ASUNCION – Paraguay’s Senate paid tribute on Thursday to Joel Filartiga, a physician, human rights activist and artist who resisted the 1954-1989 dictatorship of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner.
The 86-year-old Filartiga rolled into the chamber in a wheelchair and received from Sen. Paraguayo Cubas a plaque recognizing “his unwavering struggle for health, liberty and justice.”
Filartiga is known both for his resistance to the Stroessner regime and for his work providing health care to peasants and indigenous people at the clinic he founded in 1959 in Ybycui, a town in the central province of Paraguari.
The doctor dedicated the award to his son, Joelito Filartiga, tortured and killed by Stroessner’s secret police at the age of 17 “for having the same vocation” as his father.
The March 1976 murder of Joelito inspired the 1991 television film, “One Man’s War,” featuring Anthony Hopkins in the role of Joel Filartiga.
Filartiga also honored the Spanish Jesuit Francisco Oliva, who accompanied him to the ceremony, describing the priest as “a Spaniard who loves my country very much and is my role model.”
Given the opportunity to address the Senate, Filartiga urged lawmakers to protect Paraguay’s peasants from “the invasion of soy,” referring to the actions of multinational companies – most of them Brazilian – to push farmers off the land to make room for soy plantations.