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Keywords:

  • [Paraguay;
  • state violence;
  • archive of terror;
  • Itaipú Dam;
  • Operation Condor]
  • [Paraguay;
  • tortura;
  • archivo del terror;
  • Itaipú Binacional;
  • Operativo Condor]

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. PRELUDE TO ITAIPÚ: THE STRONATO'S BEST-LAID PLANS
  4. CONSTRUCTING ITAIPÚ DAM: FULFILLING STROESSNER STATE PROMISES
  5. ITAIPÚ OPERATION AND THE ATTENUATION OF THE STRONATO
  6. CONCLUSION
  7. NOTES
  8. REFERENCES CITED

ABSTRACT  Like other dictators, Paraguay's Alfredo Stroessner staked his regime's claims to modernity on a massive hydroelectric project, Itaipú Dam. Critiques of dams tend to focus on environmental degradation caused by flooding, forced displacement of communities, and fiscal malfeasance. But Itaipú, the world's largest dam, also participated in the Stroessner regime's secret police terror apparatus. A series of formerly classified documents about Itaipú Dam show how the secret police used the dam in its security and intelligence apparatus to violently suppress any opposition. They also reveal how the opposition to the Stronato grew and mobilized around the dam. By interlacing these two threads, this historical ethnography explores “hydroelectric statecraft” in Itaipú Dam—that is, how the harnessing of the dam's resources has given rise to particular political practices and structures within Paraguay.

RESUMEN  El dictador paraguayo, Alfredo Stroessner, basó el modernismo de su régimen en un proyecto hidroeléctrico gigantesco, la represa Itaipú Binacional. Las críticas sobre los efectos políticos de represas se centran en tres áreas: degradación ambiental, el desalojo forzado de comunidades, e irregularidades financieras. Mas Itaipú Binacional, la represa más grande del mundo, también formó parte del aparato del terror de la dictadura stronista. Por medio de unos documentos secretos que se trataron de o circulaban por la Itaipú, esta obra de etnografía histórica narra dos historias: la primera, cómo la dictadura usó la represa para reprimir la oposición; la segunda, cómo la oposición creció por medio de sus manifestaciones contra la represa. Juntos, estos dos hilos muestran “la política de estado hidroeléctrico” de Itaipú—es decir, cómo el aprovechamiento de los recursos de la represa ha resultado en prácticas y estructuras políticas distintas dentro del Paraguay.

Hydroelectric dams were the pet projects of mid-20th-century dictators the world over. Like other authoritarian rulers of the era, Paraguay's Alfredo Stroessner staked his regime's claims to modernity and legitimacy on a gargantuan hydroelectric project, Itaipú Dam. Popular and academic critiques of the political effects of dams often center on three areas: environmental degradation, forced displacement of communities, and “corruption” when elites treat a dam's public resources as their private bank accounts. But in this article, I take an unusual turn by uncovering the ways the world's largest dam was part of the secret police terror apparatus of Stroessner's brutal dictatorship in Paraguay. Through a series of formerly classified communiqués that were about or circulated through Itaipú Dam, this historical ethnography narrates two interwoven stories. The first is how the Stroessner regime grew in power by using the dam in its security and intelligence apparatus to violently suppress any opposition. The second is how the opposition movement grew in maturity and force by using the dam as a point of protest. Taken together, the two stories unlock “hydroelectric statecraft” in Itaipú Dam—that is, how the harnessing of the dam's resources has given rise to particular political practices and structures within Paraguay.

For both Alfredo Stroessner (and his Colorado Party) and the opposition to the dictatorship, Itaipú Dam represented the potential to shape the political-economic and social development of Paraguay. The multibillion-dollar dam has been a linchpin of Paraguayan politics for decades—and points to what hydroelectric statecraft might mean not only for Paraguay but also for countries like Brazil and China, which are developing vast hydroelectric resources. Itaipú Binational Hydroelectric Dam (co-owned with Brazil) was the world's largest dam for decades, eclipsed in size (but not energy production) only in 2010 by Three Gorges Dam in China.1 Paraguay's electricity needs are supplied by less than ten percent of the dam's production. The remaining 90 percent goes to Brazil—Itaipú Dam alone generates 20 percent of all the electricity consumed in Brazil. Although most of the income from energy sales has gone to pay down the construction debt, Paraguay's government has received hundreds of millions annually from the dam (nearly seven percent of the government's budget). The revenue, the electricity, and the international leverage attendant with co-ownership of an energy resource of this magnitude (Paraguay's joint venture with Brazil not only gave it influence with Brazil but also with Argentina) molded the Paraguayan state into the cast of the dam. Itaipú, in the eyes of Stroessner's followers and the opposition, stood for the symbolic, economic, and physical power of the regime. And even today in Paraguay, Itaipú is a way to speak about the promises of prosperity not yet delivered by the “state” to the “nation.”

General Stroessner ruled Paraguay through a right-wing military dictatorship (1954–89) that drew might and momentum from the interplay of violence, visuality, and writing. What was seen—infrastructure projects—and what was unseen—the tortured bodies of dissenters—provided the symbolic and material force for the Stroessner state. The pageantry of parades and the hidden yet ubiquitous surveillance of the populace gave the sense that the state was all powerful, all knowing, and ever present. During planning in the 1960s and construction in the 1970s and 1980s, Itaipú Dam provided an unending catalogue of the spectacular for Stroessner: the inauguration of turbines large enough to seat an orchestra, dynamite explosions to divert the river, energy to illuminate hitherto darkened cities at night. Yet, to grasp the dam's state-making power, we need to consider its role in the other side of the Stroessner state's relationship to visuality: the hidden and the act of seeing. Itaipú Dam, the visible hallmark of Stroessner's triumphal domination, also participated in the invisible terrors of the secret police apparatus.

During the dictatorship, Paraguay languished under a permanent state of exception in which the repeal of rule of law in the name of ongoing emergency led to the implementation of a new order, one in which the Colorado Party elite ruled with impunity (Agamben 1998; Schmitt 1985). A formal “state of siege” (estado de sitio) suspending the constitution was renewed every 90 days, from 1954 to 1987. Almost farcically, it was lifted only for one day every five years to hold elections and then was promptly reinstituted. So complete was Stroessner's control that he was deposed not by an election (as occurred in other contemporary South American dictatorships) but by a coup initiated by close associates. The Stroessner regime's (known as the Stronato) longevity was aided and abetted by a state terror coordinated by the Ministry of the Interior that put down any real or imagined opposition with such ferocity that even more than two decades after the fall of Stroessner, few of the perpetrators have been brought to justice.2 Death flights (in which victims were pushed out of airplanes), dunks in the pileta (a bathtub filled with excrement, vomit, and blood), and shocks from the picana (an electric cattle-prod attached to sensitive body parts) were part of the physical violence that accompanied an even more invasive psychological tactic of ever-present surveillance by the secret police and an even more secret web of informants. This violence undergirded a governance strategy that linked the military to the ruling party to the person of Stroessner, a strategy so successful that after the coup, the Colorado Party continued to rule for two decades.

