Behind the Bastards

There’s a reason the History Channel has produced hundreds of documentaries about Hitler but only a few about Dwight D. Eisenhower. Bad guys (and gals) are eternally fascinating. Behind the Bastards dives in past the Cliffs Notes of the worst humans in history and exposes the bizarre realities of their lives. Listeners will learn about the young adult novels that helped Hitler form his monstrous ideology, the founder of Blackwater’s insane quest to build his own Air Force, the bizarre lives of the sons and daughters of dictators and Saddam Hussein’s side career as a trashy romance novelist.

Part One: Alfredo Stroessner: The Luckiest Dictator

Part One: Alfredo Stroessner: The Luckiest Dictator

Tue, 21 Mar 2023 10:00

Robert is joined by James Stout to discuss Alfredo Stroessner.

(2 Part Series)

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Thank you, everybody. How you doing, Sofi? You fucking suck. This is behind the bastards, a podcast where Sofi and I banter and then people on the subreddit decide whether or not it's problematic. The moral norstar that is subreddit. Thank God. I just think it's so, I just the subreddit so funny sometimes where they're like, aww, is everything okay there? It's like, yes, but also no. I don't know if it's okay. Yeah. I mean, the thing is we love our fans and I appreciate that there's 55,000 people who want to talk about the show and a subreddit. That's that's kind of amazing. But at the same time, there's like a degree of all of these podcast episodes, everything we do. There's like a script today's script for this two partners, 8,665 words. It's usually between 8 and 10,000 words. But also like a third of the runtime of any episode is just us talking and the amount of fine tooth comb going over that people do of like of like a like little jokes or like someone will misspeak or you'll transpose a couple of letters and a word. And then there's like 30 people talking about it. It's like guys. Come on, man. We are recording a conversation. You know how those work. We've already recorded several other conversations. We will make some gaps. Yeah. Come on, man. Chill out. God bless the people. I know. I like subreddits, man. I keep in my heart the people who are like just listening to this so they don't have to be alone with their thoughts while driving or vacuuming the house or you know sheering a goat walking the dog. God bless all of you. God bless you and God bless us everyone. James, please out. Welcome to the program. Thank you, Robert. I'm glad to be here. Yeah, amongst the goat shearers amongst the goat shearers James. What do you know about Paraguay? Yeah, I'm going to say it's not really an expertise for many people outside of Paraguay. This is not a country that gets talked about a lot. It's certainly not a country that like Americans talk about a lot. I had to like really, I had to go into the reading about this to learn much of any just because like my life the first 34 years of my life had not provided me with much information passively about the country of Paraguay. Now Paraguay is if you're like me and up until recently had not spent much time thinking about the country is a lovely little landlocked nation bordered by Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina. And it is perhaps the most doomed little country I've ever read about. We Belgium, but, but they wound up doing a lot of other people and Paraguay never did that. So the subject for our episode today is another little another dictator Alfredo stress. And, you know, we got to go through some history before we talk about stress. And, you know, we got to go through some history of the first 30 years of my life, but we got to go through some history of the first 30 years of my life. And, you know, we got to go through some history of the first 30 years of my life, but we got to go through some history of the first 30 years of my life. And, you know, we got to go through some history of the first 30 years of my life, but we got to go through some history of the first 30 years of my life. Paraguay might kind of be cursed. They have a rough chunk of history after like the liberation from Spain. Like most of Latin America, Paraguay is founded as a Spanish colony in the early 16th century. And, up until the last 20 years or so, it was not democratic in any meaningful way. One book that I read, Paraguay under stress, by Paul Lewis describes it as an unbroken sequence of dictatorships. Now, that is a nasty way to describe a political situation. It's also worth noting that when we're talking about the 1800s, that's an accurate description for basically everywhere on earth. Like, you could argue it's not that far off from describing the United States in that period given the amount of people who are enslaved or otherwise disenflicated. So Paraguay is not alone, you know, in the 1800s and having a