1912 – 2006
Who was Alfredo Stroessner?
Alfredo Stroessner Matiauda was a Paraguayan military officer who served as President of Paraguay from 1954 to 1989. He ascended to the position after leading an army coup in 1954. His 35-year long rule, marked by an uninterrupted period of repression in his country, was the longest unbroken rule by one individual in the history of South America. His rule is ranked 14th-longest among other non-royal national leaders since 1870, and made him one of the world's longest-serving non-Communist heads of state.
In 1954, he ousted Federico Chávez, becoming president after winning an election in which he was the sole candidate. An arch anti-communist, Stroessner had the backing of the United States. His supporters packed the legislature and ran the courts, and he ruthlessly suppressed all political opposition. He kept his country in what he called a constant "state of siege" that overruled his democratic constitution, enforced a cult of personality, and used torture against political opposition. Membership in his Colorado Party was a prerequisite for job promotion, free medical care and other services.
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