El Supremo

By Colin P. Manning

Although Northamericans, due to their long history of democratic institutions, perceive coup d'etats as extraordinary political events, Stroessner's seizure of power in 1954 was not altogether exceptional from the Paraguayan perspective. All Latin American nations experienced civil wars in the early nineteenth century after they had been liberated from Spanish hegemony. The various power centers in the emerging nations, the church, the criollo elites, the peninsular elite, the merchant upper class, the landed aristocracy, and local warlords, or caudillos, rarely agreed upon a single course of action for their new states. While a few countries, such as Chile, developed strong democratic institutions, many others experienced dictatorial rule underneath several caudillos for great lengths of time. From a Machiavellian perspective, this is not surprising, for caudillos could marshall the most military support of any of the power centers, even if individual caudillos lacked education, political experience, or wealth, as many did.

In terms of the development of democratic institutions, Paraguay is on the opposite extreme of Chile. José Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia was independent Paraguay's first ruler; he dominated Paraguay from 1814-1840. He was succeeded by two more dictators, who ruled for a combined thirty years. After 1870, Paraguayan history is a long list of presidents who rule for short periods and are deposed by leaders from either the opposing political party or from a faction within their own party. General Stroessner took command of the presidential suite after a particularly violent period of civil war from 1947-1953. During his rise through the ranks, he helped to overthrow five presidents.

Thus, Paraguay had along history of authoritarianism; General Stroessner was the latest in a long line of coup leaders. Sondrol argues that the long legacy of authoritarian rule produced "a public psychologically habituated to dictatorships," and that Paraguayans over the years had become "politically naive, apathetic, and xenophobic."(Sondrol 613) Other authors have argued that not only were Paraguayans used to authoritarian leadership, but that they were actually biased towards this type of rule. Miranda states that, in pre-independence Paraguay, key attributes of twentieth century Paraguay such as a disposition towards hierarchical rule and authoritarian values had already been rooted in the civic culture.(Miranda 10, 16) He believes that the source of these attitudes can be found in three institutions of colonial Paraguay: compradazgo, paternalism, and the structure of the Jesuit plantations, which were quite hierarchical. Compradzago is the process in which a family will have a newborn sponsored usually by a member of a higher economic strata. In exchange for sponsoring the child, the comprade can expect economic, political, and social favors in return. Paraguay, and almost all Latin nations, developed an expansive network of comprade relationships, which are often necessary to penetrate bureaucracies and to take advantage of job opportunities.(Miranda, 10-16)

Paternalism is a type of client/patron relationship in which the client usually supplies the patron with labor or political support in exchange for other benefits such as land, protection, and access to facilities which he would not have otherwise. Peasants thus looked towards their patrón as the most important source for their welfare. Political parties in the post-independence period became dominated by patrones who would use their clientes. Money rarely changed hands in the comprade or client/patron systems, and the Jesuits never paid the indigenous laborers on the reducciones(although these plantations were enormously profitable). The currency of these relationships are protection, food, housing, access to favors, and other non-monetary rewards. In 1954, after almost 150 years, this system of client/patron relationships had the effect of "politicizing the peasantry(and the urban lower classes) yet directing their political energies to the support of conservative groups which do not usually act in their interest."(Hicks, 89)

Stroessner's tyrannical plans thus had an ideal, almost captive population with which to work. Although the word "politicizing" is used above, I would argue that the Paraguayan population was, in fact, de-politicized. Campesinos did not perceive political parties as avenues for complaints or as vehicles for changing their condition; instead, they focused on the individual, their patrón, who, as a member of a political party, would satisfy their needs. Only a tiny elite of each party had explicitly political goals, such as holding the office of the president or minister of the interior. Even the middle and upper class participants viewed the parties as patronage systems. Devoid of social agendas, they wanted their party in office solely for access to Paraguay's wealth, not for any altruistic reasons.

Stroessner entered military academy in 1929, at the age of sixteen. Within five years, he had participated in Paraguay's second most important war, the Chaco War with Bolivia, 1932-35, and he earned broad praise for his battlefield performance.(Lewis, 64-5) In 1951, at the age of thirty-eight, Stroessner became Paraguay's commander in chief of the armed forces. In addition to having had an excellent martial reputation, which conferred a tremendous amount of legitimacy and authority in a country which had fought two devastating wars in seventy years, Stroessner personified Machiavelli's ideal "young, bold, fierce, impetuous, audacious prince" who was best able to adapt to changes in the political, military, economic environment.(Machiavelli, 94) Like a good prince, Stroessner had a "mind disposed to adapt;" he had to have been flexible and deceitful(Machiavelli's great feigner and dissembler, 64,65) in order to help depose four presidents and still be trusted by number five.

In April 1951, slightly before being declared commander in chief, Stroessner became commander of the First Army Corps in Asunción, the capital. Before this point, Stroessner could be qualified as a threat, yet he did not have access to the best firepower and soldiers, and, thus, he was a limited threat. Once he was in charge of the nation's most important battalion, however, Stroessner became the supreme threat to anyone in the presidential palace.

Early on in his military career, Stroessner evolved from being a charismatic leader, full of "allegre," to a "discreet and circumspect," yet still tremendously hard working officer.(Lewis, 66) He progressed through a series of war college programs, finishing with an invitation in 1953 from the U.S. State Department to receive Northamerican military training. Stroessner did not fit the Latin American stereotype of the lazy, fat, indolent, inept, profiteering general(Danner); as a military student and heeding Machiavelli's advice, he "studied the actions of eminent men and examined the causes of their victories."(Machiavelli, 54) Stroessner must have been superbly equipped at deception, at hiding his true character, because even his Colorado party leadership believed that he only wanted to govern for one term, five years.(Roett-b, 50) Stroessner's oscillations from one leader to another are remarkable in light of the high value that Paraguayan political culture placed on loyalty. The nation was divided into two parties, the Colorados and the Liberales, with each party essentially representing half of the population; non-commitment to either party and switching allegiance between parties was perceived as a sign of weak character.(Miranda, 16)

Machiavelli reiterates the importance of armed followers throughout The Prince. (Machiavelli, 22, 50, 54, 77) Before seizing presidential power, Stroessner gradually consolidated his military position until nobody remained above him. Along this path, he experienced both combat and theoretical military learning situations, and he was able to dissemble his real intentions to all other political and military actors. Once in office, he would further his consolidation of the military, and, most importantly, immediately consolidate his power with respect to the remaining centers of power in Paraguayan society: the bureaucracy, the Colorado party, and the economic elites.

After seizing the presidential office, Stroessner concentrated on removing popular potential leaders in the public as well as popular officers within the army and faction chiefs within the Colorado party. Stroessner's regime can be characterized as having three waves of repression of the opposition, one in the 1950's, one in the early 1970's, and one in the mid to late 1980's. The first wave, from 1954-63, was clearly the most severe. During this period, Stroessner focussed the populace's attention on an internal and external enemy.

Machiavelli describes how it is "necessary to create some superior power...with full and absolute powers," and how once popular "chiefs" are eliminated, the people break down and begin mistrusting each other.(Machiavelli, 255,259) Stroessner followed these instructions closely in his cleansing of the military and the Colorado party of potential future adversaries. Stroessner was also in line with Machiavelli's advice concerning "well-timed cruelties" and the importance of performing excessive violence early on in the prince's reign.(Machiavelli, 34-5) Stroessner's forces attacked and intimidated the rural population, claiming that guerrilla forces threatened the nation. What few guerrillas that did exist were wiped out or expelled, and the overwhelming force used by the government forces served to disseminate fear throughout the population. On the urban "front," Stroessner's secret police chief, Edgar Ynsfrán, extended a surveillance/repression machine throughout the city of Asunción, targeting primarily intellectuals.

