The Specter of Stroessner’s Dictatorship Still Haunts Paraguay

The Specter of Stroessner’s Dictatorship Still Haunts Paraguay
A man holds up a placard showing people who went missing during Paraguay’s military dictatorship at a march commemorating 30 years of democracy, in Asuncion, Paraguay, Feb. 2, 2019 (AP photo by Jorge Saenz).

On Dec. 22, 1992, Martin Almada, a lawyer and human rights activist, and Jose Agustin Fernandez, a judge, were tipped off to a cache of thousands of documents that were being stored in a police station in Lambare, Paraguay. The files documented the systematic abuses that thousands of Paraguayans, including Almada, had suffered at the hands of the secret police during the long dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner from 1954 to 1989.  

The files also contained references to “Operation Condor,” a “network of transnational repressioninstituted by the U.S.-backed governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay—later joined by Brazil, Ecuador and Peru—during the Cold War. Through the plan’s structured coordination, these governments cooperated with each other to systematically detain, torture and forcibly disappear left-leaning intellectuals, civic activists, anti-government critics and many others deemed “subversive” by the state.

The discovery of the “Archives of Terror,” as the documents became known, marked a turning point for Almada, who could finally prove the torture and ill treatment he had endured during his detention in Paraguay from 1974 to 1977. But they also furnished irrefutable evidence that the U.S.-backed “Operation Condor” had actually existed, with the documents providing a glimpse of its full scale.

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