Battle of Boquerón
Paraguayan Civil War
Alfredo Stroessner Matiauda (Spanish pronunciation: [alˈfreðo
strosˈner]; November 3, 1912 – August 16, 2006) was a Paraguayan
military officer who served as
President of Paraguay
President of Paraguay from 1954 to
1989. He ascended to the position after leading an army coup in 1954.
His 35-year-long rule, marked by an uninterrupted period of repression
in his country, is the longest in modern South American history.
Stroessner's rule is ranked 20th-longest among other non-royal
national leaders since 1870, and made him one of the world's
longest-serving non-royal heads of state.
In 1954, he ousted Federico Chávez, becoming president after winning
an election in which he was the sole candidate. A staunch
anti-communist, Stroessner had the backing of the
United States for
most of his time in power. His supporters packed the legislature and
ran the courts, and he ruthlessly suppressed all opposition. He kept
his country in what he called a constant "state of siege" that
overruled civil liberties, enforced a cult of personality, and
tortured and killed political opponents. Membership in his Colorado
Party was a prerequisite for job promotion, free medical care and
other services. The constitution had to be modified in 1967 and 1977
to legitimize his six consecutive elections to the presidency.
Stroessner provided refuge for Argentina's
Juan Perón and Nicaragua's
Anastasio Somoza Debayle
Anastasio Somoza Debayle (later assassinated in Paraguay).
In 1988, he won an unprecedented eighth term on a majority, according
to official figures, of over 89 percent of the registered vote. Less
than a year later, he was overthrown in a military coup led by his
General Andrés Rodríguez and 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 16, 2006,
of complications from a hernia operation.
1 Early life
2.1 Operation Condor
8 Further reading
9 External links
This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help
improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources.
Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (January 2017)
(Learn how and when to remove this template message)
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,
Paraguay. He joined the Paraguayan army in 1929, entering the national
military school at the age of 16 and received his commission as a
lieutenant in 1931. During the
Chaco War against
he volunteered as an artillery cadet and fought in the Battle of
Boquerón. 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 staying loyal and 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 eventually 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 army chief of
Alfredo Stroessner on a
Alfredo Stroessner on a
Stroessner objected to President Federico Chávez's plans to arm the
national police and threw him out of office in a coup d'état on May
4, 1954. After a brief interim presidency by Tomás Romero, Stroessner
was the only candidate in a special election on July 11 to complete
Chávez's term. He was reelected seven times—in 1958, 1963, 1968,
1973, 1978, 1983 and 1988. He appeared alone on the ballot in 1958. In
his other elections, he won by implausibly high margins; only once
(1968) did an opposition candidate get more than 20 percent of the
vote. He served for 35 years, with only
Fidel Castro having a longer
tenure among 20th-century Latin American leaders.
Soon after taking office, Stroessner declared a state of siege, which
allowed him to suspend civil liberties. The state-of-siege provisions
allowed the government to arrest and detain anyone indefinitely
without trial, as well as forbid public meetings and demonstrations.
It was renewed every 90 days until 1987, except for a brief period in
1959. Although it technically only applied to
Asunción after 1970,
the courts ruled that anyone charged with security offenses could be
brought to the capital and charged under the state-of-siege
provisions--even if the offense took place outside the capital.
Thus, for all intents and purposes, Stroessner ruled under what
amounted to martial law for nearly all of his tenure, apart from one
24-hour period on election days. A devoted anti-communist, he
justified this action as a necessary tool to protect the country.
Paraguay enjoyed close military and economic ties with the United
States and supported the US invasion of the Dominican Republic. The
Stroessner regime even offered to send troops to Vietnam alongside the
Americans. Between 1962 and 1975 the
United States 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. The Reagan Administration
boycotted the country as well largely because of the regime's
involvement in narcotics trafficking and money-laundering.
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. Furthermore, Stroessner's
Paraguay became a
haven for Nazi war criminals, including Josef Mengele, and
non communist peaceful opposition was crushed. Given Stroessner's
Nazism and harboring of Nazi war criminals, foreign press
often referred to his government as the "poor man's Nazi regime."