Cold War tensions were high in the 1950's and early 1960's; Stroessner was undoubtedly(my guess) indoctrinated in anti-communism during his visit to the United States, and he then used anti-communism to further consolidate his internal and external positions. After the Korean War, the Cuban Revolution, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the beginning of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, the U.S. government was definitely wary of "communist" insurgencies, and eager to support conservative military regimes. Stroessner seized on this policy to secure his position with respect to the United States. Internally, Stroessner's regime began a pattern of labelling all opposition elements as "communists," "subversives," and "Marxist infiltrators." Miranda argues that Stroessner's military career against the Bolivians in the Chaco War gave his anti-communist internal "battle" a degree of legitimacy, especially in light of the fierce patriotism of Paraguayans(Miranda, 19) Thus, Stroessner's anti-communist rhetoric further legitimized his rule internationally and domestically while faithfully abiding by Machiavelli's advice to "foment astutely some enmity."(Machiavelli, 79)

Once secure in his military position, Stroessner then created a three part alliance that would, beyond any doubt, "establish his superior, full, and absolute power."(Machiavelli, 255) Stroessner did this by unifying the Colorado party, the government bureaucracy, and the military into one, integral structure dominated by Stroessner himself. This has been called the "prodigious trilogy" by Sabino Augusto Montanaro or all three elements together have been labelled "Stronismo" and the "Stronato." Whether Machiavelli is discussing the strength of citizens centralized under a popular leader or the difficulty of controlling a state with many individual lords, he constantly is emphasizing centralization of power in one individual and the elimination of other centers of power, or at least of their power, such as "lords," "gentleman," and "cities." For the successful prince, citizens are weakest when they are without a leader, separate, and dispersed.

In chapter seven of The Prince, Machiavelli refers to the importance of a strong foundation: possessing loyal military forces, dissembling one's intentions, and co-opting some powerful individuals in society while destroying others.(Machiavelli, 23-30) The most important and the unique aspect of the Stronato tyranny is the unification of party, state, and army. With this foundation, Stroessner was able to perpetuate his power longer than any other twentieth century dictator in Latin America. In Mexico, Lázaro Cárdenas was able to consolidate the state and the ruling party(PRI) in the early 1930's. This system still stands today, but it is dependent upon the supreme ruler, the president, changing every six years; the army, however weak it may be(education expenditures in 1989 were 11.8% of the budget, while military allotments were 2.2%. ABC Clio Inc.), remains separate from the PRI structure. Peron was able to unify state and party(Peronistas), yet the military could not be incorporated, and indeed, the military emerged from the background in the 1970's and 80's in ruthless fashion. Castro, who will surpass Stroessner's hemispherical record in 1994-95, is the only dictator to accomplish a similar unity of structure. Stroessner first dictated that membership in the Colorados was mandatory for all public employees, state officials, members of the armed forces and security apparatus, owners and workers of semi-official companies, teachers, and public servants in the interior.(La Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, 452) In addition, all Colorado party members had an automatic five percent deduction from their paychecks. Only members of the Colorado party received the benefits of government, thus rural citizens had to be Colorados in order to receive loans, jobs, scholarships, medicines, and coffins; and elites had to be Colorados to have access to smuggling, lucrative government contracts, land, foreign exchange, etc.(Rosenberg, 14) Even before Stroessner came to power, the Colorado party structure was multi-tiered with effective local and sub-local or neighborhood chapters(including in rural areas), seccionales and sub-seccionales. Therefore, even isolated campesinos felt the presence of Stroessner and could not ignore the possible benefits. Through Stronismo, Stroessner created the dependency bond that further strengthened his foundation, his central, powerful position.(Machiavelli, 35-39) Because he was able to both distribute benefits of monetary and non-monetary natures through this network, as well as keep informed of and intimidate the lowest sectors of the population, or any other sector, Stronismo was able to both reward and repress almost any Paraguayan.

Stroessner's state/party/army structure was the ideal vehicle for the general to be "beloved and feared."(Machiavelli, 30) Throughout the literature, this is referred to as repression and co-option(Nickson, 240-41), intimidation and co-option(Carter, 74), and fear and rewards. Since a large part of the economy was based on illicit transactions and smuggling of contraband, 40-50% according to Jack Epstein, this dependent bond was based on extensive corruption. (Epstein) Stroessner has allegedly said that "It is necessary to foment criminality, because criminality produces complicity, and complicity produces loyalty."(Sondrol, 619) A journalist has been quoted as saying "Anyone who is not corrupt is a threat to the system."(Lernoux-a, 27) Elites chose to participate in the dependent relation to conserve and expand their financial estates, middle class professional needed access to the system to find suitable jobs, and the lower classes frequently needed Stronismo to survive. Several passages of Machiavelli relate to Stronismo: the need of the prince "to make gentlemen out of some," and constrain others(Machiavelli, 256); "he should leave nothing unchanged in that province, so that there should be neither rank, nor grade, nor honor, nor wealth that should not be recognized as coming from him."(Machiavelli, 184); "enriching ministers"(Machiavelli, 86); and, concerning altering previous allegiances, "gaining all their adherents who were gentlemen and making them his own followers, by granting them large remuneration, and appointing them to commands and offices so that their attachment to their parties was extinguished in a few months, and entirely concentrated on the duke."(Machiavelli, 26)

Stronismo also ensured that, while repression was needed for some sectors, the majority of the population would perceive themselves as benefitting from it. In this sense, Stronismo is an effective form of avoiding the "hatred of the people."(Machiavelli, 39-41) The support of the masses was a critical component for Machiavelli's prince, almost, but not quite co-equal with military support. Stronismo secured mass support.

Stroessner could have easily grown enormously wealthy through Stronismo, yet he chose to cultivate a modest, non-ostentatious life-style. He did amass quite a fortune, and his sons did flaunt their wealth, but Stroessner maintained a modest appearance. This is in direct contrast to Somoza, whose profiteering on international aid sources after the 1970's earthquake was one of the catalysts that contributed to widespread middle, upper, and lower class discontent. Machiavelli, emphasizing the importance of the prince to be seen as "miserly," here favors Stroessner's approach.(Machiavelli, 58)

Stroessner maintained himself above the whole system, refusing to ally himself with anybody, and refusing to share power or "to make common cause with one more powerful than himself."(Machiavelli, 84) At the age of 66, Stroessner, based on his calculations of the beef market, was still selecting the day when Paraguay's cattle would be slaughtered.(Lernoux-b, 20) When Edgar Ynsfrán and Epifanio Mendez Fleitas became too powerful as police commanders and as potential Colorado faction leaders, Stroessner exiled them both. Stroessner also used Ynsfrán in a distinctly Machiavellian way by first putting him in charge of a repressive sector, the secret police, which drew attention away from Stroessner's ultimate control of this aspect of the regime, and then eliminating him after abuses had been committed, using Ynsfrán as a scapegoat to deflect criticism away from Stroessner himself.(Machiavelli, 27,70)

The Paraguayan author Augusto Roa Bastos of Yo el Supremo has said "What in Latin America we call history, that is, the history of the official historians, has no value whatsoever. On the contrary it is precisely this false reality which we who write fiction feel obliged to contradict in every possible way."(Gonzalez, 27) On the international, domestic, institutional, and personal levels, Stroessner skillfully created the alternate reality that Bastos refers to, behind which lay the distinctly different power realities of the regime. Machiavelli also stressed the importance of image and deceit to the prince.(Machiavelli, 64-66, 182-83) Stroessner referred to the constitution and he maintained the veneer of democracy, however, only Stroessner's rules applied in reality.

