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    Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro waves at an inauguration ceremony of the new president of the Parliamentary Agricultural Front (FPA) in Brasilia, Brazil Feb. 19, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 28 February 2019

Brazil's far-right president has a penchant for praising former Latin American dictators with links to the United States, such as with Chile's Pinochet.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro paid homage to former dictator of Paraguay Alfredo Stroessner during a public event Tuesday at the Itaipu Dam on the border between both countries.

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In the presence of Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez, Bolsonaro claimed Stroessner was "a statesman who knew exactly what he wanted."

"I want to celebrate those who were really responsible for the construction of the dam. And in particular I want to pay my tribute to General Alfredo Stroessner,” Bolsonaro said.

The ex-dictator reigned from 1954 until ousted in1989, going into exile in Brazil where he died in 2006. His time in power constituted the longest dictatorship in the continent within the framework of the “Operation Condor,” a documented, clandestine Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) program from the United States during the Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan administrations.

The extensive human rights violations and atrocities connected to that C.I.A. operative acts, which were committed during the Stroessner regime, are amply documented in the Archives of Terror, found in 1992 at a police station in the capital, Asuncion, by a human rights lawyer and a judge. Around 400 Paraguayan dissidents were killed or disappeared and 20,000 imprisoned during Stroessner’s dictatorship.

Those files provided detailed insight into “Operation Condor,” whose aim was political repression against leftist movements and elected governments. It was “economically supported by the U.S. and implemented by right-wing governments of South America from the mid-1970s through the late 1980s,” according to National Geographic.

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“The so-called “Archives of Terror” document assassinations, kidnappings, torture, secret imprisonments, and surveillance programs aimed to eliminate political opposition. The files listed more than 50,000 deaths and 400,000 political prisoners throughout Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela.” according to National Geographic’s resource library.

Benitez assumed the presidency in August last year, replacing Horacio Cartes from the same right-wing political scene, the National Republican Association -- Colorado Party.

Benitez’s father was a close assistant to ex-military dictator Stroessner, and has encountered criticism for his defense of the former leader's track record. He has attempted to distance himself from his father’s legacy, though perhaps in words alone.

Politician and journalist, Leonardo Rubin, a former candidate for the vice presidency of Paraguay, reacted Wednesday to Bolsonaro’s praise of Stroessner.

"Who is surprised that Bolsonaro vindicates Stroessner in an act in Itaipu?" Rubin asked, "The former dictator subordinated our interests to Brazil in an unfair treaty that we continue to pay for today, practically giving away our energy without being able to sell it better. Of course he's going to claim it."

After a formal ceremony where the new Brazilian directive of the binational Represa de Itaipu was made official, the leaders held a meeting where they discussed border security issues and general aspects of the future renegotiation of the 1974 Itaipu Treaty, a legal document permitting hydroelectric exploitation of the Parana River.

"Any problem of the past will be overcome in future negotiations on the dam," Bolsonaro said before referring to his peer as a "conservative who loves his country well."


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