By bringing in lucrative construction contracts and foreign exchange, Itaipú provided the means by which Stroessner loyalists could be rewarded (and created). And yet, even as Stroessner consolidated power, the opposition movements he sought to destroy also drew energy from the dam. Public student protests in the 1960s developed into clandestine operations in the 1970s and then were joined by labor protests of the 1980s as the opposition grew, in spite of repression. As part of the security apparatus, hundreds of thousands of police reports, memos, confessions, and confiscated items were assembled by the Ministry of the Interior—an archive that was decades in the making, discovered after the regime fell.3 Among five tons of files dubbed the “Archive of Terror” were dozens of documents that had been created by the dam's bureaucracy, passed through the dam, or had to do with the dam. The interrogations and accounts of protests, the information, and the way it circulated between government agencies demonstrate the lengths to which the regime went to suppress opposition. But by reading against the grain of the documents and seeing other ways they are linked, the Itaipú-Archive of Terror documents chronicle the development of a multivariate opposition to Stroessner, whose rhetoric around the dam has become commonly accepted today in Paraguay.

Itaipú Dam took on renewed significance in Paraguay in the stunning 2008 election of a socialist president. Leftist former bishop Fernando Lugo was able to topple the ruling Colorado Party, in spite of rampant electoral fraud, by channeling widespread discontent over government corruption and unfulfilled promises. At the center of his grassroots campaign was the pledge to use Itaipú Dam's multibillion-dollar resources to finance social development. The coalition that brought Lugo to victory was a motley assortment of worker, campesino, and student groups that got their start as the repressed opposition to Stroessner's brutal dictatorship. During my fieldwork on the politics of hydroelectricity in Paraguay (2007–10), Lugo's supporters regularly described Itaipú protests of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s as “consciousness-raising” experiences. The past of Itaipú was present, and as the Lugo presidency engaged Itaipú in new ways, that Itaipú past underwent transformation. To study why hydroelectricity was so important to the leftist social movement cum government, it was necessary to explore how the dam and the opposition developed in twain, a history recorded by the Archive of Terror.

Thus, I show how a historical ethnography of state terror and resistance can be conducted through an examination of the production of documents. The decision to focus on historical ethnography in this article is more than just a methodological choice—it is an ethical commitment to take seriously the violence and fear chronicled by the Archive of Terror, especially because the stories of the victims of Stroessner's dictatorship have been repeatedly silenced. I uncover human rights abuses and state violence through their entailments, even in government institutions that are not, ostensibly, part of the coercive apparatus of the state. This work advances the vital anthropological research done on lexica of terror and the forensic evidence of state violence and human rights violations in Latin America and beyond (Binford 1996; Feitlowitz 1999; Sanford 2003; Sluka 2000). Although the Stroessner dictatorship was the longest right-wing regime in South America and its violent repression spilled across borders, scholarly study of the regime and its effects remains alarmingly thin, with the exception of some work on campesino politics (Harder Horst 2007), Paul Lewis's (1980) analysis written during the regime, and Katie Zoglin's (2001) law review. Although the security-intelligence functions of the dam were less visible than the financial and energy impacts in Paraguay, they are central to how hydroelectric statecraft developed via the dam.

The concept of “hydroelectric statecraft” tethers state-making to the materiality of energy and water. The costs of constructing a hydroelectric dam are high, often entirely debt financed, and the lag time between the initiation of a dam project and energy production is long, typically more than a decade. Few organizations other than the state have the financial or institutional wherewithal to embark on projects under these conditions. Moreover, because hydroelectricity cannot be stored or transported in barrels (unlike oil and coal) but, instead, is simultaneously produced–transmitted–consumed via electrical lines, the territorial roots of hydropower exert greater influence. Thus, economic development that depends on hydroelectricity is subordinated, by that dependency, to state actors. For Paraguay (and perhaps for China, Brazil, and other countries that have invested heavily in hydroelectricity), the material constraints of hydroelectricity required a kind of institutional apparatus that played into strong state control of economic development. Stroessner eagerly embraced hydroelectricity because it so easily served authoritarian state objectives. In hydroelectricity, he found a way to promise wealth to loyalists and expand the institutional reach of the Paraguayan state under his ever-tightening grip.

This article tells the story of the dictatorship, the apparatus of terror, and the dam in three acts, corresponding to three phases of Itaipú Dam's lifecycle during the Stronato: planning, construction, and operation. Each act reveals how the evolution of the security apparatus was linked to broader developments within the Stroessner state, demonstrated through how the dam was used to discipline opposition. And at each turn, resistance to the regime used the dam for its own purposes—to organize as labor, to describe the effects of transnational capital, and to decry Paraguay's capitulation to its neighbor's financial interests. The large body of literature on the state-making effects of water-resource management (Orlove 2002; Wittfogel 1957), and specifically of hydroelectric-dam megaprojects (Ferradas 1998; Lins Ribeiro 1994; Loney 1995; Scudder 2005), has yet to tackle the question of how dams themselves mete out state violence as part of security apparatus. Moreover, social science research on the political effects of hydroelectric dams has curiously neglected to analyze the world's largest dam, Itaipú, except in brief passing.

The move to consider political effects of the management of hydroelectricity beyond the more familiar critiques of population displacement or the fostering of rent-seeking elites is part of a wider turn in anthropology and social science to broaden the political-economic analysis of energy production (Boyer 2011; Mitchell 2011; Nader 2010). In so doing, we come to see how the Paraguayan state—as ideological justification for brute violence (Abrams 2006) and as a complex of institutions and practices that administer economic and social resources (Coronil 1997)—is made through two techniques of rule: first, bureaucratic writing that purports to catalogue all reality and, second, sovereignty enacted through permissible violence against bodies in certain spaces. How Itaipú was imbricated and implicated in the Stronato's regime of power deepens our understanding of the everyday functioning of state terror and the ways hydroelectricity gives life to the regimes that administer dams.

PRELUDE TO ITAIPÚ: THE STRONATO'S BEST-LAID PLANS

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. PRELUDE TO ITAIPÚ: THE STRONATO'S BEST-LAID PLANS
  4. CONSTRUCTING ITAIPÚ DAM: FULFILLING STROESSNER STATE PROMISES
  5. ITAIPÚ OPERATION AND THE ATTENUATION OF THE STRONATO
  6. CONCLUSION
  7. NOTES
  8. REFERENCES CITED

After surviving the regime's first decade, when military challenges and party rivals might have overthrown Stroessner, the Stronato moved into a phase of expansion and consolidation through militarized policing and state-initiated economic development. Widespread state violence and torture in the name of order have characterized many South American regimes in the past century, fostering an environment of everyday violence and terror (Coronil and Skurski 2006; Goldstein 2003). In Paraguay, violence reinforced a new order by justifying greater intervention and by repeatedly demonstrating the utter impunity of Stroessner's government. Even as the Stronato's violence resulted in a regime of terror, many in the opposition were made more hardline by that violence, devolving into an escalating cycle of state violence, opposition, and repression. The regime's proposed development model was based on international legitimacy and financing that flowed to Paraguay in the 1960s. Increased openness at home and staunch anticommunism resulted in a flurry of Inter-American Development Bank projects in Paraguay. In 1963, a few formal Paraguayan opposition parties were allowed to field candidates for office for the first time since the 1940s, leading to the hope for a real democratization.