bunch of dictatorships. Now, when the country achieved its independence from Spain in 1811, it left behind a obviously Spain, it could be a very brutal colonial master. But it didn't like do so in order to take on a more liberatory political system. The architect of their split from Spain, a guy named Dr. José Gaspar Rodriguez Diffrancia, wound up as dictator. And that's probably not surprising to that many people. He seems to have been fairly popular. He spends 25 years in power, which is a substantial reign for dictator. Stalin and Mao both only get like four years more than that. And those are kind of two famously, you know, and this is 1811, which makes it, I think, more impressive. Yeah, because people didn't live very long. Yeah, so he's in there a long time. And while he's in charge, you know, it is a dictatorship. And he brutally purges, you know, any kind of opposition that attempts to form. But for most Paraguayans, it's a pretty peaceful and relatively positive time, especially compared to kind of the previous period. It's worth noting that his official title voted to him by the populist was L. Supremo. So it could vote for his title, but not for his right to be done. When I vote, put quotation marks in there. It's like a thing where they've got like a parliament or whatever or a Congress that's like, you know, is basically enthralled to the dictator and periodically he'll have it vote for things, you know, that's kind of the story of Paraguay for quite a while. I don't want to be judging this guy based on his appearance, but this man has a face like a spanked ass if we. I've never heard anyone describe that way. That's like I just put about a picture from in the chat. And I think it'll come to you. Like that is they've not a looker. Oh my God. You know his face. My people, you need to Google this man. His face does look like a spanked ass. There's no other way of coming. If you put his nose on a nose, that would be his face. It's like the bottom half of his face collapsed in on itself because he smelled something so unpleasant. Like it looks like he's. Yeah, like awful. His five head is is really. It's incredible. What a horrible portraits. I like. I wonder if he killed the person who painted this. I would that would be okay. I'm just going to say. Having this portrait made of you justifies at least one murder. This person struck a powerful blow for democracy. So one of the fun things about Paraguay and dictators is that they all are named like luchadors. So this guy is L. Supremo, his successor, Carlos Antonio Lopez, who's also dictator for life is L. Excellentissimo. Oh wow. Yeah, I know. It's fun. These are these are some good names. I'm going to be honest with you. Yeah. He was like, yeah, we got to throw a fucking adjective up on that. Yeah. I'm taken to the max. So if you look at Paraguay on a map, again, it is immediately obvious why the country has had such a tumultuous history. It is landlocked and it is surrounded by Brazil and Argentina. Two countries that are famously not peaceful with their neighbors during the 1800s. Although it's Paraguay that's going to be starting shit with them. So the early 1800s are not a peaceful time in South America. And given the fact that Paraguay lacked any natural. So Paraguay is kind of geographically. You might think of them as the opposite of Switzerland. Switzerland is like such a natural fortress that even with very few people, they could hold off armies many times their size. Paraguay has abs basically no natural defenses other than that it's hot and there's lots of mosquitoes. Which isn't nothing, but like anyone can kind of walk in there and cause problems. And so as a result, its early dictators chose wisely to invest very heavily in the army. They're like, we're probably going to wind up getting our asses kicked if we don't do this. And by the time Carlos Lopez, that's L. X. L. Antisimote dies, his son Francisco Solano Lopez takes power. And at that point, the little country has a military that is larger and more well-funded than one would expect from a country of that size. Unfortunately, Francisco Lopez is, he's going to take an ill-advised year abroad to Europe. It's actually more like 18 months when he's in his 20s. Now a lot of people go on gap year and you know, yeah, go to some raves and be intolerable in Barcelona. And it takes some e briefly date a German girl who has interesting opinions on the moon landing. We've all had good experiences on our gap year. Unfortunately, that is not the case with Francisco Lopez. Because so the his equivalent of entering into an ill-advised romantic relationship from someone he met at a rave is he hangs out with Emperor Napoleon III of France. So I'm going to quote from an article in the January 2013 issue of Military Heritage magazine here. It was taken particularly with the glittering Marshall Splinter of the court of the French