Paraguay had a series of constitutions containing democratic principles modelled on the French and U.S. constitutions, yet these documents at no time exerted any influence on the politics of the nation. Stroessner did make use of two "laws" frequently: Laws 294 and 209, "Law in defense of Democracy," and "Law in Defense of Public Peace and Personal Liberty." These two laws were used to curtail civil liberties and freedoms rather than protect them.(La Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, 450) One reason why the constitution and Paraguay's formal laws had no meaning is because Paraguay was in an explicit, perpetual state of siege(Law 79) which was "renewed" every three months. The state of siege was lifted only four times during the Stronato, on the four "election" days.

A parliament did exist, however it was staffed by "zaqueteros," meaning "beggars who receive crumbs from a rich man's table," i.e., politicians who feigned opposition to Stroessner in order to receive Colorado patronage.(Rosenberg, 14; Bareiro Saguier, 26) The four non-zaquetero parties were weakened by expulsions of their leaders from Paraguay and jailings, and they also did not want to legitimize Stroessner by participating in the parliament.(Rosenberg, 14) Stroessner was in complete control of the supreme courts; he was able to fire or appoint judges at will. Out of twenty Latin American nations, Stroessner's courts received the second worst rating, behind those of Duvalier Haiti, during the period 1945-75.(Verner, 479, 499, 500; Hovey, 189)

On a personal level, Stroessner was adept at promoting himself both as a common man and a heroic figure. He did this by regularly driving himself, without protection, through downtown to visit the chess club un-announced.(This stopped after Somoza was assassinated in Asunción.)(Montalbano; Sondrol, 613) Stroessner also frequently appeared to celebrate national holidays. Sondrol states that "Stroessner recognized the importance of ceremony and symbolism in Paraguayan culture" and that "Stroessner effectively manipulated the myths and values of the nation to lend legitimacy to his dictatorship."(Sondrol, 614) The dictator also enjoyed the opening ceremonies of infrastructure projects. Machiavelli counseled similar advice for the prince to "obtain fame, "uphold the majesty of his dignity," and "contrive great things."(Machiavelli, 82,85) Finally, Stroessner's low key image was useful in minimizing international attention towards Paraguay, and in limiting academic attention towards the nation and himself.(Hicks, 100; Lewis, 63)

Stroessner was an excellent example of a micro-manager. For most of his reign, he maintained open lines of communication throughout Paraguayan society; he took advantage of the depth of the party seccionales and sub-seccionales to keep an eye on local politicians and troublemakers. He was aware of or directed all advancement within the armed forces, and he was extremely hard working.(Roett, 119-20) Throughout his career he tried to visit every part of Paraguay at least once a year(Paraguay is slightly larger than California and has 3.5-4 million inhabitants)until the onset of health problems in 1985. (Roett,120) These activities helped consolidate his position as well as "legitimize his person by making him appear responsive."(Sondrol, 614) By keeping informed of new actors and changes in the nation's social, political, and economic atmosphere, he was always looking towards the future, anticipating trouble; by reconnoitering the human and physical geography of Paraguay, he was making himself a more knowledgeable leader; and by mingling and observing, he was presenting the image of a concerned ruler. Machiavelli would agree with all of the above.(Machiavelli, 10,54,85,87)

In addition to relying upon military force to seize and maintain power, Stroessner also developed several different groups of specialized armed supporters. The Macheteros de Santiní were the Colorado party militia. Towards the end of his reign, Stroessner's supporters threatened to revive a feared armed Colorado militia from the 1940's, the Guardia Urbana. Right wing paramilitary groups supported by Stroessner, such as the Group de Acción Anti-comunista and "garroteros"(semi-thugs) were used along with the above to suppress public movements in the later stages of the regime.(Nickson 255; Chafee, 131; Rojas, 116) Stroessner quickly militarized the police upon entering office. In addition to Edagr Ynsfrán's secret police units, there also existed two other specialized police groups: the Police of the Presidency, plainclothes bodyguards for high ranking officials and visiting dignitaries, and the Investigative Unit, which accomplished little investigation and much persecution of "subversives."(Lewis, 74) Throughout the city and countryside, there roamed surreptitious "pyragües," mythical Paraguayan beasts covered in hair, especially on the soles of their feet(Hicks, 106) These informers were closely linked to the seccionales and sub-seccionales of the Stronismo machine. While many were full-time informants, "pyragüeismo" could also be characterized as a part time "sub-industry of the prostitutes, maids, newspaper vendors, and others who do not earn enough to eat."(Lernoux-b, 28) Stroessner had an elite bodyguard, the 1,500-soldier strong, well armed and equipped Presidential Escort Regiment, whose members were screened by the secret police.(Sondrol, 617) While the Presidential Escort Regiment was probably the closest to Machiavelli's conception of armed supporters who are absolutely loyal to the leader himself, the other units were effective extensions of Stroessner's repression and information system.

Besides Stroessner's supremely centralized, unified party/state/army structure, the most remarkable aspect of his tenure was the effectiveness of his regime's surveillance and censorship, and the overwhelming effect the government had on the use of public space. The Stronismo surveillance machine was so powerful that it operated beyond Paraguay's borders. "Beginning in 1974, the military regimes of Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Uruguay collaborated in hunting down and persecuting political dissidents."(Ferber) The operation was known as Operation Condor. Thus, a Paraguayan dissident, who could probably not afford to flee South America, had reason to fear Stroessner even during exile in the region. I have read a few newspaper articles in the United States as well as Chile which quote officials denying that such a "far fetched" plan could be coordinated, however, late in 1992, an unidentified police source tipped off the Paraguayan government concerning the location of buried secret files. Among these papers, were detailed records of Operation Condor, torture, and documentation of the interception of correspondence/communication between foreign governments and their embassies in Paraguay (Ferber; Notimex) Along with the ubiquitous pyragües and police spies, Stroessner's regime performed extensive phone-tapping and mail censorship/surveillance. In 1986, The World Human Rights Guide rated Paraguay a 55 on a 1-100 scale, with Denmark earning a high score of 98 and Ethiopia a low of 13. (60 nations were above Paraguay, 28 below it, and 31 did not make the list due to lack of information.) While this guide mentions phone-tapping and surveillance, it is worth noting that Paraguay earned excellent ratings with respect to the freedom from arbitrary seizure of personal property.(Humana) The stated reason for Stronismo surveillance efforts was nearly always the containment or pursuit of "communist subversives."(Lernoux-a, 488)

For the purposes of this paper, I will use two different conceptions of "public space:" purely public space such as streets, squares, stadiums, and auditoriums; and public space in the sense of radio, television, printed media, public "informal" art or communication, and even speech or actions of small groups or individuals in indoor or outdoor areas.