In defiance of Law 294, “In Defense of Democracy,” which had criminalized almost any form of public protest, a group of students and professionals gathered in Asunción's colonial center on Saturday, November 27, 1965 (CDyA 1965b, 1966). As they paraded down the historic streets, past the Pantheon of Heroes, a mausoleum dedicated to those who had lost their lives in defense of Paraguay, their ranks grew as onlookers heard their cries. After they passed the Pantheon, the group turned in front of the heavily guarded Bank of Argentina, quickly approaching their target: the Commerce Office of the Brazilian embassy (what is today the Banco do Brasil). There they burned a Brazilian flag and damaged the building, after which a fight erupted on the streets.

But this was too much. Just a few scant blocks away from the presidential palace and congress, the protest at the Commerce Office was too close for comfort and was put down by the Paraguayan police force. More than a dozen were arrested. Like many others in Paraguay at the time, the Asuncenos and visitors from other towns who took to the streets that summer day were upset with the recent military action by Brazil to move troops near Guairá Falls, a set of contested waterfalls on the Paraguayan–Brazilian border. To Paraguayan eyes, the decision to station a squadron so close to Guairá Falls was nothing less than a provocation to war and an affront to Paraguay's national sovereignty. Speeches and letters to the editor in repudiation of Brazilian aggression were an almost a daily feature in October and November 1965. Even Paraguayans living abroad added their voices. A group of Chaco War (1932–35) veterans who lived in Buenos Aires sent their support to Asunción after holding an extraordinary meeting in which the vote to denounce Brazil's violation of “Paraguayan sovereignty” was passed (Fretes 1964).

And yet, in spite of widespread public agreement with the message, the large number of individuals arrested, and the provocative location and content of the protest, the Sunday editions of Paraguay's newspapers curiously made no mention of the event. Patria, the official newspaper of the ruling Colorado Party, led with an excoriating rant against the Liberal Party's lack of patriotism. Although the message of the protest was popular, there was something else about it that made it a touchy subject. The Brazilian troops at the border were a pesky thorn in the Stroessner government's side and threatened the government's plans for development based on stronger ties to Brazil. The two neighbors had begun cooperating more closely in the 1950s as part of Stroessner's aim to realign Paraguay from an external orientation toward Argentina to one with much stronger economic and political ties to Brazil, a policy known as “The March to the East.” As part of this strategy, the eastern hinterland was developed into Brazilian-dominated export-oriented agriculture, international highways connecting Paraguay to Brazil were built, and cross-border energy planning commenced (Fogel and Riquelme 2005).

The March to the East, featuring construction financed by Brazil and increased economic cooperation with Brazil, seemed to have worked. A military coup in 1964 overthrew the civilian government of João Goulart and saw the installation of a sympathetic military junta in Brazil. Now that an anticommunist authoritarian government ruled Brazil, the expectation in Paraguay was that even more might be expected. Indeed, the first few months of 1965 showed promising advances: a bridge linking the two countries had been built across the Paraná River in the easternmost department of Paraguay. Brazilian intelligence continued its pre-coup custom of surveilling Paraguayan exiles residing in Brazil and sending updates to their Paraguayan counterparts, but now leftist exiles were even less welcomed (CDyA 1965a).

The only complication was a set of majestic waterfalls on the Paraná River border between Paraguay and Brazil. An unclear treaty from 1872 left the precise location of the international border in doubt: whereas Brazil claimed full ownership of Guairá Falls, Paraguay claimed that they were jointly owned (Tratado de límites 1872).4 For the first half of the 20th century, the disagreement seemed harmless enough, but in the 1960s discussions about how to take advantage of the Paraná River's hydroelectric potential began in earnest in Brazil. As energy experts in Brasilia sketched plans, ownership of the falls took on new significance. The Paraguayan press and intelligentsia insisted that the 1872 treaty could only mean joint ownership of the falls (and the energy), growing into a debate on “sovereignty” that continues even to the present (Canese 2007; Gamón 2007). To put an end to the escalating rhetoric and make a definitive statement about Guairá Falls (and the hydroelectric potential of the river), a small number of Brazilian soldiers took up camp near the falls in June 1965.

Predictably, this led to even greater tensions as the specter of war loomed. Resolution came only in June 1966, when Brazil and Paraguay signed an agreement (the Act of Foz do Iguaçu) to build a massive binationally owned hydroelectric dam on the Paraná River, flooding the falls—what eventually became Itaipú Dam.5 But in the harrowing year between occupation and resolution, the Stroessner government was caught in a bind. What was a government whose claim to legitimacy rested on its fierce patriotism to do when its preferred ally and the giant of South America threatened the sovereignty of Paraguay? Tread carefully. Public opinion in Paraguay was unified against the Brazilian occupation and so the November 27, 1965, protest reflected the sentiments of many within the government and the press. Not challenging the Brazilian occupation would have been seen as being weak and capitulating Paraguayan sovereignty to Brazil.

After the police put down the protest, 15 men were arrested and interrogated. Their captors asked them about their political affiliations, how they had learned of the intended protest, and whether they knew any of the organizers of the march. The answers they gave were varied: some were members of opposition political parties, others were unaffiliated; some had seen flyers announcing the march, but many claimed to have learned about it just when they saw the parade pass by; a few of the 15 gave the names of people they had also recognized, but none knew any of the organizers. For all the obvious interest in the march and in the subject of contention, there were very few accounts of the day's events recorded in Paraguay.

In fact, one of the few descriptions of the protest was the one written by personnel of the Department of Investigations, a subset of the Ministry of the Interior:

On the date of November 27, 1965, a political demonstration took place, led by the Liberal Club “Alon,” the Febrerista Youth, and the Christian Democrats, in repudiation of the Brazilian occupation of Guairá Falls … on which occasion, the protesters burned a Brazilian flag, causing additional physical damages to the aforementioned building. Those responsible for the protesters were then arrested, they are … [list of 15 names] who were later transferred to the Department of Justice to be placed at the disposition of the Ordinary Court. [CDyA 1966]

Although the major newspapers of Paraguay ignored the protest (or acknowledged it in the negative by publishing front page criticisms of opposition parties), the Ministry of the Interior was very interested in the motives and membership of the march. Each of the 15 arrested signed two identical copies of their confessions, and both detainees and their confessions were transferred within various agencies under the ministry.

