The U.S. government has intervened vigorously in the case of a prominent Paraguayan journalist who was jailed after he criticized the rule of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner, the dean of Latin American dictators.
Columnist Alcidides Gonzalez del Valle was arrested Nov. 5 after drawing a parable for Paraguayans from the recent death of French Labor Minister Robert Boulin.
Boulin committed suicide, said Gonzalez, "because the press questioned his honesty. God help us if his example should reach us here because it would be a catastrophe. There wouldn't be space enough in the cemeteries and the casket makers wouldn't be able to satisfy the demand."
Bonzalez went on to enumerate questionable cases involving Stroessner's rule which, although pointed out in the press, have received no official response.
U.S. Ambassador Robert White reached by telephone during a brief visit here, described the Bonzalez article as "fair and accurate criticism. The Paraguayan government, being unable to refute the charges, took its only recourse -- to arrest him."
Gonzalez is being held without charge and incomunicado, in contravention or the Paraguayan consitution. His arrest follows that of prominent opposition leader Domingo Laino. Laino has been confined to a village far from the capital of Asuncion since mid-September after making a statement while abroad that was judged to be critical of the government.
At that time, Ambassador White in Asunction and Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher in Washington expressed "serious concern" for what was described as "a step backward in the human rights situation in Paraguay."
In the case of Gonzalez, an editor for the daily ABC Color and secretary general of the journalists' union, the State Department said:
"We would deplore any action which violated Mr. Gonzalez's right of free speech and is detrimental to a free and independent press or did not provide for due process of law."
Among the activities that Gonzalez blamed on high officials in Stroessner's government were dealings in contraband cattle and lumber and questionable activities in housing public service contracts and the state fuel monopoly.
Stroessner, 67, who seized power in 1954, is said to be in ill health, and both his associates and opponents appear to be seeking advantages for any eventual shift in power.