Emperor Napoleon III. Returning home, Lopez brought back with him several steamships to fill out the Imbrionic Paraguay and Fleet, along with all the guns ammunition and gold braid that his deep pockets could purchase. He also brought back, it's a bling that I'm, yeah, he's getting blinged out. He also brought back a new mistress and Irish adventurous named Eliza Lynch, who like many a gold digger before her catered to her meal tickets outsized ego, recklessly encouraging his delusions of grandeur and dreams of imperial glory. Now, I don't know how entirely fair it is to blame this Irish chick. Yeah, what happens next? But that's how that magazine put it. Yeah. So I can't see military heritage being particularly woke on gender issues. Yeah, that is very likely. That said, she does come up in any right up you find the guy. I think there's a lot going on. I mean, he's a rich kid whose dad was the dictator and he goes to Europe, falls in love with these European armies. And he builds himself a splendid little army based on the solid base that his dad has left him in 1857. He's made vice president of Paraguay and then in 1862 his dad dies in Francisco takes power. And he from the beginning he cannot give up kind of these dreams Napoleon had stoked of military excellence. He's a little bit like that doomed Habsburg who's going to get murdered in Mexico right around this same time period. So this little military, very good military as predecessors had built was adequate, very adequate to the task of defending Paraguay from intrusion by a neighbor. So he's he's got this toy like his for him for Lopez this wonderful army that his predecessors built is like this big shiny toy and he spends like a couple of years outfitting it and getting it really set up. But he's you know the reasonable thing to do if you're Paraguay is just kind of try to keep being Paraguay right as opposed to starting a war with the neighbors who surround you in are all much larger. So as though he wants to be a big continental power like France and so in 1864 he decides to take that leap you know to to throw the iron dice. So Uruguay which is you know pretty close is racked by a sort of soft civil war at the time between two rival political parties. Again neither of them is very democratic but one of these parties is backed or one of these parties which is like the party in power at the time is friendly with Lopez and Paraguay Brazil backs the other party and in this kind of kind of internet scene struggle the party that Brazil is backing in arming winds Lopez takes offense to this he demands that Brazil stop giving military support to Uruguay and Brazil is like you guys are like a speed bump where Brazil of course not. What do you think we're going to listen to you. They are much bigger so he makes a questionable decision Paraguay is on this river and there's like a Brazilian merchant ship that's in port in the capital and he has his forces sees that merchant ship and when they do they find out that the Brazilian governor of the bordering province of Mattagroso is on the ship. So Lopez arrests this guy throws him in a dungeon and then since his and then invades Mattagroso and like and it's this it's a very big sparsely populated province he basically just marches in takes the tiny capital town and then it's like we own this whole thing so that is a bold yeah that's the size of his country and one fell swoop yeah and thinking this will probably be okay so like this is a bold move at the best of times and if he had just wound up going to war with Brazil that's a tough fight for Paraguay right that's like that's like Kansas going to war with the entire state of Texas like it's not you know the kind of odds are stacked against him as he is as it is like stop just at taking Mattagroso because the next thing he does is he still pissed that Brazil has backed the side he didn't like in this conflict in Uruguay so he sends his army to Uruguay to like take back power for his people and at the time by the way while he's doing all of this he has a he has himself get voted the nickname L supremo so L supremo since his forces off to to Uruguay to win some glory but the problem is that there's like this slice of me no let's get to ask you one of the exact geniuses so loop has like asks for permission to send his army through and Argentinus like no what do you what do you have of course not we're not gonna let you do this and so he declares war on Argentina to so great what What a chat. The third thing that happens is that because of everything else we've talked about, Uruguay winds up declaring war in him as well. Um, so, this is a, this is a bad situation to be in. And he, you know, he launches a couple of attacks with his well-made little army and his well-made little army winds up getting just bashed to pieces in large part because he is an incompetent commander. After thousands