28) Asuncion - Alfredo Stroessner, popular?

September 23, 2008 - Asunción, Paraguay

"He didn't kill many, but was big into torture" our guide tells explains. "only 300 were killed" but over a million 'went abroad' during this time" Oh yeah?, thinks Woz, I can't hold back "surely flu kills more people in 35 years?" I ask. No answer.

We're off on a city tour - crammed into a clapped-out microbus with an air-con unit that just dribbles water over us. Our guide is telling us about the history and politics of latter-day Paraguay. He's finding it difficult to convey the truth, it seems he's giving us the 'Official' line. Now, I don't mean to be unfair here to anyone in Paraguay, but I did find the official line a bit difficult to swallow.

Post-war Paraguay has seen a Civil War, 35 years of Dictatorship, and now more recently a gradual return to democracy. We're told that General Alfredo Stroessner, who siezed control in 1954 and stayed in power until 1989 is still 'fondly regarded' by many.

"So the good General tortured a million or so, then sent them abroad on holiday?" questions John. It's becoming a bit incredulous. John reckons that the hill we're standing on wasn't there before people 'went abroad'. It's been a terrible time for the people of Paraguay - I read somewhere that 1.3 million citizens 'went abroad'.

We went to a building downtown - one of the 'Technical Centers' as they were euphamistically named. Torture Chambers in any other language. It's now a museum staffed by volunteers - the volunteer guide who's showing us around clearly has a lot more to tell one day. It's obvious he was there previously - and not willingly. It's a chilling place, we're all subdued as we leave.

General Stroessner had a lot to answer for. Murder, Torture, Embezzeler, Harbourer of War Criminals and other unsavoury characters - he was amongst the most extreme of the Latin America dictators. Here's a link to a newspaper article (for which I acknowledge the author): 
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/16/AR2006081601729.html

I glad I've seen Paraguay. It's the first time I've been so close to experiencing - but not really understanding - the horrors that people in some countries have had to, (and many still do) endure.

 


2 Comments

Lena:
November 12, 2008
"Gone abroad" from Paraguay ??? Pushed into another world, more like. Shades of Cambodia '75-'79 ... sad knowing such inhumane activities exist in recent history.
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