Struggle Continues in Paraguay to Hold Dictatorship-Era Repressors Accountable
Gaudin, Andres, NotiSur - South American Political and Economic Affairs
The discovery of human remains in an Asuncion, Paraguay, police barracks that served as a detention center during the dictatorship of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner (1954-1989), the death of a repressor who had evaded legal action since the fall of the dictatorship, and the initiation of a campaign to investigate crimes of the past and try those responsible left President Fernando Lugo's progressive administration in an uncomfortable position and renewed longstanding denunciations of alleged interference by the US State Department and the Pentagon in Paraguay's internal affairs. Unlike other South American countries, where investigation of the past is promoted by the governments in cooperation with civil-society humanitarian organizations, in Paraguay those tasks are on hold, and victims' relatives are the only ones pushing for the search for the truth.
On Feb. 15, the discovery of a skull and arm and leg bones from a person interred long ago in the central garden of the police's Agrupacion Especializada headquarters shook relatives of victims of the dictatorship. To date, the remains of 22 people have been found at the site. The center for anti-riot forces, site of the regime's principal detention and torture facility, is on the southern outskirts of Asuncion and is now used to house drug dealers and other dangerous criminals.
Former detainees call for end to repression
Days earlier, the Colectivo de Ex Detenidas Politicas Carmen Soler (CCS)--an organization of women who are former political detainees and who survived the worst abuses--had reported that security forces "continue being directed by known agents of the dictatorship" and that "they order and carry out the repression against campesinos who are demanding the lands that were taken from them illegally."
The collective is named for Carmen Soler, a teacher and poet accused of attempting to impose communism in Paraguay. Her father, mother, and three brothers were detained and tortured, and Carmen spent several periods in jail and years in exile. She died in 1986 in Argentina, before seeing Stroessner ousted.
The CCS specifically named Antonio Campos Alum, the former director of the Ministerio de Interior's now defunct Direccion Nacional de Asuntos Tecnicos (known as La Tecnica) and Antonio Gamarra, director of the Fuerzas de Operaciones de Policias Especializados (FOPE). Two days later, Campos Alum died at his secret hideaway.
The CCS presented leaders of the three branches of government with the document, "To prosecute the dictatorship's repressors is to stop the repression of the Paraguayan people." Although, by tying the past to the present, the title implicitly criticized the Lugo administration, the text was more explicit, saying, "Our campaign means denouncing, investigating, trying, and punishing those responsible for state terrorism during the dictatorship and for the persecution of campesinos fighting for agrarian reform now."
"Many former repressors continue fulfilling official functions in the police and military security forces," said Teresita Asilvera, a CCS leader. "This impunity for crimes during the dictatorship is what enables repression of social protest today." She was referring to police actions against the campesinos demanding lands occupied by soy farmers in the eastern department of Alto Parana (NotiCen, Feb. 17, 2012).
That was not the only criticism of the president. In announcing the latest discovery of human remains in the Agrupacion Especializada, the director of the Comision Verdad y Justicia (CVJ) Rogelio Goiburu said, "By not using the US$150,000 budget item for a genetic study of the bones that were found, the government is responsible for preventing the relatives from knowing whose bones they are."
Days later, the CCS said, "The 696 repressors identified by the CVJ and still enjoying impunity are the Praetorian Guard of a society that we want to change, in the same way that our disappeared companions wanted to change it and the landless campesinos today want to change it. …