and thousands are dead, it becomes clear to El Supremo that the population of young adult males is not going to be enough to sustain Paraguay's war effort. So he starts drafting children, creating battalions of 12-year-olds to hold the line and suicidal last stands to delay the enemy. For an idea of how bad this is, there are reports of like Brazilian soldiers massacring trench lines and then when they realize they've just shot a bunch of 12-year-olds like weeping and like just breaking down because like, you know, like, that's a pretty bad situation. Don't want to be killing it 12-year-old. No, nobody, very few people want to kill 12-year-olds. Yeah, right. Yeah. So as this war drags on, Lopez starts drafting old men and eventually even women, he has them doing a lot of like logistics work in the back. And in 1869, Asuncion, the capital falls and Lopez flees into the hills to fight a guerrilla war, which he is just as bad at as the rest of this. The last of his forces are surrounded in 1870 and he dies abandoning them trying to wait across the river. Now that's kind of funny the way this ends and like, objectively, there's an absurdity to how badly this war goes. But like, James, you and I have both reported on and studied a lot of wars. I don't think I've ever read about a war that goes worse for a country. No, this goes, this is called the War of the Triple Alliance. So the death toll of the War of the Triple Alliance is comparable to the American Civil War. There is no accurate prewar census of Paraguay. All of the estimates of the percentage of the country that dies are kind of based on calculations that are themselves a little bit of a crapshoot. But I have every analysis that I've read makes basically the same point, which is Paraguay suffered a higher percentage of its populace dead than any country in a war I can name. The most common estimates say that two-thirds of the prewar population die. Some estimates place the death toll. There are estimates as high as 90%. Although that's likely high, but everyone seems to agree 60% percent of the entire country dead is a reasonable estimate. This includes 90% of the prewar male population. Wow. And so postwar chunks of the country will have a 20 to one ratio of women to men. So that's about as bad as a war could go. Yeah. That's no great. It's really sub-optimal outcome for everyone. Maybe apart from the due to survive. I don't think that. I don't think that. I don't think that. I don't think that. The graphic collapse. Wow. Yeah. It is. It is. I don't think I've ever heard of a war going that badly. When you're making German casualties in World War II seem like, well, you can back from that. Yeah. I mean, they didn't even do like 12-year-olds at the battle of the song. That is. Yeah. I love that the misogyny kept on even when they were sending 12-year-olds out there. Like, I'm going to keep women out of the front line. I can't come up with the 90s with guns. Yeah. There's a lot actually to say about, because I've read a couple of articles about this, about the way in which this impacts cultures of entrenched misogyny in Paraguay that I am not really competent to go into. But there's a lot written about what happens when you're the first generation of young men after this. There's a 20-to-1 female-be-male ratio and all this attention being lavished on you because of how badly this war goes and how decimated the population of men was prior to this. You can find some really interesting writing on this. I don't want to. We'd be getting a little bit off of where I feel competent talking to go much more into it, but it's worth reading that. Yeah. You're going to fuck up your society for genetically as well as socially. Yeah. It's very rarely good if 90% of any group in your society gets mess-cured. Yeah. He's bested the black debt in terms of decimating his own population. Yeah. Lopez gets the behind the bastards of a war for probably the worst at war. Yeah. I don't think I've ever heard of anyone fail worse than having a war with this. But you know who's good at engaging in unrestricted warfare? Oh, the Raytheon Cooperation. They are one of the best. Yeah. And all of our sponsors believe that you can only truly achieve victory in a conflict by salting the earth with the bones of your enemy. So, you know, you get the gold, isn't it? You grow from the bones. That's right. That's right. That's where gold comes from. And also, where the best delivered mattresses are forged from. Anyway, the bi-matchress. Hey, everybody. Robert Evans here. And this podcast is sponsored by HelloFresh. America's number one at-home meal kit. HelloFresh can make meal time easy with delicious recipes made with fresh, wholesome ingredients delivered to your door. There's no lines, no hassle, just great tasting meals that you can whip up and enjoy in the comfort of home. I know everybody's hurting from the cost of groceries these days. The price only seems to go up, which is why now is the perfect time to get started with HelloFresh. Because HelloFresh is cheaper than grocery shopping. And 25% less expensive than takeout. HelloFresh has 40 weekly recipes to choose from for all meal occasions, lifestyles, and preferences. Take your pick for meals like soy glee salmon with rice or mushroom and chive risotto. I'm personally looking forward to the lobster stuff, ravioli and shrimp that's on its way to my door right now. Couldn't be more excited. 