Dystopia, Limited


News I missed last month: General Alfredo Stroessner, brutal ruler of Paraguay from 1954 to 1989, died in August at age 93. Besides his own human rights abuses, which were substantial, Stroessner opened his country to Joseph Mengele and other butchers of the Nazi era. Despite that, he never made the all-star team of popular villains. Conservatives will defend Pinochet with the weak praise "At least he wasn't as bad as Castro," and leftists will defend Castro with the weak praise "At least he isn't as bad as Pinochet"; I don't think I've ever heard the phrase "At least he isn't as bad as Stroessner" pass anyone's lips.

One obit quotes a New York Post piece from 1961: "Were it not for an occasional headless body floating down the Parana River, it might be possible to consider the gaudily uniformed and medaled dictator of Paraguay—the last of the breed in South America—a character out of Gilbert and Sullivan." In fact, he turned out to be one of the first of a new breed, as a wave of coups swept Latin America, many of them sponsored by the U.S. In the '70s, with the Southern Cone dominated by military governments, Stroessner's Paraguay and the other regimes of the region organized the infamous Operation Condor to coordinate their kidnappings, torture, assassinations, etc.

A rare interview with the general.

A website devoted to Paraguay's "Archive of Terror."

Did Operation Condor target Ed Koch?

NEXT: Mad Mel On Iraq: "What's human sacrifice if not sending guys off to Iraq for no reason?"

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  1. In one of the odder “six degrees of separation” moments in my life, I once worked extensively with a guy who had been an employee of Alfredo Stroessner. About 10 years ago I was a hearings officer for the unemployment insurance program in Texas. We had a number of cases in which one or both parties spoke principally Spanish, and consequently had to use professional intepretors in those hearings. One of our interpreters had a pamphlet for his translation business, in which he had a picture of himself working with Stroessner. (Also Papa Doc and Simon Wiesenthal, but neither of those guys is the subject of this post.) I had that thing on various office walls for years as a kind of talisman.

  2. We don’t often get the chance to use the phrase “an occasional headless body” in conversation too often.

  3. Yeah, but he was our character from a Gilbert and Sullivan opera!

    – Josh, wand’ring minstrel

  4. I suppose it would be too much to ask that he have been killed with a fork.

  5. From Renquist’s robes to Stroessner’s medals, we indeed live in the world G&S created. And now that The Great Decider has free reign “to let the punishment fit the crime” we might all be in for a short, sharp shock (or a short, sharp no-knock?).

    Kudos on “Dystopia, Limited.” I think I’ll call my blog that if I ever make one.

  6. I believe that the Paraguaian dictatorship was maintained via public housing. 90% of all housing was government-owned. If you opposed the government, you weren’t jailed, but your ass was out on the street.

  7. stroessner would preside over high school graduations, handing out diplomas and such, but using them as a forum to scope out girls, whom he would essentially purchase from their parents. he didn’t kill them when he was done, though, so, um .25 cheers!

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