Former Paraguayan Dictator Dies at 93
Wednesday, August 16, 2006; 5:30 PM
BRASILIA, Brazil -- Alfredo Stroessner, the canny anti-communist general who ruled Paraguay for decades with a blend of force, guile and patronage before his ouster in 1989, died in exile on Wednesday. He was 93.
Stroessner contracted pneumonia after a hernia operation in Brazil's capital, where he had lived i1102n near total isolation since he was forced from power.
He died of a stroke with his family gathered around him in the Hospital Santa Luzia, his grandson Alfredo Dominguez Stroessner said in a radio interview. Dominguez Stroessner said his grandfather left no instructions on his funeral but the family was considering burial in Encarnacion, the Paraguayan city where the former dictator was born.
Stroessner seized power in a 1954 coup and through fraud and repression, held it for 35 years to become one of Latin America's longest-ruling strongmen.
Finally ousted by his own generals, Stroessner remains hated by many in Paraguay, where he was accused of repression and human rights violations, even though some stalwarts credit him for big public works projects that modernized the country.
A staunch U.S. ally, Stroessner made Paraguay a refuge for some Nazi war criminals among 200,000 Germans he sheltered after World War II. He twice denied extradition requests for Dr. Josef Mengele, the infamous "Angel of Death" at Auschwitz. Mengele later fled Nazi hunters to Brazil, where he died under an assumed name.
Stroessner also sheltered fellow right-wing dictators, including Anastasio Somoza of Nicaragua.
"Stroessner didn't have any problem giving refuge to people with blood on their hands," said Aaron Breitbart, a senior researcher with the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. "His death is no loss to democratic values in Paraguay."
After his ouster, Stroessner lived as a recluse in Brazil, where his asylum status made extradition impossible. Neighbors said they rarely saw him leave his house on the shore of Lake Paranoa in Brasilia.
As Stroessner's health failed, President Nicanor Duarte said there were no plans to honor him after his death.
The son of a German immigrant father and a Paraguayan mother, Stroessner fought in the 1930s Chaco War against Bolivia, and became a general at age 40. He studied tactics in Panama, Brazil and the United States and became army chief of staff in 1951.
He rigged his re-election every five years after his 1954 seizure of power and brought Paraguay into the modern age, transforming a stagnating, politically tumultuous country with open sewers and no running water, even in the capital, into a relatively prosperous and modern nation.