Paraguay is the least-known nation of the Americas. It comes as no surprise, then, that the thirtieth anniversary of the longest surviving modern-day head of state, General Alfredo Stroessner, should have occurred this past May with a minimum of international media coverage.
Stroessner rose to power via a military coup in May, 1954, and by July had been nominated the Colorado party candidate in a one-candidate election. The primary determinant of social and political relations in Paraguay, however, is the state of siege sustained by Stroessner since that time. The “facade of legality which the regime presents”— to borrow from a 1978 Amnesty International report—is achieved by invoking Article 79 of the 1967 Constitution, which, renewed every ninety days, provides for the declaration of a state of emergency and suspends constitutional safeguards against violations of basic civil and human rights.