Brazil’s Bolsonaro praises late Paraguay dictator Stroessner

ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is known for praising his country’s 1964-1985 dictatorship and on Tuesday he also paid tribute to the late military strongman in neighboring Paraguay, calling Gen. Alfredo Stroessner “a man of vision.”

Bolsonaro, a far-right ex-army captain, made the comments during a ceremony at the Itaipu hydroelectric dam on the South American countries’ shared border. At his side was Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez, whose father served as Stroessner’s private secretary for 25 years. Stroessner ruled Paraguay with an iron fist from 1954 to 1989.

Construction of the hydroelectric project, one of the world’s biggest, was completed in 1984 during Stroessner’s rule. It is jointly administered by the two nations.

“All of this was possible because a man of vision, a statesman who knew perfectly well that his country, Paraguay, would need to grow. So here is my tribute to honor Gen. Alfredo Stroessner,” Brazil’s president said, speaking on the Paraguayan side of the dam.

In 1995, Paraguay’s Congress passed a bill calling Stroessner’s 35-year rule a dictatorship. Victims of human rights violations were allowed to sue for damages. Stroessner was overthrown by a coup in February 1989 and went into exile in Brazil’s capital, where he died on Aug. 16, 2006, at age 93.

Paraguayan political analyst Ignacio Martinez said Bolsonaro likely praised Stroessner during his visit either to thank Abdo Benitez, “knowing that he admired the dictator because his father was Stroessner’s private secretary, or because Bolsonaro has a military mentality, verticalist, that was formed by command structures.”

Besides waxing nostalgic for Brazil’s dictatorship on the campaign trail, after taking office Bolsonaro named former military personnel to seven of his Cabinet’s 22 ministerial posts.

At the end of his speech, Bolsonaro told Paraguay’s president: “It will be a pleasure to welcome you in Brasilia where we will deepen discussions about the welfare of our peoples. The left never again.”