Alfredo Stroessner
Alfredo Stroessner Matiauda, whose name is also spelled Strössner or Strößner (November 3, 1912, Encarnación
Encarnación, Paraguay
Encarnación is the capital city of the Paraguayan department of Itapúa, located at the south of the department, on the right-hand shore of the Paraná River, opposite Posadas, Argentina...

 – August 16, 2006, Brasília
Brasília is the capital city of Brazil. The name is commonly spelled Brasilia in English. The city and its District are located in the Central-West region of the country, along a plateau known as Planalto Central. It has a population of about 2,557,000 as of the 2008 IBGE estimate, making it the...

), was a Paraguayan military officer and dictator from 1954 to 1989. His lengthy rule was the 14th-longest ever by state leaders other than monarchs.

Early life

Stroessner's parents were Hugo Strößner, who emigrated from Hof
Hof, Germany
Hof is a city located on the banks of the Saale in the northeastern corner of the German state of Bavaria, in the Franconia region, at the Czech border and the forested Fichtelgebirge and Frankenwald upland regions....

, Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

, Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, and worked as an accountant for a brewery, and Heriberta Matiauda, who grew up in a wealthy Paraguayan family. He joined the Paraguayan army
Military of Paraguay
The armed forces of Paraguay consist of the Paraguayan army, navy and air force.The constitution of Paraguay establishes the president of Paraguay as the commander-in-chief....

 in 1929, becoming a lieutenant in 1931. During the Chaco War
Chaco War
The Chaco War was fought between Bolivia and Paraguay over control of the northern part of the Gran Chaco region of South America, which was incorrectly thought to be rich in oil. It is also referred to as La Guerra de la Sed in literary circles for being fought in the semi-arid Chaco...

 against Bolivia
Bolivia officially known as Plurinational State of Bolivia , is a landlocked country in central South America. It is the poorest country in South America...

 (1932–1935) he enlisted as an artillery cadet and fought in the Battle of Boquerón
Boquerón Department
Boquerón is a department in the western region of Paraguay. It is the country's largest department, with an area of , but its population is only 45,617 . The department includes the Russian Mennonite colonies of Fernheim, Menno and its administrative center Loma Plata and Neuland. The capital is...

. After the war he rose steadily in rank. In the Paraguayan Civil War
Paraguayan Civil War
The Paraguayan Civil War was a conflict in Paraguay that lasted from March to August 1947.In 1940, President Higinio Morínigo suspended the constitution and banned political parties. Resistance to his rule took the form of general strikes and student riots...

 he commanded the artillery division at Paraguarí that ensured President Moríñigo
Moríñigo is a municipality located in the province of Salamanca, Castile and León, Spain. According to the 2004 census , the municipality has a population of 131 inhabitants....

 won by staying loyal and destroying a working-class rebel area of Asunción
Asunción is the capital and largest city of Paraguay.The "Ciudad de Asunción" is an autonomous capital district not part of any department. The metropolitan area, called Gran Asunción, includes the cities of San Lorenzo, Fernando de la Mora, Lambaré, Luque, Mariano Roque Alonso, Ñemby, San...

. He eventually became a brigadier
Brigadier is a senior military rank, the meaning of which is somewhat different in different military services. The brigadier rank is generally superior to the rank of colonel, and subordinate to major general....

 and the youngest general officer in South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

 in 1948.


Stroessner objected to President Federico Chávez
Federico Chávez
Dr. Federico Chaves Careaga was a Paraguayan politician and soldier who served as President of Paraguay from September 10, 1949 to May 5, 1954. He was a member of the Colorado Party....

' plans to arm the national police and threw him out of office in a coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

 on May 4, 1954. After a brief interim presidency by Tomás Romero
Tomás Romero Pereira
Tomás Romero Pereira was President of Paraguay from May 5, 1954 to August 15, 1954. He was a member of the Colorado Party. He came to power as a result of a military coup, led by General Alfredo Stroessner, which began on May 4, 1954, and lasted for three days...

, Stroessner was the only candidate in a special election on July 11 to complete Chávez' 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 (well over 80 percent in many cases). He served for 35 years, with only Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is a Cuban revolutionary and politician, having held the position of Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and then President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from the party's foundation in 1961 until 2011...

 having a longer tenure among 20th century Latin America
Latin America
Latin America is a region of the Americas where Romance languages  – particularly Spanish and Portuguese, and variably French – are primarily spoken. Latin America has an area of approximately 21,069,500 km² , almost 3.9% of the Earth's surface or 14.1% of its land surface area...

n leaders.

