ASUNCION – Sabino Augusto Montanaro, Paraguay’s interior minister during the 1954-1989 dictatorship of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner, returned to his country Friday after two decades in Honduras.
Montanaro, 86 and ailing, was accompanied on the flight from Tegucigalpa by his son.
Physicians at a police hospital in Asuncion said the former official is suffering from senility and Parkinson’s disease, among other ailments.
“His condition is not critical, it’s more due to cellular deterioration normal for his age. He is lucid, he responds to simple questions,” Dr. Nicolas Lezcano told reporters, while Montanaro’s lawyer, Luis Troche, said his client “renounced the protection of political asylum” because of his failing health.
As interior minister from 1966 to the end of the Stroessner regime, Montanaro was instrumental in the abduction, torture and murder of government opponents and he faces numerous criminal charges in Paraguay.
Outside the hospital, scores of people who suffered or lost loved ones under the dictatorship clashed with police while demanding that Montanaro be jailed.
“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, whose father, Dr. Agustin Goiburu, was abducted from the Argentine border city of Posadas by agents of the Stroessner government.
The investigation of that 40-year-old crime is being led by Judge Arnaldo Fleitas, who ordered Montanaro confined in the police hospital.
The judge has already sentenced the former Paraguayan consul in Posadas, Francisco Ortiz Tellez, to 10 years in prison for tipping off Stroessner’s government to the whereabouts and activities of Dr. Goiburu.
Martin Almada, an attorney, human rights activist and former political prisoner, said Montanaro must also answer for the “thousands of (people) disappeared within the framework of Operation Condor.”
Secret documents discovered by Almada in 1992 establish that Montanaro played a major role in kidnappings and killings carried out under Condor: a coordinated pursuit of dissidents by the military regimes that ran Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay during the 1970s and ‘80s.
Montanaro fled to Tegucigalpa in 1989 after the coup that overthrew Stroessner, who died nearly three years ago in Brazil at the age of 93.
Ananias Maidana, a veteran leader of Paraguay’s Communist Party, said Friday that Montanaro was “the bloodiest repressor” of the Stroessner regime. EFE