By gathering in public and protesting against a universally despised foe, the protestors of November 27 were testing the contours of the Stronato state. The response of the state delivered an unmistakable answer. Whatever the supposed openness to opposition that had convinced international organizations to support the “emergent democracy” in Paraguay, within Paraguay, the only law was whatever suited the ruling elite at the time. No challenge to Stroessner would be tolerated. It did not matter that the Liberal Party and the Febrerista Party were now decriminalized, public rallies like the one spearheaded by a Liberal Party club and the Febrerista Youth were unacceptable. And although the target of the protest was Brazil, it was treated as an act of aggression against the Paraguayan state—the march was described by police as a “political demonstration.”

The archive where the original signed confessions and the brief on the November 27 protest are found is a testament to how the Stroessner regime used the security apparatus within the Ministry of the Interior as a way to uncover and discipline any and all opposition. Although denied by the ministry, the brutal violence and constant surveillance were well-known public secrets throughout the Stronato. Coupled with the impunity of the perpetrators, the experience or threat of detention served to reinforce the central role of physical violence in legitimating rule. This is what Begonia Aretxaga found in her work on the discovery that the democratic Spanish state had used the paramilitary terror associated with the Franco regime. “The gaze into the labyrinthine ‘interiority’ of the state being does not necessarily dispel its ‘magical’ power,” she wrote (Aretxaga 2000:43).

In fact, Aretxaga connected the materiality of state killing to the creation of a state's fantastic and fantasmic quality. The state was materialized as a spectral reality through the killings, kidnappings, and imprisonments of human bodies and souls (Aretxaga 2003:402). If this is the case, then what we find in the experience of the 15 men who were detained in the November 27 protest is that the (detained, tortured, surveilled) human body, because it connects materiality to psychology, is the threshold across which the physical force of the state translates into the symbolic force of the state (and vice versa). In this way, the physical and psychological violence experienced under the Stronato falls under Walter Benjamin's category of the “law-making” (as opposed to “law-preserving”) violence (Benjamin 1986:287).

Although all of Paraguay convalesced under an unending state of siege, the sovereignty of the Stroessner state was established in the creation of the exceptional exception of extrajudicial detainments (the 15 men arrested at the protest were not charged with any crimes) and torture (investigators have determined that more than 90 percent of all prisoners were physically tortured; Comisión de Verdad y Justicia 2008:48). Stroessner's government emblemized Carl Schmitt's (1985:4) maxim that “sovereign is he who decides on the exception” by using law to undo the rule of law and thus demonstrate the absolute authority of the regime. The Ministry of the Interior followed in the footsteps of Nazi Germany, carefully documenting the identity and infractions of all who had the misfortune to enter the detention camps. For Agamben, the character of the detention camp in Nazi Germany spilled across the physical borders of the camp to structure all of society. Similarly, all of Paraguay became a detention camp as the effects of unrestrainable control within the Ministry of the Interior holding cells spilled over into all of the country.

Now that the 15 men whom the police described as “those responsible for the protestors” (in spite of their assertions to the contrary) had come to the attention of the ministry, they were subsequently targets of surveillance and arrests. Of the 15, 13 show up again in the Archive of Terror (and this does not mean that the other two were never again detained, only that no record has yet come to light). Although the detentions of the alleged ringleaders in the years that followed might be taken to mean that once in the grip of the Ministry of the Interior, always in the grip of the ministry, their life histories tell a more complicated tale. Some of the detainees were radicalized by the experience of illegal detention and protesting against the Brazilian occupations of the falls—and the event forged a strong public association of opposition to Itaipú Dam as opposition to Stroessner. Later protests against asymmetries within Itaipú Dam were a way to implicitly criticize the Stroessner regime for its failure to defend Paraguayan sovereignty against Brazilian imperialistic predation.

Perhaps the most influential of the 15 was Juan Da Costa. In his confession, 21-year-old Da Costa claimed no party affiliation and the profession of writer. His motive for joining the protest was that “when he learned what the protest was about, he liked it and began to participate” (CDyA 1965c). Then he “came out in [physical] defense of some students who were being arrested.” In the years that followed, Da Costa became more convinced of the need to resist the Stroessner regime and overthrow it by any means necessary. In the early 1970s, Da Costa created OPM (Organización Político Militar[the Political Military Organization]), a clandestine armed leftist group that came to be considered one of the most credible threats to the regime (Boccia Paz 2004). Da Costa built links with Catholic groups, campesino organizations, and urban intellectuals. OPM met in secret, entirely undetected by the government until a chance customs check at Paraguay's border with Argentina led to the discovery of the group in April 1976. After being tortured by agents of the Ministry of the Interior, the young Paraguayan who carried OPM plans revealed the names and addresses of other members of the group. Police descended on an OPM safe house in Asunción, and a gunfight erupted as Da Costa shot and wounded the chief of police. The police killed Da Costa that night and promptly rounded up dozens of OPM members (both men and women), many of whom were then tortured, killed, or disappeared.

By the time of Da Costa's death, both the opposition to Stroessner and the security apparatus that defended the regime had changed significantly from the November 27, 1965, protest. Instead of public marches on the street, the opposition gathered munitions in secret, planning a guerrilla war because conventional resistance had been deemed insufficient. And instead of mere arrests, what followed the discovery of OPM in 1976 was an increasingly wider array of detentions and executions during the “Sorrowful Easter” (Pascua Dolorosa) as hundreds of campesinos, students, and workers were arrested, tortured, killed, or detained for years. But the beginning of Da Costa's and many others’ journeys of resistance began as a public march against the presence of Brazilian troops near the imposing Guairá Falls. With the unequivocal response from the Stronato state, the hope for an open democracy under Stroessner's watch soured.

CONSTRUCTING ITAIPÚ DAM: FULFILLING STROESSNER STATE PROMISES

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. PRELUDE TO ITAIPÚ: THE STRONATO'S BEST-LAID PLANS
  4. CONSTRUCTING ITAIPÚ DAM: FULFILLING STROESSNER STATE PROMISES
  5. ITAIPÚ OPERATION AND THE ATTENUATION OF THE STRONATO
  6. CONCLUSION
  7. NOTES
  8. REFERENCES CITED

Even as the unaccountable state violence underscored the effective sovereignty of the Stronato, documents and the practice of writing also played a key role because of their apparent ability to shape reality itself. Legal and inquisitorial bureaucratic writing has a long-standing tradition of authority in the Iberian world (Silverblatt 2004). The governments of Brazil and Paraguay signed the Itaipú Treaty (1973), converting the 1966 Act of Foz do Iguaçu that had resolved the Guairá Falls controversy into reality. The promise of wealth (for the fortunate and the loyal) from the 1960s began to crystallize in the 1970s. A binational board of directors oversaw every aspect of construction, and already Stroessner's favored associates were making hundreds of thousands of dollars from lucrative construction contracts (and embezzlement). In addition to the binational management team and construction firms from both countries, Itaipú Dam had a binational security office with personnel on both sides of the border. Made up of men with military or police experience, the Itaipú Security Office was crafted to seamlessly connect with both Brazil and Paraguay's security forces.