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 of 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
Paraguay was a leading participant in Operation Condor, a campaign of
state terror and security operations officially implemented in 1975
which were jointly conducted by the military governments of six South
American countries (Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and
Brazil) with the support of the United States. Human
rights violations characteristic of those in other South American
countries such as kidnappings, torture, forced disappearances and
extrajudicial killings 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 Río Paraguay.
The discovery of the "Archives of Terror" in 1992 in the Lambaré
Asunción confirmed allegations of widespread human rights
Pastor Coronel was the chief of the Department of Investigations, or
secret police. He would interview people in a pileta, a bath of human
excrement or ram electric cattle prods up their rectums. The
Secretary of the Paraguayan Communist Party, Miguel Soler, was
dismembered alive with a chainsaw while Stroessner listened on the
phone. The screams of tortured dissidents would often be
recorded and played over the phone to family members, and sometimes
the bloody garments of those killed were sent to their homes.
Under Stroessner, egregious human rights violations were committed
Aché Indian population of Paraguay's eastern districts,
largely as the result of U.S. and European corporations wanting access
to the country's forests, mines and grazing lands. The Aché
Indians resided on land that was coveted and had resisted relocation
attempts by the Paraguayan army. The government retaliated with
massacres and forced many
Aché into slavery. In 1974 the UN accused
Paraguay of slavery and genocide. Only a few hundred
alive by the late 1970s.
Stroessner was careful not to show off or draw attention from jealous
generals or foreign journalists. He avoided rallies and took simple
holidays in Patagonia. He became more tolerant of opposition as the
years passed, but there was no change in the regime's basic character.
During Stroessner's rule, no socialist nations had diplomatic
relations with Paraguay, with the sole exception of non-aligned
Yugoslavia. Stroessner made many state visits, including to Japan,
the United States, and France, as well as to South Africa, a country
Paraguay developed close bilateral ties with in the 1970s.
He also made several visits to West Germany, although over the years
his relations with that country deteriorated. Since he had always been
known as pro-German, this worsening of relations, combined with his
feeling that the U.S. had abandoned him, was regarded as a personal
blow to Stroessner.
It has been asserted that the
Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church is the only reason
Stroessner did not have absolute control over the country. After
the destruction of
Asunción University in 1972 by police, the
Paraguay Ismael Rolón Silvero excommunicated the
minister of the interior and the chief of police, and proscribed the
celebration of Holy Mass in a sign of protest against the Stroessner
Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II visited
Paraguay in 1988, his visit
bolstered what was already a robust anti-Stroessner movement within
Stroessner gave a written television interview to
Alan Whicker as part
of a documentary The Last Dictator (UK: April 7, 1970) for the
television series Whicker's World. The programme was released in a
DVD boxset by the UK's Network imprint.
Stroessner enacted several economic development projects, including
the building of the largest hydroelectric power plant in the world in
Itaipu Dam, developing Paraguay's economy: although
only 15% of the contracts, it was a major factor allowing the country
to have the highest rate of growth in Latin America for most of the
Stroessner also dedicated large proportions of the Paraguayan national
budget to the military and police apparatus, both fundamental to the
maintenance of the regime. According to a 1963 article from Time
magazine, Stroessner spent 33% of the 1962 annual budget on army and
police, 15% for education, and 2% for public works. There was no
income tax and public spending was the smallest percentage of GDP in
Furthermore, the construction of the Itaipu Dam, as well as the
Yacyretá Dam on the Paraguay–Argentina Border,
displaced thousands of Paraguayans, pushing them from their homes,
often without any restitution. The Itaipu Dam
displaced at least 80,000 Paraguayans, and the Yacyretá was estimated
to have displaced at least that many by December 2008.[citation
needed] 160 workers died building the Itaipu Dam.
Stroessner also promoted projects that purportedly developed the
country's infrastructure. Amongst these were the improvement of
highways and the issuing of 15–20 hectare land grants to military
personnel upon completion of their service, provided that the land
would be used for farming purposes. Over 10,000
soldiers took up this offer. By the end of the
Stronato, the second biggest city was Puerto Flor de Lis (renamed
"Puerto Presidente Stroessner," then "Ciudad del Este"), founded just
32 years before.
