ASUNCION and the Brutal Dictatorship of General Stroessner

In 1541, natives destroyed Buenos Aires, and the Spaniards fled to Asunción. Thus, the city became the centre of a large Spanish colonial province comprising part of Brazil, present-day Paraguay and northeastern Argentina: the Giant Province of the Indies.

Towards the end of the 19th Century and during the early years of the 20th Century, a flow of immigrants from Europe and the Ottoman Empire came to the city. This led to a change in the appearance of the city as many new buildings were built and Asunción went through an era more prosperous than any since the war.

Founded in 1537, Asunción is one of the oldest cities in South America and the longest continually inhabited area in the River Plate Basin; for this reason that it is known as “Mother of Cities”.

It was from here that the colonial expeditions departed to found other cities.  The Paraguayans are proud of the fact that they gained independence without a drop of blood being spilt.  Unfortunately that pacifist spirit was not retained for long.

During the dictatorship of General Stroessner (1954-89) anyone taking a glance at the Palacio de Gobierno was ordered to be shot.

On July 11 1954, the electorate endorsed General Alfredo Stroessner, commander in chief of the army and head of the Colorado Party. He was the only candidate.  He served for 35 years, with only Fidel Castro having a longer tenure among 20th century Latin American leaders.

Stroessner’s rule saw more stability than any living Paraguayan had ever known, but it came at a high cost.

His regime is also blamed for torture, kidnappings and corruption, of which the “terror archives”, discovered in 1992, gave proof; he did not dispute charges of corruption at some levels in his government.

The Museo de las Memorias is  aptly dedicated to reporting the human rights abuses at the heart of his dictatorship.

After execution, bodies were often just dumped in the Chaco or the Rio Paraguay.  The secret police, would interview people in a pileta, a bath of human excrement. They also had a penchant for ramming electric cattle prods up rectums . Here you also find implements  for pulling out fingernails.

Another exhibit is the phone used when the Secretary of the Paraguayan Communist Party was torn apart with a chainsaw while Stroessner listened on the phone.