Last Wednesday I went to get a TB test. As I was chatting with the doctor at the clinic, it came out that she was from Asunción, Paraguay. I was surprised and said, “Una paraguaya!” She started to explain where Paraguay was, but I interrupted to tell her that I knew, having traveled in its neighboring countries. I asked her if she thought things were getting better there. She said no, and then yes. She explained, “The kids who are growing up now have a sense of doing what’s right.”

But, I asked, wasn’t there a dictator before? By that I meant to say that the situation surely must have improved since the end of the dictatorship.

“Yes,” she said and then added, “and you know what? We miss him.”

Eyebrows through the roof, I asked her what she meant.

She said, “He was from a German background and imported certain ways of doing things from there.” Okay, like a certain clockwork efficiency? “Women only worked half a day, by law, so that they could take care of their children. They could choose a shift in the morning or the evening. Schools followed a similar schedule so the women could always take care of their children.” Oh, I see; a German sexist background.

“And we never took vacation.  There is always something to do around the house.  You spend the money on that” she continued.  Now we’re talking!  That’s a German stereotype I can get behind.
She presented both of these tidbits as if to say, “That dictator, he so crazy.  But he gets the job done.”  We’re talking about Paraguay folks; never a role model for South America.  I’m not even sure that they would’ve rated higher than Bhutan in Gross National Happiness.

She told me to google Stroessner to find out more.

I did:

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

From the BBC: “Under his rule the country became a haven for Nazi war criminals, peaceful opposition was crushed and the indigenous population was persecuted.” (second sentence of the article, emphasis theirs)

From the Washington Post:  “Alfredo Stroessner, 93, the Paraguayan despot whose 35-year reign marked an uninterrupted period of repression in his country, which became a haven for Nazi war criminals, deposed dictators and smugglers, died Aug. 16…” (first sentence – despot!)

and some other gems from the Post: “astoundingly corrupt,” “tortured dissidents,” and “In a noxious twist on Latin hospitality, Gen. Stroessner provided refuge for French-born international heroin dealer Auguste Ricord; strongmen such as Argentina’s Juan Perón and Nicaragua’s Anastasio Somoza Debayle (later assassinated in Paraguay); and war criminals, including Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor known as the “Angel of Death” who performed genetic experiments on children.”

Rather sadly, all of these articles also point out that it wasn’t only certain sectors of Paraguayan society that grew fond of “El Excelentisimo.” (It’s my assumption here that my friendly clinic doctor comes from the upper class of Paraguay)  The U.S. government was pretty friendly with him as well, at least to begin with.  Which goes to show that if you oppress our enemies well enough, we’ll overlook your other “minor” transgressions.

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