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That's my only regret in this, is that I didn't do it 16 years ago and my vision started to go bad. So LASIC Plus is offering a thousand dollars off LASIC when treated in the month of March. That's $500 off per eye. That's a lot of money, guys. So just visit my LASIC offer dot com to schedule your free consultation. Again, my LASIC offer dot com to get a thousand dollars off in the month of March. We're back. So, Paraguay just kind of barely eeks it out as a country after this. And if you're interested in kind of much more to tail about this, the War of the Triple Alliance, which if you Google it, that's also like you'll get a lot of World War One results. Yeah. This is a different thing. The Lions led by Donkeys podcast did a good series on this, which you should check out. They go into it, spend a lot more time on it than we are, because this is just kind of setting the scene. So Paraguay, and kind of like there's the series, obviously, afterwards Brazil occupies the country. The people, the countries who would one take about a third of the landmass of Paraguay is kind of part of the war debt. And then there's another like cash war debt that staggers the economy for a few generations. The only reason that Paraguay survives at all as a nation is that Brazil and Argentina are big rivals, and neither of them is willing to let the other have Paraguay, right? They kind of like maintain a rump state there, just because it's not worth dealing with the conflict over who gets to have it. Now, Argentina in this period had played host to a lot of dissident Paraguayans, members of the old upper class who had had to flee the country when the dictators took over, right when Spain gets kicked out. And a bunch of these guys when Argentina participates in this invasion of Paraguay, they form up and join the Argentine army and like make a unit of like exiled Paraguay and fighting to liberate the country from Lopez. And so after 1870, Argentina successfully kind of helps maneuver these guys into power. And they draw up a democratic constitution that basically existed as an excuse for these people to sell off all of the state's land and businesses for their own personal profit. The British banking firm bearing, bearing brothers. Oh yeah, James. How do the British banking industry would get involved? I was just going to remark that selling off the entire country's assets for your own personal profit is a very British vibe. Like it's a thing it is. It is. It is. It is. I mean, wait. As a rule, if there's like a dictator in the 1800s, there's a British bank behind that. Let's not let's not limit the time period. So now, very bear. Yeah, we've made a longer proud tradition of doing this for the 20th century. So Margaret Thatcher's kid. So the the bearer, bearings brothers are like, wow, things are going great in Paraguay. Look at how effectively they have taken all of these national resources and handed them off to a tiny chunk number of oligarchs. Here's a couple of very large loans, Paraguay. And the oligarchs say, thank you for the loans that are meant to develop our country. We're just going to take the money though and buy houses. Yeah. And so the nation has left bankrupt and in ruinous debt after this. It's again, not the not the first or the last time this will happen. So the Brazilian military occupies Paraguay for a while, but they bounce pretty quick. And Paraguayans are left to try and navigate their place in South America, bereft of a couple generations of men and also any money. It does not go smoothly as scholar Paul Lewis describes Paraguay in governments after 1870 brought neither internal peace nor liberty, although they were still dictatorships. Managed elections or the direct seizure of power was the means by which every succeeding president achieved office. 