents had previously known. From 1927 to 1954, the country had had 22 presidents, including six from 1948 to 1954 alone. However, it came at a high cost. Corruption was rampant (Stroessner himself did not dispute charges of corruption at some levels in his government) and Paraguay's human rights record was considered one of the poorest in South America. During Stroessner's regime, an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 people were murdered, 400 to 500 more were "disappeared," and thousands more imprisoned and tortured.

Press freedom was also limited, constitutional guarantees notwithstanding. Any outcry about government mistreatment or attacks toward the Colorado Party would result in destruction of the media outlets. Many media executives were sent to prison or tortured. Because of this, political opponents were few and far between. Near the end of this presidency, he declared that he would remove the state of siege, but quickly recanted after students began protesting trolley fares.

In 1989, Stroessner was overthrown in a military coup d'état led by his former confidant, General Andrés Rodríguez, and was forced into exile in Brazil, where he spent the last 17 years of his life. Following a bout of pneumonia, he tried to return to his homeland to die, but was rejected by the government. He died in Brasília on August 16th, 2006, of complications from a hernia operation.

Economic Development

Paraguay is a landlocked country. The mighty river of the same name, is divided into two dissimilar parts. These natural conditions make it perfect in there hydropower. For this reason, Stroessner initiated the construction of the largest hydroelectric power plant in the world. After graduating Paraguay has even become an exporter of electricity to neighboring countries and thus contribute to economic development. Another idea Stroessner was 20-acres of separation (at face value) plots to every soldier who has completed the service and agreed to use the resulting land for agricultural purposes. Nearly 10 thousand. soldiers took advantage of this offer.

Stroessner also successfully fought for funding from the U.S. in aid of allies.