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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Truth and Justice Commission

This morning we had a lengthy conversation with several members of the Truth and Justice Commission For me it was very thought provoking. Why did Stroessner engage in so many human rights abuses, and why did the US maintain such good relations with the dictatorship? There are not clear or easy answers. Many of the people who worked on the commission (which has now completed its mandate) are children or relatives of victims of the dictatorship. They gave us a copy of their exhaustive 8-volume report. They also have copies of military files, and again the historian in me just wants to dive into this wealth of info.

The Commission's report states that during the Storessner dictatorship there there were 20,090 victims. Among these:

19,862 arbitrary or illegal arrests
18,772 tortured
59 extrajudicial executions
336 disappeared
3,470 exiled

We then visited with Senator Sixto Pereira, whose office in the legislative palace overlooked slums along the river. He talked about how what is happening in Paraguay is not so much a transition to democracy as the application of a neoliberal model. He talked about the overwhelming presence of argro-business interests in the congress, which makes working for food sovereignty, sustainable agriculture, and social justice difficult.

In the afternoon we took a bus out to a Franciscan mission at Yaguaron. By the time we arrived it was dark, but we found the caretaker to open it for us. The walls are very thick, and he hold us that local rumors say that they are so thick because Indians killed in the building of the church are buried in the walls.

By the time we get back to Asuncion it is late and I run out of time to write more about the day and the Internet connection in this hotel is very flaky and we have to get up early in the morning to go to the campo. We'll be back Saturday nite.

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