Stroessner closed down the only critical newspaper, ABC Color, in 1984, detained the editor, Aldo Zuccolillo, and later confined him to house arrest.(Nickson, 246) The only radio station willing to criticize the Stroessner, Radio Nandutí, was first jammed, then temporarily closed, and then had its license revoked, which permanently closed it. The director was jailed and Stronismo gangs attempted to destroy the transmitting equipment, and plant incriminating "subversive documents."(Steif, 16) A foreign visiting journalist was jailed on claims that he was a subversive and that he had participated in the assassination of Somoza. The journalist believes that his earlier visit to revolutionary Nicaragua was the cause of his imprisonment. He was not released until Stroessner was ousted.(Steif, 16,17) The remaining newspapers, TV channels, and radio channels belonged to Stroessner's friends, or rather friends of his patronage network.(Rosenberg, 14) Even the foreign press was incorporated into Stroessner's co-option machine.(Bareiro Saguier, 30) This undoubtedly let him control, to a certain extent, his image abroad. The Catholic church-owned and operated media did step into the vacuum left by the closure of ABC Color and Nandutí with the bimonthly and then weekly Sendero and Radio Caritas.(Carter, 80; Hovey) Ruben Saguier, a Paraguayan writer, explains the damage that Stroessner's defacto, yet not codified censorship of the media had on the Paraguayan intellectual community: "As there is no censorship law in these cases, uncertainty over the limits of what can be published results in self-censorship."(Bareiro Saguier, 28) He goes on to quote Roa Bastos saying "In this stifling, suffocating atmosphere, all possibilities of creation are reduced to zero. It makes the rigor of official censorship superfluous, but it also makes the act of writing itself absurd."(Bareiro Saguier, 28)

Stroessner also employed a division somewhere in the monster of Stronismo to constantly remind the public of who their supreme leader was. Asunción had a huge neon light that flashed two messages, one after the other, in two different colors: "Peace, work, and welfare with," and "Stroessner." Posters of El Supremo were everywhere in downtown Asunción. This was in marked contrast to the lack of non-Stroessner wall art, graffiti, and posters. Only within or nearby certain university campuses were these mediums employed by children, advertisers, and political parties. Posters of Stroessner in Asunción were rarely defaced or covered over; some remained there for years. In the rural areas, however, defacement was more common. Another example of self-censorship, and of fear, is that all Stroessner posters were signed or attributed to some organization, while all other informal street art was anonymous. Besides pro-Stroessner posters, Asunción's streets hosted two additional and dark forms of art: swastikas and anti-Jew and anti-Korean(Paraguay has a recently emigrated Asian and Asian-Paraguayan merchant sector) posters sponsored by Fuerza Nueva, a Spanish Fascist group and by Nazi groups.(The above is a summary of Chafee's article) Finally, "every evening at 8:30 all radio stations were required to carry the half-hour broadcast of Voice of Coloradismo, which begins with a ten minute Mussolini-style attack on the opposition."(Rosenberg, 14)

Public space in the sense of outdoors areas was strictly denied to the opposition, but available to Stroessner at any moment. Stroessner, as noted earlier, took advantage of public space during Paraguayan national holidays. Stroessner's rules dictated that "meetings of three or more people, even in private homes must end by 1am."(Montalbano) My guess is that these public squares and streets were not entirely open or free during these celebrations in the sense that, fearing a lurking pyragüe, one would carefully choose his/her words. What connects all the above information is that even if Paraguayans did not directly feel the repressive hand of a policeman dragging them to jail or to questioning, they could not escape the image or voice of the nation's leader; Stroessner managed to invade the "air" of Paraguay. That air, as Roa Bastos said, "suffocated" Paraguayans. I do not think this is an exaggeration for Asunción and the metropolitan area, however this effect was likely weaker in the interior.

These strict limitations on purely public space began to be ignored in late 1985 and 1986. Although motivated by pay issues and not political protest, in April 1986 hospital employees took to the streets.(Rojas, 119) This was the first major public protest since 1969.(Rosenberg, 15) In 1985, several hundred law students protested in the streets; by 1987, they organized 5,000-person rallies.(Nickson, 248) A breakaway union organization, the Group of Nine, formed in 1981; in 1985, their public celebration of May Day led to harsh reprisals.(Nickson, 247) Campesinos organized themselves into the Movimiento Campesino Paraguayo in 1980; in 1985, they held an assembly, and in 1988, they claimed a membership of 10,000 families.(Nickson,256)

In 1978, the opposition organized into the National Accord, composed of the Christian Democrats, Febreristas, Partido Liberal Autentico, and the Movimiento Popular Colorado(formed in exile). These non-zaquetero groups held their first public meeting in 1985, in which 2,500 people attended. Rural rallies during this same year experienced violent police attacks.(Nickson , 244-45)

The Paraguayan Catholic Church organized the National Dialogue in 1986. Participation in the National Dialogue was open to all sectors. Catholic bishops mediated the discussions, and issued a final report. Miguel Carter states that the National Dialogue "helped to consolidate the emerging public agenda and consensus for a democratic transition."(Carter, 85) The church then took an even more active role by sponsoring a "Procession of Silence," Paraguay's largest public protest march in 34 years, which drew 35,000 people into downtown Asunción."(Carter, 86) One year later, 40,000 protesters performed Procession of Silence II and, in 1988, near the end of the year, "March for Life," celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights.(Carter, 94) In May 1988, the Pope visited Paraguay, drew huge crowds, and facilitated more protest and seizure of public space by regime opponents. Television broadcasts of outdoor masses and meetings could not avoid filming visible indicators of protest, such as signs and placards.(Carter, 91-93) It is no coincidence that, three years before Stroessner's fall, the people slowly removed the public arena from his hegemony. Their action was both an indicator of a weakened tyrant and a cause/contributor/catalyst to the removal of "El Continuador." After Stroessner was ousted, the public participated in "massive public rallies."(Carter, 99)

Having read Orwell's "Politics and the English Language," I questioned whether the title of Rubén Bareiro Saguier's article, "Paraguay-Culture of Fear," was an accurate description or hyperbole. Research indicated that the title was appropriate; although many have mis- or over-used this phrase until it has come to mean nothing(Orwell's "meaningless words," 132-33), Bareiro aptly, I believe, applies it to Paraguay.

By the mid-1980's, Seventy-five percent of Paraguay's population had been born since Stroessner assumed power. These men and women had experienced nothing but the Stronato; they knew no other system, no other political, social climate. Ten percent of Paraguay's 1980's population, 360,000 people, went through the jail system.(Rojas, 116) Stroessner has inflicted almost random repression at times, but he has always been revered by many Paraguayans in what appears to observers to constitute an irrational response to his terror. These characteristics, Stroessner's personal control, and the fusing of army, party, and state led Sondrol to claim Stroessner as a proto-totalitarian.(Sondrol, 611-619) From my perspective and ultra-limited knowledge of totalitarianism(all from Arendt), Stroessner does not satisfy enough of the characteristics(or at least those used by Arendt) to be termed a proto-totalitarian; his regime lacked multiple, changing bureaucracies; his repression in the sense of quantity of violence, death, and disappearances never approached levels of nearby nations such as Argentina, Chile, or El Salvador for that matter, never mind Hitler's Germany or Stalin's Soviet Union(A counter argument to my argument would be that while 10% of Paraguay's population went through the jail system, only 1-2% of El Salvador's population of 5-7million was killed during the 1981-89 civil war. Unfortunately, I could never find death totals for the entire Stronato. Perhaps Stroessner's form of mental repression, his ability to almost paralyze public and, to some extent, private processes is more destructive to a nation's psyche than outright massacres.); and Stroessner's torture and jailing were directed at certain sectors, and could not be termed random, as was certainly the case with many of Stalin's Gulag shipments. Yes, Stroessner did structure a regime built around himself as the singular power for many years, yet I would argue that he took advantage of Paraguay's historic popular apathy and de-politization and manipulated these factors to further his rule, rather than constructing an outright cult following who were persuaded to worship him. Stroessner was the epitome of the smooth, slick, but quiet operator; lacking charisma, "dull and plodding," and an "uninspiring public speaker," Stroessner neither fits the charismatic totalitarian nor Latin American charismatic dictator templates.(Lewis, 64) The regime lacked an ideology, which further distances it from the totalitarian model. Money, distribution of benefits through the patronage network, and terror were the currencies of the Stronato. The pervasive attacks on "subversives" are important, but do not qualify as an ideology.