The $19-billion dam also brought unheralded opportunities for ordinary Paraguayans. Itaipú provided what Paraguay had hitherto lacked: demand for labor in an industry other than agriculture. Stroessner's development plan was coming to fruition, to bring modernization through increasing the wealth of the Colorado Party via projects that trickled down to the broader populace. But at this point, as the description of Juan Da Costa's OPM above showed, the opposition to Stroessner had also developed in its political ideology and in its skill in pressuring the regime.

When the Paraguayan Itaipú Dam Police Force finally arrested Carlos Magereger in December 1977, construction of the dam was well under way. Carlos Magereger had been a troublemaker for years. He traveled between the dam worksite and Asunción repeatedly with the goal of organizing a union for Itaipú workers. Magereger (or “Mayeregger” or “Mayereger” or “Mayereyer,” depending on the document) helped organize a binational strike among the Itaipú workforce in November 1974, just a few months after construction had begun. Unsympathetic observers noted that although he had “only finished primary school, he was incredibly well-educated” and was an “entirely indoctrinated Marxist … in spite of having little academic background” (CDyA in press b, 1977). During the infamous November 1974 strike, Magereger denounced the broken promises of better pay and living conditions for ordinary workers and decried the false propaganda of the press and radio, who claimed that “true peace and tranquility reigns in Paraguay,” whereas in reality, “the workers live like ‘dogs’” (CDyA in press b). And just at the moment when the military police were about to intervene, Magereger burst into a rousing rendition of the Paraguayan National Anthem.

Despite this colorful history, Magereger continued in the employ of various Itaipú Dam–related construction companies. He was detained in 1975 as a result of “working clandestinely among Itaipú workers” and mysteriously “leaving his position” (CDyA in press b). But by 1977, he was back on the job until his arrest by the Itaipú police in late 1977. Unusual as it might seem that a hydroelectric dam should possess its own police force capable of arresting individuals, the paperwork that accompanied Magereger's arrest reveals how the dam's security service intersected with the Ministry of the Interior and the Paraguayan military. Magereger was detained on December 27, 1977, by the Itaipú police—with no charge or order of detention (Comité de Iglesias para Ayudas de Emergencia 1999:402). Two days after his arrest, the Paraguayan Itaipú Security Office created a two-page informe, a memorandum containing important information, that listed Magereger's past activities, including plotting “murder”“according to José Centurión, a minor who overheard them speak” (CDyA 1977). The newly drafted informe was added to a shorter one-page summary of the same deeds that also contained a passport-sized profile photograph of a disheveled Carlos Magereger as well as two short notes from previous supervisors attesting to his employment within the dam and his good behavior.

The entire dossier and Magereger himself were sent by the Paraguayan Itaipú Security Office to the Paraguayan military intelligence liaison a few days after his arrest. By January 3, 1978, Magereger and the file were again transferred from the military intelligence liaison to the Ministry of the Interior's Department of Investigations headed by Pastor Milciades Coronel, where he was held for two months (CDyA 1978b). Coronel's department oversaw the majority of interrogations within Paraguay and was the central hub for intelligence, which Coronel professionalized and systematized over decades. He coordinated thousands of informants—some government employees, many others not. Itaipú was clearly part of the sophisticated system orchestrated by Coronel. So horrific were his deeds that of all the torturers and interrogators and top Stroessner men, many of whom were never detained, he was incarcerated after the 1989 coup and died in jail, more than decade later.

But the expansion and professionalization of the security nexus within Paraguay under Coronel was merely one advancement made in intelligence in the 1970s. Itaipú Dam was but a public instance of the increasing integration between various nation-states in South America. Argentina (1976, although repression began earlier), Chile (1973), and Uruguay (1973) fell to right-wing military governments. A major innovation came in 1975, with the invitation from Chile to several military and government chiefs from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay to attend a working-group meeting in Santiago. At this secret meeting of security personnel, the military governments pledged to join forces in the pursuit of suspicious individuals (Dinges 2004). This agreement, built on earlier experiences of cross-border cooperation, came to be known as Operation Condor, whose kidnappings and assassinations spread even to Washington, D.C., in the 1976 car-bomb assassination of Chilean economist Orlando Letelier and his assistant, U.S. citizen Ronni Moffitt.

Itaipú Dam, too, operated in the spirit of transnational intelligence cooperation. The day-to-day binational coordination necessary to build the dam (the entire workforce was managed by Brazilian and Paraguayan construction consortia) included the binational Itaipú Security Office, which was divided into two departments, one Paraguayan, one Brazilian. Itaipú security acted as a node for the three countries that met at the Paraná River near the dam. The Archive of Terror provides material evidence for the circulation of information among the Argentine military, the Brazilian military, and Paraguay's Ministry of the Interior (and note that Itaipú Dam was not under the jurisdiction of the ministry). Sometime in the late 1970s, Paraguay's Itaipú Security Office gave the Ministry of the Interior a list of Argentine Ejercito Revolucionario del Pueblo ([ERP] People's Revolutionary Army) members and other “subversives”“sought by police-military authorities in Argentina” (CDyA in press a; see Figure 1). But the seal on the top right of each page read “Itaipú Binacional, Brasil Direção Geral Assesoria da Segurança”—the Brazilian Itaipú Security Office (see Figure 2). The list first came from Argentine authorities to the Brazilian government, perhaps directly to the Brazilian security personnel of Itaipú, and then traveled from the Brazilian officials in the dam to the Paraguayan officials in the dam before finally being passed on to the Paraguayan Ministry of the Interior.

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Figure 1. List of ERP members and suspected Argentine subversives. Author's photograph. (Courtesy of the CDyA, Asunción)

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Figure 2. Detail from ERP list, “Itaipú Binacional, Brasil Direção Geral Assesoria da Segurança.” Author's photograph. (Courtesy of the CDyA, Asunción)

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Not only was Itaipú Dam a conduit for intelligence but it also originated information on inhabitants of the entire region. Around the same time of Carlos Magereger's arrest, Enzo Debernardi, the Paraguayan Executive Director of Itaipú, received a note from the Minister of the Interior himself (CDyA 1978a). The note, dated January 2, 1978, described three men: Eliodoro Zárate, Hermenógenes Martínez, and Sergio Grisetti. Zárate and Martínez were both veterans of the Chaco War (1932–35) living in Argentina and were described as “extremists” who had armed more than 70 people to form a guerrilla group. Unlike the other two men, Grisetti lived in Paraguay, was a married former priest who had been a leader of the Ligas Agrarias Cristianas (Catholic Agrarian Leagues), and worked at Itaipú. The Catholic Agrarian Leagues were informal associations of campesinos, organized by liberation-theology Catholic priests and nuns in the 1960s. They began with community organizing but quickly transformed to resistance against the dictatorship and against the expansion of monoculture; thus, they were the subsequent targets of repression by the regime.

