Authoritarianism in Latin America since Independence

By Will Fowler | Go to book overview

5
Mechanisms of Control: The Stroessner Regime in Paraguay

Peter Lambert


INTRODUCTION

The overthrow of General Alfredo Stroessner in February 1989 launched Paraguay into a period of collective shock. Stroessner had held office for over thirty-four years, longer than any other ruler in Paraguayan history, and nobody under the age of thirty-five, nearly 75% of the population, had known any other president. He had surrounded himself with an aura of indestructibility and many could simply not accept that his rule had come to an end.

Stroessner had succeeded in becoming an integral part of the national identity, a symbol of Paraguay. Barrios, streets, plazas, and towns were named after him, stamps and currency carried his image, and his portrait adorned all public offices and schools. There was a Stroessner airport, a President Stroessner city on the Brazilian border, even a Stroessner polka. He was the "irreplaceable national leader who had restored social harmony to conflictual Paraguay." 1

In his chapter it will be argued that it would be mistaken to assume that the longevity of the stronato (the Stroessner regime) was due to cultural or historical legacies. There was nothing inevitable about the longevity of the regime. On the contrary, all indications were that it would be just another short-lived dictatorship. Rather, in this chapter, it will be argued that longevity was due to adroit political skill and maneuvering and the successful implementation and refining of a series

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