Paraguay: no money to identify dictatorship dead

AP News
Posted: Nov 09, 2011 3:12 PM
Paraguay: no money to identify dictatorship dead

Human rights investigators have found bones that probably belong to victims of Paraguay's past dictatorship, but said Wednesday they have no money for the tests needed to identify them.

A government-funded independent group known as Truth and Justice said it found new burial sites Tuesday at an anti-riot police barracks near the capital where prisoners were illegally held under the dictatorship of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner from 1954 to 1989.

Remains of 12 bodies have now been found there since 2006, and the group says eight more bodies have been located elsewhere.

But rights activist Martin Almada said the groups cannot afford the DNA tests needed to identify them through comparisons with the blood of relatives.

"If there was a budget, the bones could be identified," said Almada, who directs the Museum of Horror, which displays tools and techniques of torture used under Stroessner.

He said investigations of torture centers and archives have determined that at least 336 people were kidnapped and apparently killed by Stroessner's security forces. "But now more complaints are appearing and we could reach 1,000 'disappeared.'"

Stroessner's government was one of several in South America that cooperated in hunting down and killing leftists during the 1970s and 1980s. Many abuses of that period are being investigated and prosecuted for the first time in countries such as Uruguay and Argentina.

Stroessner was toppled in a 1989 military coup, but the regime's allied Colorado Party held on to power until 2008 and still dominates Congress.

President Fernando Lugo, a left-leaning former Roman Catholic bishop, has apologized on behalf of Paraguay to victims of the dictatorship. His government has promised to search for any common graves where Stroessner's opponents may have been buried.

But Almada says the government has been unable to provide much financing to groups such as Truth and Justice.

He said his own museum is financed just through the end of the year by an Italian church.