In April 1987, Stroessner lifted the state of siege as part of the
run-up to elections the following spring. However, several draconian
security laws remained in effect, meaning that the substance (if not
the form) of the state of siege was still in place. As had been the
case for over three decades, opposition leaders continued to be
arbitrarily arrested and opposition meetings and demonstrations were
broken up (often brutally). Stroessner was nominated by the Colorados
once again, and was the only candidate who was allowed to campaign
completely unmolested. Under these circumstances, the February 1988
election was no different from past elections, with Stroessner
officially registering 89 percent of the vote—a margin that his
rivals contended could only have been obtained through massive
On February 3, 1989, only six months after being sworn in for what
would have been his eighth full term, Stroessner was ousted in a coup
d'état led by
General Andrés Rodríguez, his closest confidant for
over three decades. One reason for the coup was that the generals
feared one of Stroessner's offspring would succeed him. Of the two,
Alfredo (aka 'Freddie') was a cocaine addict and Gustavo, a pilot, was
loathed for being homosexual. A more outlandish rumour was that Lino
Oviedo threatened Rodríguez with a grenade if he did not launch the
coup. The two generals, Rodríguez and Oviedo, fought a brief
artillery duel over Asunción.
After the coup, Stroessner fled to Brazil, where he lived in exile for
the next seventeen and a half years.
The eastern city Puerto Flor de Lis, which had been renamed Puerto
Presidente Stroessner in his honor, in 1989 was again renamed Ciudad
del Este. Asunción's airport had been named after him during his
regime, but was later renamed Silvio Pettirossi International Airport.
Stroessner died on August 16, 2006, in Brasília, at the age of 93.
The immediate cause of death was a stroke. He had been suffering from
pneumonia after undergoing a hernia operation. The Paraguayan
government preemptively dismissed any suggestions for honoring the
late president within Paraguay. He tried to return to Paraguay
before his death, to die in his homeland, but he was rebuked and
threatened with arrest by the government.
Stroessner was married to Eligia Mora (26 December 1910 – 3 February
2006). They had three children: Gustavo, Alfredo and Graciela. Alfredo
Domínguez Stroessner, son of Graciela, is a senator.[clarification
^ Gunson, Phil (August 17, 2006) "
Alfredo Stroessner –
Dictator who mastered the fixing of elections and made
smugglers' paradise". The Guardian
^ Profile of Alfredo Stroessner
^ Security and Political Offenses
Library of Congress
Library of Congress Country Studies
^ a b Bruneau, Thomas C.. "Government and Politics". Paraguay: A
country study (Dannin M. Hanratty and Sandra W. Meditz, eds.). Library
Federal Research Division (December 1988). This article
incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
^ ''Paraguay: A Country Study'', "International Factors and the
Economy". Lcweb2.loc.gov. Retrieved on August 21, 2014.
^ Obituary: "Alfredo Stroessner; Paraguayan Dictator".
Washingtonpost.com. Retrieved on August 21, 2014.
^ a b c d Cooper, Allan D. (2008). The Geography of Genocide.
University Press of America. p. 167.
^ Mora, Frank O. and Cooney, Jerry W. (2007)
Paraguay and the United
States: Distant Allies. University of Georgia Press.
ISBN 0820329320. p. 169
^ ''Paraguay: A Country Study'', "The United States". Lcweb2.loc.gov
(February 9, 1987). Retrieved on 2014-08-21.
^ a b
General Alfredo Stroessner. The Telegraph, August 17, 2006.
Retrieved August 6, 2015.
^ Alfredo Stroessner: President of Paraguay. Encyclopædia Britannica.
Retrieved August 29, 2015.
^ Ex-Paraguayan dictator Stroessner dies at 93. NBC News. August 16,
^ a b Simon Sebag Montefiore. History's Monsters. Metro Books, 2008.
p. 271. ISBN 1435109376
^ Schemo, Diana Jean. Stroessner, Paraguay's Enduring Dictator, Dies.
New York Times, 2006-06-16.
^ "Stroessner, among South America's longest-serving dictators, dies".
Servihoo.com. Retrieved on August 21, 2014.
^ Historical Context. cuchillodepalo.net
Donald Bloxham and A. Dirk Moses, eds. The Oxford Handbook of
Genocide Studies. Oxford University Press, 2013. pp. 228 & 229.
Alfredo Stroessner Facts, information, pictures Encyclopedia.com
articles about Alfredo Stroessner". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved
Alfredo Stroessner Biography - life, children, wife, school,
mother, son, old, born, college - Newsmakers Cumulation".
www.notablebiographies.com. Retrieved 2016-05-07.