Soon after taking office, Stroessner declared a state of siege
State of emergency
A state of emergency is a governmental declaration that may suspend some normal functions of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, alert citizens to change their normal behaviours, or order government agencies to implement emergency preparedness plans. It can also be used as a rationale...

 and suspended constitutional freedoms. It was renewed every 90 days for the rest of his term, and was only lifted during elections. A devoted anti-Communist
Anti-communism is opposition to communism. Organized anti-communism developed in reaction to the rise of communism, especially after the 1917 October Revolution in Russia and the beginning of the Cold War in 1947.-Objections to communist theory:...

, he justified this action as a necessary tool to protect the country.

As leader of the Colorado Party
Colorado Party (Paraguay)
The National Republican Association – Colorado Party is a political party in Paraguay, founded in 1887 by Bernardino Caballero. It is usually known as 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.

While Stroessner's rule saw more stability than any living Paraguayan had ever known, it came at a high cost. The government's human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 record was considered particularly poor. Stroessner supported the U.S. invasion of Dominican Republic
Operation Power Pack
The second United States occupation of the Dominican Republic began when the United States Marines Corps entered Santo Domingo on April 28, 1965. They were later joined by most of the United States Army's 82nd Airborne Division and its parent XVIIIth Airborne Corps...

. and even offered to send troops to support the U.S. in Vietnam
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...


His regime is also blamed for torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

, kidnappings and corruption
Political corruption
Political corruption is the use of legislated powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain. Misuse of government power for other purposes, such as repression of political opponents and general police brutality, is not considered political corruption. Neither are illegal acts by...

, of which the "terror archives
Terror archives
The "Archives of Terror" were found on December 22, 1992, by a lawyer, Dr. Martín Almada, and a human-rights activist and judge, José Agustín Fernández, in a police station in a suburb of Asunción , capital of Paraguay. Fernández was looking for files on a former prisoner...

", discovered in 1992 in Lambaré
Lambaré is a city in Central Department, Paraguay, part of the Gran Asunción metropolitan area.- Sources : * –

 suburb of Asunción
Asunción is the capital and largest city of Paraguay.The "Ciudad de Asunción" is an autonomous capital district not part of any department. The metropolitan area, called Gran Asunción, includes the cities of San Lorenzo, Fernando de la Mora, Lambaré, Luque, Mariano Roque Alonso, Ñemby, San...

, gave proof; he did not dispute charges of corruption at some levels in his government. After execution, bodies were often just dumped in the Chaco or the Rio Paraguay.
The Aché tribe of eastern Paraguay surrendered in August 1959 and was enslaved. In 1974 the UN accused Paraguay of Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 and Genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

Pastor Coronel was the chief of the pyragüés (hairy-footed in Guaraní
Guaraní language
Guaraní, specifically the primary variety known as Paraguayan Guaraní , is an indigenous language of South America that belongs to the Tupí–Guaraní subfamily of the Tupian languages. It is one of the official languages of Paraguay , where it is spoken by the majority of the population, and half of...

) 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
Paraguayan Communist Party
Paraguayan Communist Party is a communist political party in Paraguay. PCP was founded on February 19, 1928. Later it was recognized as a section of the Communist International. It was brutally suppressed during the military regimes of the country. It gained legality for a brief period in 1936 and...

 was torn apart with a chainsaw while Stroessner listened on the phone.

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 did become more tolerant of opposition as the years passed, but there was no change in the regime's basic character.

Strong Paraguayan-U.S. relations continued until the Carter Administration emphasized a foreign policy that recognized human rights abuses. The Reagan Administration
Reagan Administration
The United States presidency of Ronald Reagan, also known as the Reagan administration, was a Republican administration headed by Ronald Reagan from January 20, 1981, to January 20, 1989....

 boycotted the country as well.

During Stroessner's rule, no Communist nation
Communist state
A communist state is a state with a form of government characterized by single-party rule or dominant-party rule of a communist party and a professed allegiance to a Leninist or Marxist-Leninist communist ideology as the guiding principle of the state...

s had embassies in Paraguay, with the sole exception of non-aligned
Non-Aligned Movement
The Non-Aligned Movement is a group of states considering themselves not aligned formally with or against any major power bloc. As of 2011, the movement had 120 members and 17 observer countries...

Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was the Yugoslav state that existed from the abolition of the Yugoslav monarchy until it was dissolved in 1992 amid the Yugoslav Wars. It was a socialist state and a federation made up of six socialist republics: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia,...


Stroessner made many state visits, including to Emperor
Emperor of Japan
The Emperor of Japan is, according to the 1947 Constitution of Japan, "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." He is a ceremonial figurehead under a form of constitutional monarchy and is head of the Japanese Imperial Family with functions as head of state. He is also the highest...

, posthumously in Japan officially called Emperor Shōwa or , was the 124th Emperor of Japan according to the traditional order, reigning from December 25, 1926, until his death in 1989. Although better known outside of Japan by his personal name Hirohito, in Japan he is now referred to...

 of Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, President Lyndon Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon Baines Johnson , often referred to as LBJ, was the 36th President of the United States after his service as the 37th Vice President of the United States...

 of the United States, President Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

 of France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, to South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 and several visits to West Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

, although over the years his relations with West Germany 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, were regarded as personal blows to Stroessner.

It is assumed that the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 is the only reason Stroessner did not have absolute control over the country. After the destruction of Asunción University in 1972 by police, the Archbishop
An archbishop is a bishop of higher rank, but not of higher sacramental order above that of the three orders of deacon, priest , and bishop...

 of Paraguay Ismael Rolón Silvero excommunicated the minister of the interior and the chief of police, and proscribed the celebration of Holy Mass
Mass (liturgy)
"Mass" is one of the names by which the sacrament of the Eucharist is called in the Roman Catholic Church: others are "Eucharist", the "Lord's Supper", the "Breaking of Bread", the "Eucharistic assembly ", the "memorial of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection", the "Holy Sacrifice", the "Holy and...

 in a sign of protest against the Stroessner regime. When Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II
Blessed Pope John Paul II , born Karol Józef Wojtyła , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 16 October 1978 until his death on 2 April 2005, at of age. His was the second-longest documented pontificate, which lasted ; only Pope Pius IX ...

 visited Paraguay in 1988, his visit bolstered what was already a robust anti-Stroessner movement within the country.

Stroessner gave a remarkable television interview in the early 1970s for Alan Whicker
Alan Whicker
Alan Donald Whicker, CBE is a British journalist and broadcaster. His career has spanned over 50 years.-Background:Whicker was born to British parents in Cairo, Egypt...

 as part of a feature on him by the Yorkshire television series Whicker's World
Whicker's World
Whicker's World is an award-winning British television documentary series that ran from 1959 to 1988, presented by journalist and broadcaster Alan Whicker....

. The interview was released as part of a DVD
A DVD is an optical disc storage media format, invented and developed by Philips, Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic in 1995. DVDs offer higher storage capacity than Compact Discs while having the same dimensions....

 boxset compilation release in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 by Network.


Stroessner was known for several positive economic policies, including the building of the largest hydroelectric
Hydroelectricity is the term referring to electricity generated by hydropower; the production of electrical power through the use of the gravitational force of falling or flowing water. It is the most widely used form of renewable energy...

 power plant
Power station
A power station is an industrial facility for the generation of electric energy....

 in the world in Itaipu Dam, developing Paraguay's economy
Economy of Paraguay
Paraguay has a market economy characterized by a large informal sector. Agriculture dominates the economy, but unequal land distribution has resulted in a large class of peasant farm laborers. A large portion of the population is uninvolved in the formal economy, instead existing as subsistence...

: although Paraguay received 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 1970s.

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
Education in Paraguay
Historically, Paraguay has not valued education highly. During Alfredo Stroessner Mattiauda’s presidency , education initiatives took a backseat to economic concerns and the task of controlling political adversaries, and teacher salaries fell to extremely low levels. The constitution of 1992...

, and 2% for public works
Public works
Public works are a broad category of projects, financed and constructed by the government, for recreational, employment, and health and safety uses in the greater community...

. There was no income tax and public spending was the smallest percentage of GDP in Latin America.

