Obituary: General Andres Rodrguez

In February 1989, when General Andres Rodrguez toppled Alfredo Stroessner from office after his 35 years as president of the impoverished republic of Paraguay, few people saw it as more than a power struggle between the two men. But Rodrguez proved the unlikely architect of a democratic civilian regime which is now attempting to bring the small landlocked country out of decades of isolation.

Like many upper-class Latin Americans, Rodrguez, who was born in the small town of Borja in 1923, chose an army career as a way to get on in society. He graduated from the military academy in 1946, and soon after, as a cavalry officer, was involved in the 1947 civil war which led to the banning of the Communist Party and the beginning of the ascendancy of the authoritarian Colorado Party.

After Stroessner became president in 1954, the rule of the Colorado Party became increasingly dictatorial. Rodrguez was busy rising through the officer ranks, and became closely identified with the Stroessner regime. By 1968 he was the man who annually pledged the armed forces' allegiance to the president; their relationship was cemented on a personal level when one of his daughters married Stroessner's son.

But the short, stocky general was also alleged to be one of the main beneficiaries of the corruption which also characterised the Stroessner years. Rodrguez was said to have amassed a fortune from smuggling - anything from Scotch whisky to drugs in more recent years - as well as from foreign currency dealings. He lived in a replica French palace, and used his position as a confidant of the Paraguayan strong man to gain further influence and wealth.

Personalised regimes of this kind are seldom without bitter rivalries. At the start of February 1989, Rodrguez, by then commander-in-chief of the First Army Corps, led a coup against the old dictator. Many people saw this as a pre-emptive strike by the younger man, who had got wind of the fact that Stroessner was attempting to get rid of him.

Whatever the truth of the matter, Rodrguez's coup was successful, and he confirmed his position in presidential elections on 1 May 1989. Stroessner was despatched to exile in Brazil, and most of the Colorado Party faithful thought that life could simply go on as before, with a younger, more energetic strong man running the country.

It was at this point that the script began to acquire unexpected twists and turns. Rodrguez lifted the ban on most of the other political parties - though not the Communist Party. These parties finally got him to accept a new constitution, which debarred him from standing for office again. The general even took steps to end Paraguay's isolation, by making sure it was involved from the start with Mercosur, the common market linking Paraguay to Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.

In 1993, Rodrguez helped oversee the elections for his successor, and accepted the election to president of the first civilian in more than 50 years with good grace. At the same time, he was careful to preserve his own position by getting himself named a senator for life - thus ensuring parliamentary immunity from anyone rash enough to try to prove any of the corruption allegations against him.

In 1996, Rodrguez was instrumental in helping resolve a military challenge to the new president, Juan Carlos Wasmosy. By then, however, he was already suffering from the cancer which resulted in his death.

Nick Caistor

Andres Rodrguez Pedotti, politician: born Borja, Paraguay 19 June 1923; President of Paraguay 1989-93; married 1948 Nelida Reig (three daughters); died New York 21 April 1997.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick