ASUNCION – Paraguayan human rights activist Martin Almada on Wednesday urged that the properties of deceased dictator Alfredo Stroessner, who ruled from 1954-1989, be used as refuges for the more than 70,000 people evacuated in this capital due to recent flooding by the Paraguay River.
Almada, a Nobel Prize nominee, told EFE that the 100 or so shelter areas established by the government for the people from neighborhoods inundated by the rising river waters are not enough and that the problem could be mitigated by declaring the “ill-gotten properties of the Stroessner family, accomplices and accessories (to be) mandatory refuges.”
The activist, who was tortured under the dictatorship, referred to two old mansions that Stroessner owned in Asuncion but which are currently abandoned as potential spaces that could house evacuees.
The larger of the two properties is in the Santisima Trinidad neighborhood and covers 7,810 square meters (some 84,000 square feet), including streets, serving passageways and spaces allocated to public buildings.
He also said that the shelters offered by the government to the evacuees do not provide dignified living conditions and do not represent a solution to the problem, but rather constitute “an aspirin, a painkiller.”
Of the 72,500 evacuees, some 66,000 are living in areas set aside by the government around the city and where they have erected rickety shacks.
The Paraguay River generally floods just once a decade, but in each of the past two years its level has exceeded 5.5 meters (18 feet), and it currently stands at 7.68 meters (25 feet), above the worst forecasts made by the government.