[News] Protest and Rubber Bullets in Paraquay

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon May 4 12:04:39 EDT 2009


May 4, 2009

The Return of Montanaro

Protest and Rubber Bullets in Paraquay


Workers and activists gathered in the central 
plaza of Asunción, Paraguay on May 1st to 
commemorate International Workers Day. Paraguayan 
President Fernando Lugo marked the day by raising 
the minimum wage by 5%, half of what many of the 
unions present were demanding. But another piece 
of news set the tone for this annual gathering: 
the return to Paraguay of an ex-minister from the 
dictatorship who orchestrated the murder and 
torture of thousands of political dissidents.

In the early hours of May 1st, Sabino Augusto 
Montanaro, the Interior Minister in Paraguay 
during the repressive Alfredo Stroessner 
dictatorship (1954-1989), returned to his country 
after 20 years in Honduras. Doctors say 86 year 
old Montanaro is suffering from senility and 
Parkinson’s disease. Montanaro’s lawyer 
Troche said his client returned to the country 
not to apologize for his crimes or face justice, 
but because, “according to Paraguayan law, he is too old to go to jail.”

Montanaro served as a minister under Stroessner 
from 1966 to the end of the dictatorship, and 
played a key role in the regime’s repression, 
directing the abduction, torture and murder of 
political opponents of Stroessner. Now, upon his 
return to Paraguay, he faces various criminal 
charges, and thousands of angry citizens, many of 
whom greeted his return to the country with 
protests, and calls for the ex-minister’s imprisonment.

Martin Almada, a human rights lawyer and former 
 discovered documents which prove that Montanaro 
played a key role in Operation Condor, a unified, 
cross-border network of repression coordinated by 
military dictatorships in the region throughout the 1970 and ‘80s.

In 2006, Stroessner died at age 93 in Brasilia 
without facing justice for the repression that 
took place under his watch, including the 
disappearance of some 400 people and the torture 
of 18,000, according to a 
and Justice Commission.

Paraguayan Bishop Mario Melanio Medina told the 
Color newspaper that Montanaro was Stroessner’s 
“right hand man” and “number one [in command] after Stroessner.”

Rubber Bullets and Memory

Around noon at the May 1st rally, some 1,000 
protesters began marching toward the private 
hospital where Montaro was a patient. While 
pounding drums and yelling political chants, the 
marchers paraded down the middle of many streets 
that were empty due to the holiday. The chants 
and drumming increased in volume when the 
marchers passed the red headquarters of the 
Colorado Party, Stroessner’s party which lost its 
60 year long grip on the country with the 2008 election of Fernando Lugo.

The march reached a climax upon arriving at the 
hospital. Dozens of riot cops surrounded the 
building, protecting the ex-minister by creating 
a wall with their thick metal shields, while 
hundreds of victims, and family members of 
victims of Montanaro’s repression, rallied in the 
streets outside, demanding justice.
When the majority of the marchers arrived at the 
hospital, one group charged the front door, 
trying to break through the police line and get 
to Montanaro. The police responded with brutal 
force that left one man bloody and stunned.

As the numbers of protesters outside the hospital 
increased, news spread that a judge ordered 
Montanaro’s transfer from the private hospital to 
a police hospital. Protesters responded by 
gathering around the side of the hospital where 
ambulances leave and arrive. Police formed 
another wall in this section of the hospital to 
protect Montanaro’s ambulance and allow for his safe transferal.

When the gates opened, and the ambulance 
transporting Montanaro began to leave, police 
pushed protesters back, crashing night sticks and 
shields on the bodies of the marchers, who 
responded by throwing stones at the police and 
ambulance. Protesters managed to get to the 
ambulance, breaking its windows with rocks as the 
police repression increased and the ambulance 
sped off. Police dispersed the crowd with a 
barrage of rubber bullets that injured a number of protesters.

Later, a vigil including hundreds of people 
gathered in front of the police hospital. “We, 
the relatives of the victims, are going to mount 
a special vigilance so this criminal has no space 
nor privilege in which to hide, or to argue that 
he’s insane to escape justice,” said Rolando 
Goiburu, the son of Dr. Agustin Goiburu who was 
disappeared under Stroessner, according to 

Earlier in the day President Lugo arrived to echo 
the protesters sentiments. He spoke of 
Montanaro’s return: “I promise that there will be 
justice, the same mistakes that previous 
governments made will not be repeated, and there 
won’t be any privileges for anyone.” He told 
protesters outside the hospital that this is a 
“good opportunity to recuperate historical memory.”

Judith Rolón, a daughter of Martín Rolón who was 
disappeared during the Stroessner dictatorship, 
Montanaro “will not have peace until he says where the disappeared are.”

Benjamin Dangl is currently based in Paraguay and 
is the author of 
Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements 
in Bolivia" (AK Press). He edits 
UpsideDownWorld.org, a website on activism and 
politics in Latin America, and TowardFreedom.com, 
a progressive perspective on world events. Email: Bendangl(at)gmail(dot)com.

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