One can debate whether or not the Stronato was totalitarian or authoritarian, or both, however, Stroessner's ability to spread fear throughout all sectors, public or private, remains indisputable. Lernoux describes this as "Paraguayans are too frightened to risk public denunciation" and "In the department of Misiones in southeastern Paraguay, where four villages were invaded by the army and police in April, I found it impossible to talk to the peasants about anything more incriminating than the weather. Anyone might be a pyragüe, one of Stroessner's paid spies, so it is wiser to play dumb."(Lernoux-a, 28; Lernoux-b, 488) Sondrol states that "every citizen feels himself the target of possible punishment, and thus fears to undertake dissenting activities or hold non-conformist opinions."(Sondrol, 26, emphasis added) Perhaps Graham Greene was not exaggerating when, in the fictional world of Travels with My Aunt, his protagonist lands in jail for blowing his nose with the wrong-colored handkerchief.(Epstein, Greene)

Stroessner's repression/surveillance machine was thus so extensive that it could not only punish and monitor the populace, but also prevent it from writing, from holding opinions, from gathering together, from criticizing, and from thinking. Citizens were constantly reminded of Stroessner by the sight of his name and image(a new city in the east was named Ciudad Presidente Stroessner) and the sound of his voice. In short, the Stronato penetrated to the essence of Paraguayans existence; it seems that they could not adopt any course of action without first analyzing how it would be perceived by the Stronato, by El Supremo himself. He had installed himself in "the hearts and minds" of the people, which is a truly powerful and frightening concept.

This is how Machiavelli contrasted a benevolent prince, king, or emperor with a tyrant: "...enemies of virtue, of letters, and of every art that is useful and honorable to mankind....Such are the impious and violent, the ignorant, the idle, the vile, and degraded." (Machiavelli, 141) Under their reign, "informers rewarded, servants corrupted against their masters, ...and those who were without enemies betrayed and oppressed by their friends."(Machiavelli, 144)

In the period under the good Emperors, he will see the prince secure amidst his people, who are also living in security; he will see peace and justice prevail in the world, the authority of the senate respected, the magistrates honored....and everywhere will he see tranquility and well-being....he will see that golden age when everyone could hold and defend whatever opinion he pleased.(Machiavelli, 144, emphasis added)

Fear, cruelty, and corruption were so pervasive that the arts could not flourish under a tyranny. According to the sources used for this paper, Stroessner intruded into the most private of spheres, the mind. Independent thinking and freedom, and the resulting artistic production, are representative of Machiavelli's "good" republic or monarchy; Stroessner and similar tyrants robbed citizens of their intellectual autonomy. Machiavelli also understood the "irrational admiration" that Sondrol attempts to explain:

And yet nearly all men, deceived by a false good and a false glory, allow themselves voluntarily or ignorantly to be drawn towards those who deserve more blame than praise. Such as by the establishment of a republic or kingdom could earn external glory for themselves incline to tyranny, without perceiving how much honor, security, satisfaction, and tranquility of mind, they forfeit; and what infamy, disgrace, blame, danger, and disquietude they incur. (Machiavelli, 142)

Stroessner understood, as did Machiavelli, that a public prohibited from gathering in common areas underneath popular leaders will begin to become its own enemy. Separate and dispersed, the individuals begin to doubt, to fear, to distrust, to censor themselves, and, in general, to lose the security that a group provides. Confined to their private spheres, they are the unwitting allies of a tyrant. United under a chief, they are a formidable foe:

A loose mob without any leader is most cowardly and feeble....easily subdued....they think of their individual safety either by flight or submission. An excited multitude, therefore, that wishes to avoid such a result will have promptly to create a chief for itself, who shall direct and keep them united, and provide for their defence.. (Machiavelli, 259-60)

This is the key to Stronismo's endurance. Stroessner needed the First Army Corps to seize power, he needed police violence to subdue dissidents initially, and he needed to distribute wealth to the economic and other power elites to keep them disinterested in the political arena. To remain in office for thirty-five years, however, Stroessner relied upon his subjects' insecurities. Once they shed their fears of cooperating in public, in 1985-86, Stroessner's days were numbered.

According to one source, the devastating effects of a society living in perpetual fear were apparent within the first three years of the education process. The study indicated that student "indexes of creativity" declined after second grade. Citing this study, Grazziela Corvalán attributes this decline to the "rigid, mechanical, and inflexible techniques" of the Paraguayan education system, and questions whether or not language-teaching plays a role in this condition.(Corvalán, 124) Creativity is related to the ability of a child's mind to wander, to imagine, and to question. Perhaps the fear and insecurity of Stronismo penetrated these children's minds at an alarmingly early stage, constraining and limiting their thought processes. This is speculation on my part, technically substantiated by nothing that I read concerning Paraguay. It fits, though.(Corvalán provides little information concerning the study.) A survey of university students by Silvero and Morínigo in 1986 revealed widespread apathy, a perception that politics is strictly for personal gain, and, once again, fear and ignorance.

"The researchers reported a strong fear of participating in the survey...,manifested by the high percentage of students who answered no questions....respondents placed more trust in clergy, the press, and even the military[rather than in political parties]...When asked about possible options, most respondents could not think of an alternative to the power structure currently in place."(Miranda, 25-6)
It must be noted that by 1986, several public demonstrations had taken place and the National Accord and National Dialogue were functioning. As students, they had to have been aware of small protests and they were surrounded by more anti-administration art and political propaganda than the general public. "Yet almost half the sample could not identify the National Accord," which was formed in 1978.(!)(Miranda, 26) The above is more evidence that the education system was not providing much of a bulwark to the Stronato, in fact "mechanical techniques" may have even reinforced the intellectual repression of the dictatorship. Also, Stroessner's pyragües had infiltrated the university system.

Although many sources refer to Paraguay as a profoundly mestizo, bilingual society, only the former is true. Augusto Roa Bastos prefers the term "di-lingualism," due to the dichotomy between urban and rural, wealth and poverty, and Español and Guaraní.(Roa Bastos, 69) "Each language dominates a completely distinct culture which opposes the other: the irrational, sensitive, emotional Guaraní vs. the dominant, precise, official, "cultured" Español."(Gonzalez, 25) Corvalán states that Guaraní instruction is limited to helping the Guaraní speaker learn Español in the early years of school; afterward, serious instruction is abandoned.(Corvalán, 125) Because Español is dominant, knowledge of it is necessary for socioeconomic advancement. Yet rural and urban poor Guaraní speakers cannot afford to remain in school long enough to dominate Español. A few years after school, they have usually returned to Guaraní mono-lingualism.(Corvalán, 119) Guaraní has not been studied and taught to the same degree as Español; Father Bartomeu Meliá believes that the Guaraní nation "is losing its capacity to express its cultural identity."(Roa Bastos, 69) Most Guaraní speakers, even if they do understand some Español, cannot comprehend complex linguistic structures.(Lernoux-a, 488)

Indigenous slaves and slave markets still existed in Paraguay in 1976.(Lernoux-a, 489) In addition, as Paraguay expanded into its previously isolated eastern region, indigenous populations were slaughtered outright, hunted as game, and confined to reservations, which meant slow starvation and death.(Münzel,19-45)

It is no surprise that Stroessner's regime could not tolerate ethnic diversity. Mustafa Kemal realized that in order for his modernizing, secular revolution to unify Turkey, ethnic diversity had to be eliminated. Ethnic populations can be interpreted as Machiavelli's "lords;" a prince can easily conquer a state with many lords(i.e., centers of power), yet that state will be difficult to rule unless the lords are eliminated. Different ethnic groups often speak separate languages and practice distinct religions; both attributes are threats to the control of a leader attempting to unify a nation. Kemal thus "annihilated" the Armenians, exchanged Greeks in Turkey for Turks in Greece, and attempted to "caress" the Kurds, who, on account of their Islamic faith, were thought to be co-optable. Kemal was remarkably successful. Paraguay's indigenous population was only five percent of the nation. The indigenous sector did not represent a threat, but they were nevertheless victims of the economic advance of Paraguay. Guaraní culture(Guaraní refers to the language and the largest former indigenous group. All Guaraní speakers today are mestizos, who are of mixed descent, usually European and Guaraní. The wholly indigenous peoples are Achés and other tribes of hunters and gatherers.(Wolf, 46-57)), however, is shared to some extent by all Paraguayans. Although it is difficult to prove that Stroessner made a conscious effort to repress Guaraní culture, the result of Paraguay's educational system has accomplished the suppression of the Guaraní voice, at least in the cultural arenas of the dominant, urban society. In addition to being economically isolated, Paraguay's urban poor and rural masses have thus been linguistically and culturally isolated. Whether intentional or not, this is another roadblock to the unity of the masses.