When Itaipú Executive Director Debernardi read the note from the minister, he promptly scrawled instructions on it, “to the Senior Security Chief.” The security chief understood Debernardi's implied request (as Debernardi had understood the minister's). Four weeks later, a new informe was sent back by the Paraguayan Itaipú Security Office to the Ministry of the Interior. The informe contained much more information about the three men, their known associates, and where they spent their time (CDyA 1978c). Some of this may have been stored in Itaipú security archives already, but much of it was clearly labeled as having been gathered that month, including the name and age of Grisetti's wife and their address in Paraguay. The research conducted by the Itaipú Security Office reveals a fluidity of borders and jurisdiction. The dam's operatives gathered information about Paraguayans living not only in Paraguay but also in Argentina, suggesting that responsibility for surveillance was not bound by territorial limits but by the contours of citizenship.

The responses of Debernardi and other personnel within the dam to the note from the Minister of the Interior and the arrest of Carlos Magereger above show the degree of familiarity between Itaipú and the security apparatus of the Paraguayan state. The informes, memos, and notes among the ministry, the dam, and the armed forces were mutually intelligible, written in similar formats and initiating actions without needing to be explicitly directive. Although the dam was ostensibly a civilian endeavor, it was built as part of the larger structure of the two military governments. The dam qua institution developed in the context of systematic repression administered by the Ministry of the Interior and within Operation Condor. This meant that the kinds of individuals and actions that would be considered dangerous within the Ministry of the Interior were equally legible as threatening within the hydroelectric dam.

The movement of information and individuals was accomplished via the movement of documents between Itaipú and various offices in the Paraguayan government (and the governments of Argentina and Brazil). At this point in the regime, the height of the success of the Stronato governance model, offices and officers throughout the government were linked together in a project to root out threats and to secure the Paraguayan state. The physical paper and the bodies of prisoners that circulated did more than show these links, they were the links and the manner in which the project was carried out. The relationship of writing to Iberian and Latin American statecraft is the subject of much innovative scholarship. Within Latin America (González Echeverria 1990; Rama 1996) and within Paraguay (Hetherington 2011), the creation of bureaucratic documents is not merely a representation of law or a material distillation from a political process. Rather, the creation of documents is the means by which the state was made. The act of writing itself is what authenticated an event, a process, or a location as stately. And so, what happened to documents within Paraguayan bureaucracies produced the Paraguayan state.

Yet, for all the purported care taken to store and transmit information, shortcomings that come from the limits of writing were quickly apparent. Carlos Magereger's last name had multiple spellings—and the one I have chosen to use in this article may not be the correct one. Sometimes both patronymic and matronymic last names were used in files (as is customary in Latin America). But when only one was used, often the patronymic, the same individual might appear listed as two different persons depending on the variation of the name. This raises questions about the reality-defining nature of the documents created by the Paraguayan state. If the fragility of writing—particularly given the common orthographic errors made by police—was so evident, what is the nature of the authority of these documents? And what about nonbenign discrepancies that were more than spelling mistakes but, rather, accusations fabricated to justify detainment of a disliked neighbor or a political rival or invented to sate the curiosity of torturers who would only yield when a detainee gave enough information?

Nils Bubandt (2009), in his work on a public forgery that nevertheless resulted in interreligious violence in Indonesia even after being shown counterfeit, explained the force of falsity as a kind of imagined empathy. If a document cohered to the worldview one group imagined the other to hold, whether or not it was authentic, it was still true and actionable. The facticity of a document might not reside in its contents per se but, rather, in some other imagined relationship between author and content. For the documents assembled by the Ministry of the Interior, authenticity was not a matter of factuality or a matter of location (Derrida 1998). The documents were authentic because they used the stamps, seals, and ritualistic prose of a bureaucracy, a legacy of the historical importance of legal writing in the Spanish empire, for which the act of writing was taken as the moment of conquest (Seed 1992). The documents in the ministry were treated as accurate depictions of events and individuals by state agents and similarly were experienced as “real” by the victims who were acted on based on the documents. Moreover, even if and perhaps especially because the documents in the Ministry of the Interior were inaccurate, the regime's sovereignty was reaffirmed. Because writing that was known to be false was nevertheless treated as authoritative, it created reality and thus served as the ultimate proof of the Stroessner state's power.

ITAIPÚ OPERATION AND THE ATTENUATION OF THE STRONATO

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. PRELUDE TO ITAIPÚ: THE STRONATO'S BEST-LAID PLANS
  4. CONSTRUCTING ITAIPÚ DAM: FULFILLING STROESSNER STATE PROMISES
  5. ITAIPÚ OPERATION AND THE ATTENUATION OF THE STRONATO
  6. CONCLUSION
  7. NOTES
  8. REFERENCES CITED

The public face of Itaipú was also instrumental to Stroessner's rule, serving as the backdrop for a gendered performance of state spectacle, a hypermasculine domination over nature and nation (Derby 2000). Photogenic ribbon-cutting ceremonies, in which Stroessner and other leaders dressed in ornate military (or professional or clerical) regalia, functioned as the visible counterpart to the occulted violence of the security apparatus. The year 1982 was important for Itaipú Dam. After nearly a decade of construction, the concrete walls of the dam were finally completed. The Paraná River had been diverted to a temporary channel for years to allow for construction on the now-dry riverbed in the main channel. The turbines were still not installed (and construction had been slightly delayed by the worldwide financial crisis of the 1970s), but now that the base of the dam had been built, it was time to put the dam into operation. The first major milestone was to close the diversion channel, forcing the river to create a reservoir behind Itaipú dam. Once the reservoir was filled, the sluicegates (which allowed the dam to control the flow of the Paraná River) would be opened, marking the dam fully functional on November 5, 1982. Planning for the celebration of the event began months prior. For the occasion, the presidents of Brazil and Paraguay were to be present in the company of dozens of other dignitaries.

As part of the preparations, Corsino Coronel was apprehended at his home near the Itaipú worksite by ministry personnel at 1:00 a.m. on the morning of Saturday, October 23, 1982. He was released, never having been charged, on November 9, 1982, four days after the festivities. Coronel was no stranger to sudden incarceration or extrajudicial procedures. Corsino Coronel (sometimes spelled “Corcino,” and of no relation to Pastor Coronel) and his brother Constantino were leaders in the Catholic Agrarian Leagues and key proponents of cooperation between the leagues and a nascent OPM in 1973. When OPM was discovered in 1976, both brothers were detained, beaten, and held for years. While imprisoned in 1978, Corsino Coronel began a hunger strike calling for the release of all political prisoners. He gained his freedom after a few weeks in February 1978, but his brother was held for five more months. The ministry officials who arrested Corsino Coronel in 1982 did so explicitly “as a matter of precaution in light of the upcoming visit of the leaders of our country and of Brazil for the opening of the Itaipú sluicegates” (CDyA 1982).