Greg Grandin (2011). The Last Colonial Massacre: Latin America in
the Cold War. University of Chicago Press. p. 75.
^ Walter L. Hixson (2009). The Myth of American Diplomacy: National
Identity and U.S. Foreign Policy. Yale University Press. p. 223.
^ McSherry, J. Patrice (2011). "Chapter 5: "Industrial repression" and
Operation Condor in Latin America". In Esparza, Marcia; Henry R.
Huttenbach; Daniel Feierstein. State Violence and
Genocide in Latin
America: The Cold War Years (Critical Terrorism Studies). Routledge.
p. 107. ISBN 0415664578.
^ a b Gimlette, p. 12
^ Alex Henderson (February 4, 2015). 7 Fascist Regimes
Enthusiastically Supported by America. Alternet. Retrieved March 8,
^ Green, W. John (2015). A History of Political Murder in Latin
America: Killing the Messengers of Change. SUNY Press. p. 266.
^ Arens, Richard, ed. (1976).
Genocide in Paraguay. Temple University
Press. ISBN 978-0877220886.
^ ''Paraguay: A Country Study'', "Foreign Relations". Lcweb2.loc.gov.
Retrieved on August 21, 2014.
^ Howard J. Wiarda; Harvey F. Kline (31 December 2013). Latin American
Politics and Development. Westview Press. pp. 268–.
^ ''Paraguay: A Country Study'', "Interest Groups: The Roman Catholic
Church". Lcweb2.loc.gov. Retrieved on August 21, 2014.
^ ''New York Sun'' Obituaries: "Alfredo Stroessner, 93, Old-Style
Military Dictator of Paraguay". Nysun.com. Retrieved on August 21,
^ ''The Economist'' Obituary: Alfredo Stroessner. Economist.com
(August 24, 2006). Retrieved on 2014-08-21.
^ Dictator by Popular Request, Time, February 22, 1963
^ Gimlette, p. 277
^ Country profile: Paraguay.
Library of Congress
Library of Congress Federal Research
Division (October 2005). This article incorporates text from this
source, which is in the public domain.
^ Gimlette, p. 29
^ MSNBC.com: "Ex-Paraguayan dictator Stroessner dies at 93". MSNBC
(August 16, 2006). Retrieved on 2014-08-21.
^ BBC: "Ex-Paraguayan ruler dies in exile". BBC News (August 16,
2006). Retrieved on 2014-08-21.
Gimlette, John (2005). At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig: Travels
Through Paraguay. Vintage Books. ISBN 1400078520.
Santicaten (1973). Charlas con el general Stroessner. Editorial
Internacional de Grandes Autores Latino-Americanos.
Lewis, Paul H. (1980).
Paraguay Under Stroessner. Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-1437-7.
Miranda, Carlos R. (1990). Stroessner Era: Authoritarian Rule in
Paraguay. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.
CIA: Stroessner's Paraguay
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Alfredo Stroessner.
Obituary BBC News
Paraguay's archive of terror
The Presidential Papers of Dwight D. Eisenhower Official letter to
President Stroessner (1959)
Paraguay seeks Stroessner return
Alfredo Stroessner, 93, Old-Style Military Dictator of Paraguay
Obituary The Economist
Stroessner, Paraguay’s Enduring Dictator, Dies New York Times
Gen. Alfredo Stroessner, Colorful Dictator of
Paraguay for 35 Years,
Dies in Exile at 93
President of Paraguay
Governorate of New Andalusia
José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia
First Civil War
Second Civil War
World Heritage Sites
Chamber of Deputies
Science and technology
List of Paraguayans
Coat of arms
Heads of state of Paraguay
Rodríguez de Francia
Rodríguez de Francia
Italics indicate acting, interim or provisional role.
Post-war flight of Axis fugitives
German / Austrian
Ludolf von Alvensleben
Johann von Leers
Tscherim Soobzokov (Circassian)
Colonia Dignidad (Chile)
Operation Paperclip (USA)
Robert Leiber (Holy See)
Serge and Beate Klarsfeld
Disputed / dubious
List of Most Wanted Nazi War Criminals
ISNI: 0000 0001 1479 6212
BNF: cb12029554b (data)