Paraguay's economy evolved from a 1950's concentration on subsistence agriculture, some tobacco, and yerba mate cultivation to a 1980's concentration on soy beans and cotton export production.(Bray, 127) By 1987, 1% of the landowners owned 75-80% of the arable land.(Rosenberg, 15) Paraguay's economy was generally non-spectacular until the mid-1970's when Paraguay and Brazil cooperated in the construction of the world's largest hydroelectric plant, Itaipú. The boom, from 1975-80, provided employment for unskilled labor, job opportunities for middle class professionals, and an enormous conduit for corruption, bribes, and illicit scams of all sorts.(Nickson, 243) Along with the construction of the dam, Paraguay and Brazil improved the infrastructure in the eastern region, which lay between Asunción and Itaipú. Responding to population and economic pressures within their own country and seizing an excellent opportunity, wealthy Brazilian landowners, poor Brazilian farmers, and Brazilian real estate and construction firms gradually came to dominate this territory. It is in the eastern provinces that the Brazilians planted soya and cotton. Prices for these crops were high in the 1970's, however the 1980's witnessed a substantial decline in theses prices. These declines combined with the end of the construction of Itaipú in 1980 dealt a severe blow to Paraguay's economy. Per capita income dropped from $1,200 in 1980 to $600 in 1987.(Rosenberg, 15)

Illicit activities of all kinds and smuggling, both of which were supervised by Stroessner's highest echelon of generals and, naturally, by El Continuador himself, dominated Paraguay's economy. Generals controlled prostitution and pornography, cigarettes and liquor, drugs, electronics, foreign exchange, and autos.(Hovey, 189) 80% of all cars in Paraguay were smuggled and/or stolen from Brazil.(Rosenberg, 15) Bribes were common outside of the illegal sector of the economy as well. "Foreign companies(mostly Brazilian and Argentine) owning close to 80% of the nation's legitimate large business made regular payoffs to Colorado bureaucrats to evade taxes and government red-tape."(Sondrol, 618)

Along with Marseilles and New York City, Paraguay became a center of Auguste Ricord's "French Connection." Had Popeye Doyle, the New York City detective portrayed by Gene Hackman in the film The French Connection, continued to investigate the trail of heroin, he would have come face to face with General Andres Rodriguez, Stroessner's highest ranking military officer, the father of Stroessner's daughter-in-law, and the resident of a replica of Versailles.(Rosenberg, 15) Rodriguez was Ricord's chief benefactor, supplying him with planes, passports, and airstrips. Rodriguez, not the Chilean "subversive" journalist mentioned earlier, played a crucial role in Somoza's assassination; his officer corps faction is one of the prime culprits. (Sondrol, 618)

Paraguay did not have an income tax under Stroessner, although the five percent Colorado deduction could be perceived as such. The benefits of the smuggling sector reached all sectors of Paraguay: the regime elites were satisfied, the non-elites participated with great success, the small business class enjoyed it until the late 1980's, when divisions arose, and, in an odd twist, "the abundance of smuggling merchandise in the Paraguayan market has lessened the impact of inflationary forces by keeping down the cost of food and many consumer goods,"(Bear and Birch, 620) Smuggling inadvertently helped Stroessner avoid the extended multi-day riots that paralyzed Venezuela in the early 1990's; the lower classes in that case reacted swiftly and violently to drastic reductions in their purchasing power. Lacking an ideological bond, Stroessner made materialism one of the prime elements of his tyrannical glue. His legal and illegal economic policies served to demobilize potentially threatening sectors of the wealthy and bourgeoise classes, and to remove their attention from the political environment.

From Machiavelli's perspective, Stroessner did not err in not "taking property," and not "overburdening the masses."(Machiavelli, 62,58) Machiavelli observed that lives could be taken with limited or no reprisals, but that property was sacrosanct in the eyes of the masses. The Stronato's high rating on the "freedom of arbitrary seizure of private property" index is pertinent here. The benefits of smuggling and other illicit trade were also part of the Stronismo patronage distribution network, and thus can also be viewed as furthering the dependent bond and "avoidance of the hatred of the people." (Machiavelli, 37-40)

Machiavelli dispenses laissez faire economic advice to the future prince when he advocates that the prince must encourage his citizens to follow their callings quietly, whether in commerce or agriculture, or any other trade that men will follow, so that this one shall not refrain from improving his possessions through fear that they may be taken from him, and that one from starting a trade for fear of taxes; but he should offer rewards to whoever does these things. (Machiavelli, 85)

Two arguments can be applied regarding Stronato economic policy: that it was extremely laissez faire in the sense that there were few legal controls on commerce, and even those could be avoided; or that the smuggling and illicit activities were so well orchestrated from high up in the regime that these constituted substantial impediments to free trade. Tariffs and taxes were absent, but bribes and payoffs replaced them as equally onerous burdens to commerce. I think Paraguayan reality reflected a combination of both of these arguments, free trade with a substantial maze of mandatory "surcharges."

Stroessner's demobilization of both masses and elites, through economic and other means can be further understood with the help of Tocqueville's analysis on the subject of isolated and intellectually impoverished citizens. The Stronato rarely had to resort to violent methods from 1963 to 1985. Stroessner's forces quickly ended brief outbursts of protest during these years. His intellectual repression eliminated protest to such an extent that, at least from the impression derived from the sources, Paraguay seemed to become a "mild tyranny." A great deal of evidence suggests that his fear machine was so powerful and pervasive that it "degraded men without tormenting them."(Tocqueville, 317) Isolated, "independent and powerless," Paraguayans refrained from large protests for sixteen years.(Tocqueville, 294) Once dissident activity did emerge on a large scale in 1986, the citizens lost all hesitancy and soon staged huge rallies. The Stronato was always equally vulnerable throughout its thirty-five year reign; the tendency towards factionalism, the power of mass public protest, the political leaders, the generals, and the church did not disappear, but instead were mollified by Stroessner. He satisfied some by fueling their "vehement pursuit of small riches," by creating both a vast patronage network and a large illegal trading sector. Overestimating Stroessner's real power, common individuals fell prey to the general inaction of the community:

Public opinion, whenever social conditions are equal, presses with an enormous weight upon the minds of each individual; it surrounds, directs, and oppresses him, and this arises from the very constitution of society much more than from its political laws. (Tocqueville, 261)

This might be somewhat of a reach because Tocqueville was referring to the economic equality that capitalism conferred on America's large middle class, but it does appear that Paraguayans developed inaccurate assumptions concerning Stroessner's power, based in large part on the unwillingness of most of them to challenge Stronismo.