Potential for resistance was reason enough for arrest. Even though OPM and the Catholic Agrarian Leagues had been hunted for years and were not at the same level of organization as they had been in the 1970s, they were still depicted as live dangers. Coronel's association with them was a thing of the present and a possibility for the future. Like Slavoj Žižek's (2006:28) reading of Jacques Lacan's psychoanalyst as the “subject supposed to know,” for whom belief antedates proof, ministry officials knew that Coronel had subversive thoughts, which were then revealed through interrogation. But it was not merely that Corsino Coronel could pose a threat to Stroessner's life or the integrity of Itaipú Dam in 1982. The Ministry of the Interior was under pressure to demonstrate its competence after the 1980 assassination of former Nicaraguan president Anastasio Somoza in Asunción by a Sandinista hit squad led by a former member of Argentina's ERP (whose name had previously been given to the ministry). Itaipú provided a dual opportunity for the Stroessner state to reiterate its dominance over all life, physical and symbolic, in Paraguay. With pomp and in military garb, Stroessner met with his Brazilian counterpart, surrounded by national and international press, in a moment of layered witnessing. The military leaders watched as the sluicegates were opened and the Paraná River flowed under the command of the dam built by the two regimes. Through the press, the national publics that consumed the media beheld the subjugation of nature by the personal representations of the Brazilian and the Paraguayan nation-states.

Itaipú finally began churning out electricity in 1984 when the first of 18 turbines was installed and brought online. Each of these moments was celebrated as a solemn triumph of state over nature. At 12:20 a.m. on Thursday, January 15, 1987, ministry officials in Asunción got a frantic call from agents who had been stationed at the dam in anticipation of a presidential visit to oversee the initialization of several new turbines. Just 20 minutes prior, at midnight, 95 percent of the workforce at the two Brazilian construction consortia Unicon and Itamon had walked off the job, clamoring for salary improvements. Even as the Brazilian workforce demanded increased wages, workers on the Paraguayan side of the dam agitated for equal treatment between the two halves of the construction personnel, “unleashing a campaign of agitation that culminated in the distribution of pamphlets” (CDyA 1987a, 1987b). As the strike continued in the early morning hours of January 15, a growing mass of protestors carrying placards gathered at the worksite access road in Brazil and began diverting all traffic from Itaipú (CDyA 1987d). The Paraguayan half of the construction site received emergency orders to not let in any personnel or vehicles from the two Brazilian companies (CDyA 1987e). Itaipú officials decided to give all the workers a four-day weekend, starting at noon, which they “believe[d] would solve the inconvenience” (CDyA 1987c). These unusual measures were taken “to give security … to the interview between the presidents of our country and of Brazil during the switching-on of the new turbines” (CDyA 1987c).

The January 1987 strike was treated quite differently from the strikes of the 1970s. Instead of detentions, participants and nonparticipants alike were given days off. The slew of informes that detailed the progression of the strike described the leaders as “agitators” and gave incriminating details like “university graduate,” but nothing akin to the depiction of murderous clandestine communist extremists, which was common for the 1970s (CDyA 1987b). To be clear, however, the police apparatus within Paraguay was by no means benign at this point. Extrajudicial arrests and torture were still commonplace, and some of the Paraguayan workers were fired for their participation in the January strike. Nevertheless, although parts of the opposition to Stroessner continued to follow a Marxist analysis, the critique by these Itaipú workers was one within the logic of the system set up by the dictatorship. The request on January 1987 was not to overthrow the system but to fulfill its stated mandates: in this case, the equal pay of Brazilian and Paraguayan workers.

The protests by workers from both sides of the dam were coordinated, timed to coincide with the presidential visits and to take advantage of the extra media attention, given Paraguay's censorship of major protests. For the Paraguayan workers, this was especially important because of the recent closure of Radio Ñanduti, the independent national radio station of record. Increased repression of the press was accompanied by a fraying of Stroessner's control because the system he had built no longer required him at the helm. The three-decade state of siege was lifted from Asunción later that year and the returns to democracy in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and even Chile were well underway, making the authoritarian Stronato look increasingly outdated. Rising Colorado Party members resented the unwillingness of Stroessner's old guard to cede room for new elites. The coup that unseated Stroessner took place two years after the January 1987 Itaipú workers strike.

At the denouement of the Stronato and of Itaipú's early operation, the entire state (both in ideological and institutional dimensions) underwent a long transformation. As the Cold War and the military governments in South America ended, the Stroessner authoritarian model lost regional allies and international legitimacy (esp. regarding any tolerance to human rights abuses). With the conclusion of Itaipú construction, the quick-fix financial boom vanished as Itaipú-related growth had to then depend on energy sales. The Ministry of the Interior also experienced a change, although perhaps not as quickly as first hoped. Very few ministry officials were charged for their human rights violations, and even fewer were apprehended as the ministry continued to gather intelligence and administer violence during interrogations that continued even after 1989. The relationship between Itaipú Dam and the broader Paraguayan state also began to modify (Folch 2012).

CONCLUSION

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. PRELUDE TO ITAIPÚ: THE STRONATO'S BEST-LAID PLANS
  4. CONSTRUCTING ITAIPÚ DAM: FULFILLING STROESSNER STATE PROMISES
  5. ITAIPÚ OPERATION AND THE ATTENUATION OF THE STRONATO
  6. CONCLUSION
  7. NOTES
  8. REFERENCES CITED

In April 2008, Bishop Fernando Lugo became the first non–Colorado Party president in living memory in an equally unprecedented nonviolent government transition. Itaipú Dam played a central role in his campaign message: he upheld the dam as an emblem of unfulfilled promises as the wealth and energy produced failed to reach the Paraguayan people. The student movements, Agrarian Leagues, and workers’ groups that began as opposition to Stroessner then converged behind candidate Lugo to finally overturn the last vestige of the dictatorship: one-party rule. Other political parties joined their coalition, bringing Lugo to victory. The “consciousness-raising” experiences of the past around the dam made Itaipú a key component of the grassroots movement. Their repeated message—that the Colorado Party elite had squandered the financial and hydroelectric resources of the dam—resonated so deeply across the political spectrum that it has become the widely accepted narrative of Itaipú's past and helped Lugo gain the presidency. Ironically, the Archive of Terror is one of the best sources to untangle the complicated history between these opposition movements and Itaipú because of Paraguay's history of censorship.