Furthermore the construction of the Itaipu Dam, as well as the subsequently built Yacyretá Dam
Yacyretá Dam
The Yacyretá Dam or Hydroelectric Power Station Jasyretâ-Apipé is a dam and hydroelectric power plant built over the waterfalls of Jasyretâ-Apipé in the Paraná River, between the Argentine Province of Corrientes and the Paraguayan City of Ayolas. The dam is named for Yacyretâ Island just upstream,...

 on the Paraguay-Argentina Border, displaced thousands of Paraguayans, pushing them from their home, often without any restitution. The Itaipu Dam displaced at least 80,000 Paraguayans, and the Yacyretá will have displaced at least that many by December 2008. 160 workers died building the Itaipu Dam.

Stroessner was also known for many infrastructure projects that improved the country's highway system. Another programme that Stroessner supported was the granting of 20 hectares of arable lands for a nominal price to any soldier who completed military service, provided that the soldier would use the land for farming purposes. Over 10,000 soldiers took up this offer.

Most impressive was the fact that by the end of the Stronato, the second biggest city was Puerto Flor de Lis (renamed "Puerto Presidente Stroessner," then "Ciudad del Este
Ciudad del Este
Ciudad del Este is the second largest city in Paraguay and capital of Alto Paraná department, located at the Rio Paraná....

"), founded just 32 years before.


On February 3, 1989, only a few months after being elected to his ninth full term, Stroessner was ousted by a coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

 led by General Andrés Rodríguez.
One reason for the coup was that the generals feared one of Stroessner's sons would succeed him. Of the two, Freddie was a cocaine
Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. The name comes from "coca" in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming cocaine. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system, an appetite suppressant, and a topical anesthetic...

 addict and Gustavo, a pilot, was loathed for being a homosexual. A more outlandish rumour was that Lino Oviedo
Lino Oviedo
Lino César Oviedo Silva is a Paraguayan politician and former army general.-Life and work:Oviedo was born in poverty in the town of Juan de Mena on September 23, 1943. He chose a military career, studied in Germany and eventually became a close aide to General Andrés Rodríguez. He was named chief...

 threatened Rodriguez with a grenade if he did not launch the coup.
The two generals fought a brief artillery duel over Asuncion.
After the coup, Stroessner fled to Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, 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
Ciudad del Este
Ciudad del Este is the second largest city in Paraguay and capital of Alto Paraná department, located at the Rio Paraná....

. Asunción
Asunción is the capital and largest city of Paraguay.The "Ciudad de Asunción" is an autonomous capital district not part of any department. The metropolitan area, called Gran Asunción, includes the cities of San Lorenzo, Fernando de la Mora, Lambaré, Luque, Mariano Roque Alonso, Ñemby, San...

's airport had been named after him during his regime, but was later renamed Silvio Pettirossi International Airport
Silvio Pettirossi International Airport
-Incidents and accidents:*3 December 1945: an USAAF Douglas C-47B-5-DK registration 43-48602 flying from Asunción to Montevideo crashed 16km SE of Carlos Pellegrini, Argentina...


Paraguayans remain divided on Stroessner and his controversial legacy. Many feel a strong distaste for him, perceiving him as a corrupt, authoritarian dictator. Those who defend his legacy cite the political stability and economic progress under his rule.

Stroessner died on August 16, 2006, in Brasília
Brasília is the capital city of Brazil. The name is commonly spelled Brasilia in English. The city and its District are located in the Central-West region of the country, along a plateau known as Planalto Central. It has a population of about 2,557,000 as of the 2008 IBGE estimate, making it the...

, at the age of 93. The immediate cause of death was a stroke
A stroke, previously known medically as a cerebrovascular accident , is the rapidly developing loss of brain function due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. This can be due to ischemia caused by blockage , or a hemorrhage...

. He had been suffering from pneumonia
Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of the lung—especially affecting the microscopic air sacs —associated with fever, chest symptoms, and a lack of air space on a chest X-ray. Pneumonia is typically caused by an infection but there are a number of other causes...

 after undergoing a hernia
A hernia is the protrusion of an organ or the fascia of an organ through the wall of the cavity that normally contains it. A hiatal hernia occurs when the stomach protrudes into the mediastinum through the esophageal opening in the diaphragm....

 operation. The Paraguayan government preemptively dismissed any suggestions for honoring the late president within Paraguay. He tried to manage a return to Paraguay before his death, so he could die in his homeland, but he was rebuked and threatened with arrest by the government.

External links

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