Peasant organizations were first constructed on a widespread basis in the late 1960's. The ligas agrarias and Jesuit-influenced Christian base communities formed in part as a result of the 1968 Medellin conference of the bishops of Latin America. These leagues also directly or indirectly spurred the formation of protest groups who actively presented their complaints. Stroessner quickly, harshly, and effectively subdued them. In the mid-1970's, non-governmental organizations(NGO) helped create a network of small-scale farming cooperatives. Their efforts were aimed at providing advanced technical assistance to small cultivators while trying to foster democratic, participatory structures and relations among the campesinos and farmers. In this way, they are reminiscent of Tocqueville's lessons on resistance to tyranny: small scale democracy, and the importance of grass roots associations.(Tocqueville, 257,299) By convening together, debating their policies, and guiding their plans, the farmers in the NGO coops were creating an excellent public forum. Although many coops banded together and were initially successful, the structure weakened and an authoritarian figure emerged at the top of the pyramid. The effort eventually collapsed. The NGOs, however, continued to concentrate at local level organizing.(Bray, 128-131)

Stroessner kept the landed oligarchy under control by subduing campesino protest, by stalling on land reform, and by helping to relieve land and population pressures by expanding into the eastern provinces.(Nickson, 243) Middle class merchants were co-opted with low taxes and by Stroessner's control of organized labor.

Paraguay received the second to worst ratings with regards to the political, social, and economic rights afforded to women.(Humana, 215) Divorce is outlawed.(Carter, 76) Latin American culture and society have been male dominated and patriarchal from the time of the conquest. Unlike in North America, where families and couples arrived as colonizers, Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America were colonized by 100% Spanish and Portuguese males, whether they were soldiers, sailors, or priests. These man can generally be described as concerned with extracting as much of the area's resources as quickly as possible, and then returning to Europe. Indigenous women were often treated as just another "resource." Racist and sexist attitudes were thus present at the start of the conquest.

Within a Machiavellian framework, I would argue that pervasive machismo and patriarchy confine women to specific, limited private spaces: the kitchen and the bedroom. Although Octavio Paz was writing about Mexican women, his comments probably have some relevancy to women in Paraguay:

Como casi todos los pueblos, los mexicanos consideran a la mujer como un instrumento, ya de los deseos del hombre, ya de los fines que le asignan la ley, la sociedad o la moral....Prostituta, diosa, gran señora, amante, la mujer transmite o conserva, pero no crea, los valores y energias que le confían la naturaleza o la sociedad. En un mundo hecho a la imagen de los hombres, la mujer es solo un reflejo de la voluntad y querer masculinos. Pasiva, se convierte en diosa, amada, ser que encarna los elementos estables y antiguos del universo: la tierra, madre y virgen; activa, es siempre función, medio, canal......La actitud de los españoles frente a las mujeres es muy simple y se expresa, con brutalidad y concisión, en dos refranes: " la mujer en casa y con la pata rota"...La mujer es una fiera doméstica, lujuriosa y pecadora de nacimiento, a quien hay que someter con el palo y conducir con el "freno de la religión." De ahí que muchos españoles consideren a las extranjeras -y especialmente a las que pertenecen a países de raza o religión diversas a las suyas- como presa facil. (Paz, 31-32)

Prevalent cultural attitudes reinforce traditional, limiting roles and stereotypes, such as wife, mother, cook, and mistress. Women stepping out of these rigidly defined categories frequently find themselves isolated and scorned, even by other women. Inability to legally end a marriage denies a woman her voice in what should be a relation of equals. Prejudicial treatment by the laws and judges exacerbates insecurities. The situation is probably worse for Guaraní only speaking women. The patriarch(the family dictator?) frequently acts in an autocratic manner, including the use of physical and mental repression.

Paraguay's Catholic Church(hereafter, "church;" though protestant evangelicals are also in Paraguay) was highly unified internally, and foreign influenced, with over fifty percent of its priests being expatriates.(Carter, 77-78) Paraguay's church also changed course as a result of the two Latin American bishop's conferences, Medellin, Colombia in 1968 and Puebla, Mexico in 1972. It is at these meetings that progressive elements pushed forward the "preferential option for the poor," a plan placing much more emphasis on relieving the poverty of Latin America's poor rather than on solely promising them salvation after death. As a result, priests spread throughout rural Paraguay, attempting to "raise consciousness" and "critical awareness."(Carter, 78) At the same time in the early 1970's, the church steadfastly removed itself from the Colorado patronage system.(Carter, 78) Although the church quieted down during the boom from 1976-1980, it returned to activity in the early 1980's. Reacting to rural repression of peasants, priests voiced their criticisms in increasingly louder tones. When ABC Color and Radio Nandutí were closed, Sendero and Radio Caritas assumed their roles.

The 1976 Committee of Churches for Emergency Help gradually evolved into Paraguay's largest human rights organization.(Carter, 80) Stroessner's final wave of repression in1985-88 was also his least effective. Branding priests as subversives and expelling some while threatening others, the regime only aggravated the degree of resentment and protest in the country.(Carter, 88-89) As described earlier, the church led a series of public protests that culminated in the papal visit of 1988. "As the regime became ever more radicalized during this 1986-88 period,...the Church moved to open and provide vital spaces for dissent, lending its institutional prestige as a shield for the mounting social protest against the Stroessner regime."(Carter, 90) Even the acting first secretary of the Paraguayan Communist party declared that "Churches have become places of assembly and debate, in a spirit of democracy." (Rojas, 119-120) Carter also argues that the papal visit and the Pope's statements and even his facial gestures legitimized the opposition to Stroessner, drew international attention to "The Land Locked Island of Paraguay," and presented the Pope as an "alternative paternal figure" to Stroessner.(Roa Bastos, 51; Carter, 91-93.)

Paraguay's cowardly masses began to seize public space in a mostly orderly, non-violent, civil disobedience manner, led by a practically untouchable hierarchy of chieftains in the form of the church. A new center of power had emerged, and Stroessner could not eliminate it. They surfaced from their private spheres and participated in group efforts, communicating, learning, observing, analyzing, debating, and sometimes fighting. The church helped lead them, and the few early protesters acted as vital catalysts, proving that public space could indeed be seized and used to great advantage. At first the marches or meeting numbered in the low thousands, but by the time of the large Processions of Peace, Paraguayans were effectively recreating bonds of attachment and mutual concern. Alone, they would not be able to overthrow Stroessner, but public protest was both an indicator of widespread dissent (in contrast to previous disunity) and a contributor to the polarization of other centers of power, which would shortly lead to El Continuador's fin. As with any coup, the causes for Stroessner's downfall lay both in ongoing trends and immediate agents of change. Stroessner made serious mistakes in handling some crises, yet others were beyond his control. Centers of power which had remained dormant began to consolidate their positions once again.

The chaos and visible frustration of Paraguay in 1987-89 present a significant contrast to the nation's tranquility during the boom of 1976-80, when Paraguay averaged ten percent annual average growth, the highest in Latin America. The economic boom did not taper off, but instead ended abruptly. By 1986, purchasing power had dropped forty percent from 1982. Fifty-two percent of rural households were landless or nearly so. Inflation and unemployment substantially increased.(Carter, 81-82) The currency was devalued in 1981, and a huge foreign exchange scandal in which $100 million was siphoned out of the central bank was revealed. Middle class business elements, in light of the deteriorating economy, felt no urge to assist in the regime's corruption, mismanagement, and interference.(Nickson, 244) The Colorados split into several factions, the Militantes(supporters of Stroessner), the Tradicionalistas, the Eticos, the Movimiento de Integración Colorado, the Movimiento Nacional y Popular, and the Guionistas. Ironically, the inter-party struggles led to more press freedom, because each faction wanted to advertise its cause.(Nickson, 249-50) The Militantes lacked Stroessner's acumen. Their seizure of the 1987 Party Congress polarized the party. Within the military, the young officer corps was eager to occupy higher office and access the corresponding profits. Again, the Militantes radicalized the army factions by proposing that Gustavo Stroessner, an Air Force Lieutenant-Colonel, become the commander in chief. President Stroessner, due to sickness, could not maintain his previous work habits, and although the Militantes voiced support for El Supremo, their long term loyalty was suspect. Regardless of whether or not this was true, the Militantes escaped Stroessner's absolute control.