During its development, Itaipú Dam served as subtext, conduit, and justification for the Stroessner state's repression of opposition. Writing and violence through the dam were part of hydroelectric statecraft—an assemblage of political practices that were conditioned by the hydroelectric potential of the Paraná River. This does not imply that management of the hydroelectricity initiated an authoritarian state structure within Paraguay. Rather, Stroessner and his ruling coterie recognized in the hydroelectric potential of the Paraná a potential for the amplification of their own dominance. The Paraguayan state was made by wielding the resources of the Paraná as symbolic and economic capital as well as by using the bureaucratic and interpersonal linkages forged through the construction and operation of the dam. But by the time the dam was almost entirely complete, the Stronato governance model had become stifling to rising elites and, in fact, was proving to not be sustainable because the lucrative opportunities from construction disappeared. With no long-term investment in the development of industry, there was no new source of wealth building for the elites (or employment for workers). At the time of the January 1987 protest, it was not only that labor was at last strong but also that the political-economic elite within Paraguay were at a point of instability.

The linking of Itaipú Dam to the Ministry of the Interior security apparatus reveals that there are mutually influencing effects between large hydroelectric projects and the state structures that build them, what I call “hydroelectric statecraft.” I argue that these effects go beyond the fostering of an unaccountable rent-seeking elite or the economic bifurcation that comes from a “resource curse,” in which the sector controlling the resource enjoys growth while the rest are enervated by neglect. If a dam planned on the scale of Itaipú is to fit into a political-economic project, then it should come as no surprise that it takes on many of the characteristics of that project including, in this case, state disciplinarian. In unmasking the human rights violations conducted via noncoercive branches of government and revealing how documents hold alternative histories of resistance to authoritarian regimes, the connections between Itaipú Dam and the Archive of Terror suggest a new direction for the study of state-run energy companies and for the ethnography of Paraguay.

By simultaneously affirming the modernizing impetus of the regime and its utter dominance over opposition, careful management of the visible and the hidden served to bolster the dictatorship for decades. In this, the Stroessner regime has much in common with other military dictatorships of the mid–20th century, although the longevity of his government and the opacity that results from Paraguay's geographical isolation beckon a closer look. What was unusual about the Stronato was its dependence on the entailments of hydroelectricity for both the seen and unseen outlays of power. The particular constraints of hydroelectricity in South America—that Itaipú was on a border and thus transnational to the very core—augmented the security capacity of the dam. Hydroelectric dams are potential targets for terrorist attacks; nevertheless, Itaipú security was designed not only to protect the dam from saboteurs but also to protect the Stroessner rule from rivals. The Paraguayan citizens who were disciplined at the behest of Itaipú Dam sought to unseat one of the century's longest-lasting authoritarian regimes. Although the story of Itaipú and the Ministry of the Interior seems to be one of state power, it is also a story of great courage among ordinary people who longed for the freedom to choose their destinies and who dared oppose the government to do so.

NOTES

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. PRELUDE TO ITAIPÚ: THE STRONATO'S BEST-LAID PLANS
  4. CONSTRUCTING ITAIPÚ DAM: FULFILLING STROESSNER STATE PROMISES
  5. ITAIPÚ OPERATION AND THE ATTENUATION OF THE STRONATO
  6. CONCLUSION
  7. NOTES
  8. REFERENCES CITED

Acknowledgments

Acknowledgments I thank Alessandro Angelini, Marc Edelman, Nada Moumtaz, Jeremy Rayner, Julie Skurski, Neil Smith, Katherine Verdery, Carey Wallace, Melissa Zavala, and four anonymous reviewers and Tom Boellstorff at American Anthropologist for their generous feedback and comments, which have strengthened and clarified the argument. The shortcomings that remain are my own. This article is based on dissertation fieldwork in Paraguay (2007–10), supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the Fulbright IIE. Writing of this article was supported by the Mellon-ACLS and the New York Public Library's Wertheim Study. Special thanks go to staff of the Center for the Documentation and Archive for the Defense of Human Rights (Asunción, Paraguay) and, particularly, Luis M. Benítez Riera and Rosa Palau for their assistance in the archive and for their engaging feedback on the significance of the documents I encountered. And, finally, I thank the many Paraguayans who shared their vulnerable and courageous stories of resistance and whose commitment to equity and peace I attempt to honor here.

1. With an installed capacity of 14,000 megawatts, Itaipú produces more energy than any other power plant. The dam's energy, annual sales of $4 billion, and $19 billion construction debt are equally co-owned by Brazil and Paraguay, leading to ongoing conflicts about how to share the energy and financial resources between the two countries and about how to invest the money from the dam within Paraguay and Brazil Paraguay's government receives about $750 million from Itaipú annually. In a country in which the GDP in 2008 was $14 billion and the average income of Paraguay's six million inhabitants was less than $1,000, Itaipú had the potential to redirect the economy. For recent work on the political economy–ecology and history of Itaipú Binational dam and the Paraguayan nation-state, see Folch 2012.

2. Paraguay is unusual among its neighbors in having depended chiefly on the Ministry of the Interior (i.e., the police) to repress opposition during the dictatorship. The authoritarian regimes of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay of the same era used the armed forces for the same tasks.

3. Remnants of the Ministry of the Interior's files were uncovered by torture victim Martín Almada in 1992. They are now housed in a climate-controlled UNESCO site in Asunción called the Center for the Documentation and Archive for the Defense of Human Rights (Centro de documentación y archivo para la defensa de los derechos humanos), denoted here as “CDyA.” It is popularly referred to as the “Archive of Terror” (Archivo del terror) in Paraguay.

4. From 1865 to 1870, Paraguay fought (and lost) the War of the Triple Alliance to the combined forces of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. As a result of the war, nine out of ten Paraguayan males (incl. children) lost their lives and one-third of the national territory was apportioned to Argentina and Brazil. The devastating war is the defining national moment for Paraguayan national identity and the hermeneutic through which international relations are interpreted. The 1872 treaty ended hostilities between Brazil and Paraguay but also ensured that there would be future border conflicts between the two countries because of the ambiguous definition of that border. The confusing term is the preposition hasta (which can mean “up to” or “including”) in Article 1 of the treaty, which reads: “The territory of the Empire of Brazil is divided from the Republic of Paraguay by the waterway or canal of the Paraná River… to [hasta] the Great Fall of the Seven Falls of the same Paraná River” (see Tratado de límites entre la República del Paraguay y el Imperio del Brasil [1872]).

5. Acta de Foz do Iguaçu (1966; Brazil-Paraguay).

REFERENCES CITED

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. PRELUDE TO ITAIPÚ: THE STRONATO'S BEST-LAID PLANS
  4. CONSTRUCTING ITAIPÚ DAM: FULFILLING STROESSNER STATE PROMISES
  5. ITAIPÚ OPERATION AND THE ATTENUATION OF THE STRONATO
  6. CONCLUSION
  7. NOTES
  8. REFERENCES CITED
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  • Centro de Documentación y Archivo para la Defensa de Derechos Humanos (CDyA), Asunción, Paraguay. 1965c Declaración y datos de los detenidos por la manifestación pública efectuada en el día de hoy sabado 27 de noviembre 1965, en protesta por la ocupación brasileña del Salto del Guairá Juan Carlos Da Costa. File 00001F0981. November 27.
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