On the international front, the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe dissolved into separate nations and republics. Anti-communism was no longer enough to curry favor with Washington, D.C.; in fact, the American ambassadors to Paraguay and Chile, Clyde Taylor and Harry Barnes, both advanced human rights agendas of one sort or another with Stroessner and Pinochet. Upper and middle class economic elites resented Paraguay's position as a near satellite of Brazil, due to that nation's vast holdings in Paraguay. (Lernoux-a, 491) The Pope contributed to international awareness of the Stronato. Paraguay had transformed from "forgotten" status to that of an isolated pariah. The military dictatorships surrounding Stroessner had peacefully transferred power to democratically elected presidents.

Stroessner was losing his Machiavellian shield of prestige; he was infirm and his regime's repression of church-led protests served to de-legitimize him in the eyes of the public.(Carter, 104) Stroessner was forced to ignore Machiavellian logic and "allow disorders to take place in order to avoid war," because he could not declare war on or annihilate the church. The Pope's visit ruled out an assassination of a church leader(1985{I think}, El Salvador: Roberto D'Aubisson directed a right wing paramilitary group, one of whose members entered a church during mass and assassinated Archbishop Romero); John Paul had been too critical of the regime. Stroessner could also not remove Rodriguez from the scene; in such an event, Rodriguez would be protected by both his own faction and probably the young officer corps as well.

The Stronato had withered away. Paraguay's familiar political landscape returned, replacing the unified party/state/army machine that Stroessner had built and dominated. The Militantes, grossly underestimating Rodriguez' position and overestimating their own support among the military, tried to transfer Rodriguez from a field post to an administrative position. Andres Rodriguez, Mr. Versailles and the officer in charge of Asunción's First Army Corps, like Stroessner in 1954, seized power within a day.

Would tyrannicide have been justifiable in Paraguay, or in general? Tyrannicide requires its conspirators to assume an enormous responsibility, for they will become accountable for the direction of the post-tyranny government. They have no guarantees that another, even more despotic ruler will emerge as a consequence of their action. Tyrannicide only removes the supreme echelon of the system. In some cases, eliminating the highest tier of the structure has no adverse effect on the effectiveness of that organization, as is the case with both Pablo Escobar and John Gotti. The federal government spent tens of millions of dollars searching for and prosecuting these men, respectively, yet one's death and the other's imprisonment has had minimal negative effect on cocaine exports to the United States or on La Cosa Nostra. New leaders almost instantly occupied the vacant positions. I would only approve of tyrannicide in situations where the despot's crimes are so heinous that any alternate system would be an improvement. Stalin, Hitler, and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia were legitimate targets.

If not tyrannicide, then what? A much more difficult, but more rewarding option, especially in the long term, is to foment system-wide dissent, beginning on the local level. Tocqueville councils attendance at town halls, emphasis on education, the development of associations which serve to protect groups from centralized federal governments, a strong judiciary, and an active press. Lastly, the rights of the individual private person should be paramount. (Tocqueville, 111-114, 257, 299-300, 325-326) As Machiavelli wrote, "so that when the people are intrusted with the care of any privilege or liberty, being less disposed to encroach upon it, they will of necessity take better care of it; and being unable to take it away themselves, will prevent others from doing so."(Machiavelli, 122) "But as regards prudence and stability, I say that the people are more prudent and stable, and have better judgment." (Machiavelli, 263) To avoid centralization, Machiavelli emphasizes a balance of the competing interests: the nobles, masses, and prince; the necessity of debate, dialogue, and discourse between the senate and the people; and the protective role of the courts, or tribunes.(Machiavelli, 115, 118-19, 129-130) He was well aware, however, that to at least seize office, weapons would be mandatory.

Both writers focus on distributing power away from the center and throughout the periphery, to small groups and individuals. But how to accomplish this in the real world, especially during a dictatorship? Ideally, a centralized opposition "command" would form, with representatives from all the important sectors: labor, merchants, peasants, intellectuals, students, teachers, elites, and the armed forces. Dissatisfied factions within each sector always exist; the challenge is to reach them and convince them of action. Each representative would in turn organize to spread awareness and skills through his/her sector, exactly like the NGO cooperatives do in Paraguay. Initially, only small forums can be held, but gradually, as the base builds, the meetings become larger until the united groups can seize large open arenas. Just as Stroessner maintained an excellent information network, so to must the opposition keep its members informed of progress so as not to isolate them and let them lose confidence. To counter regime surveillance, structure the organization on the smallest possible units, as Sendero Luminoso did in Peru; each cell should contain only a few people, all of whom have near absolute proof of each other's identity.(Although Sendero Luminoso is a frightening organization, their discipline in this respect prevented almost all police espionage)

General Andres Rodriguez transferred power to a democratically elected Juan Carlos Wasmosy in May, 1993. Will this be enough, though? Has anyone reduced the influence of the military in national politics? Are the various factions still competing for access to the patronage system? Have efforts been made to reduce endemic corruption in the Colorado party, the army, and the bureaucracy? Do the congress and the courts have real powers?

Peru's most recent democratic period lasted less than ten years. The second democratically elected president in the 1980's, Alan Garcia was a tremendous orator, and a equally skilled thief. In 1992, Fujimori entered office and confronted severe corruption, political paralysis, and a dangerous insurgency. He assumed dictatorial powers and returned some order to the nation. Now he is praised by some sectors, just as Pinochet is still widely praised for contracting an elite group of University of Chicago economic students and developing Chile's economy into one of, if not the most dynamic economy in Latin America.

Latin America has been struggling with "orden y progresso" dictators since the nineteenth century. The Mexican Revolution of 1910 was largely a response to the Porfiriato, the thirty-four year dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz. The continent-and-a-half has endured almost two hundred years of caudillos, orden y progresso dictators, military juntas, and few democratic institutions. Having experienced a plethora of "stabilizing" tyrants, Latin America remains remarkably unstable. Machiavelli and Tocqueville illustrate that attention has been paid to the wrong end of the spectrum; Latin America's future depends to a large extent on the ability of democratic institutions to emerge from below.


23 Questions on Tyranny

24 September 1994

1) How do we define tyranny? What are the details, the flesh on the general definition?

2) Is tyranny the opposite of Freedom, of Justice, of Virtue?

3) Is tyranny always the work of one person? Can it be the work of a class, a party, a military group? Can there be tyranny without an identifiable tyrant?

4) Do men and women always oppose tyranny, or do they sometimes embrace/welcome it?

5) What kind of historical or political change brings tyranny about?

6) What are the political/economic choices and conditions for a tyrant?

7) Is private property a defense against tyranny, or a buttress to it?

8) How have modern factories and developed bureaucracies altered tyranny?

9) Why are some tyrannies long-lasting? Why do some burn out quickly?

10) Why are some tyrannies static, tranquil? Why are some mobile, expansionistic?

11) How does a tyrant mobilize the Secret Police without falling victim to it?

12) The importance of Fear/Violence to a tyranny?

13) Is tyranny more successful by bribing the populace with comforts and pleasures?

14) What is the best way to confine the populace to their homes, their private spheres? ( How to de-mobilize populace? cpm )

15) Which classes should a tyrant rely upon? How to rely on one and not the other?

16) How to make use of political groups and/or factions?

17) Is religion an obstacle or an aid to a tyrant/tyranny?

18) What kinds of educational/legal systems benefit a tyranny?

19) Does language change under tyranny?

20) Role of racial tension?

21) Role of the family in a tyranny?

22) What can we learn about tyrannies by examining the status of women?

23) What are the best strategies to remove a tyrant? When is tyrannicide justified, when is it useful?

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The End