44 men occupied the presidency in the 85 years between the death of Solano Lopez and Alfredo Streisner's coup in 1954. One president ever to every 23 months. Moreover, of those 44 more than half 24 were forced from office by violence or the threat of violence. Many of the remainder were simply provisional presidents who headed caretaker governments while the real contestants for power fought it out. 16 of the 24 presidents were overthrown, who were overthrown, served for less than a year and five of them were in office less than a month. Amazing. This is a lot of turnover. The worst is the period from 1910 to 1912. That is a two-year period in which Paraguay has seven presidents and nine administrations outstanding. Again, don't say that just wait because we can still do that in the United Kingdom. We've been pushing for it. Hey, I believe both your country and my country can have seven presidents in two years. Yeah, we'd love to see it. All it's going to take is the secret service getting a little bit more into cocaine. And they're already pretty into cocaine. It's going to be like cocaine bear up in there in the CIA and it'll be. I think it would be nice if our president, we adopted a pseudo-mystical tradition where the president gets to continue to be president as long as the cocaine bear does not eat him. And when it does, we all agree not to be partisan about it. It's just like that, what's its name? Seeing it shadow and deciding we're going to have more winter. It's like, the bear ate the president. We've got to get a new one in there. He's talking about the groundhog. The groundhog. I forgot the name groundhog. That is sorry. Yeah, Phil. Yeah. I recently learned apparently there is another groundhog called Staten Island Phil. But the previous New York mayor dropped it. Our groundhogs not drop safe. I think it depends on the height and probably the angle of the hole. This is another reason cats are superior. Yeah. You can drop a cat all day long. Where was this? Do you know? I'm just going to look at. Staten Island Phil dropped. Diplacio. Diplacio dropped. Here we go. Washington Post. Staten Island's famous groundhog died after Bill Diplacio dropped it. Incredible. Incredible. He's the friend Sisco Solano Lopez of New York groundhogs. Yeah, there were pictures. Oh no, there's a picture of it. It's way down. Delacio, how far did you drop him? Okay, cover your face. Was he standing on a balcony? Was he was he doing a Michael Jackson with this animal? Oh, God. If I had to get Diplacio at the top of my list of mayors. He's blamed the groundhog for his popularity. Wow. Yeah, man. So it goes out to that groundhog. Yeah, this is now dedicated to whatever that groundhog's name was. Phil. Staten Island Phil. Staten Island Phil. Oh my god. Diplacio. What the fuck? This phone is really. He really honestly. Also, you can't blame. You can't blame the groundhog. No, I like. He's another victim of state violence. This is yeah, I mean, Diplacio. And I have to say it. Another example of classic groundhog shaming, which is a plague in this country. So back to Paraguay. In the late 1920s, things are finally starting to improve slightly after that, after that two year seven precedent run. They start things even out a little bit. They get some more competent leaders who start to reinvest. I mean, they're mainly reinvesting in the military, but also not the worst idea given kind of the situation. Because at this point, the late 20s, the only neighbor that Paraguay has not lost a devastating war to Bolivia, starts sniffing around this region in northern Paraguay called the Chaco. And Bolivians are like, well, the last time Paraguay went toward didn't go good. And like, we could probably take him. And there's this kind of this place. The Chaco is kind of this like wasteland in the northern significant chunk of the country. It's not a wasteland, but that's how it gets described by people. It's like a kind of desertified territory. It looks beautiful. Honestly, I'd love to go hike there or something, although there's a hell of a lot of skaters. But there's this like, the Bolivia becomes briefly convinced because of like, they find a little bit of oil there. There's not really oil in the Chaco, but they are convinced that like, there's a shitload of oil in the Chaco. And so they're like, let us let's let's go invade and take this from Paraguay. And it's kind of obvious for a while. Part of why this is happening is that like when everybody gets their freedom from Spain, they don't always have like super clear maps of who's as what. So there's like this long argument about like whether or not, you know, this chunk of the Chaco should belong to Paraguay or Bolivia. So they're all arming while this is going on. And Paraguay puts this guy in command of their army in the Chaco called Jose Estegaribia. And he is going to be, there are military scholars who will say this guy is one of, if not the best field commanders in the history of modern warfare in the Americas. Because the war that's about to result from this is a modern war. They have tanks, they have machine guns, they have air power. This is going to occur in like the early 1930s. The Bolivians put an old German man in charge of their military. Now, one time, one time, one time, you're not even ready, James. You're not even ready. Because this guy is, this guy is no shit real name is general von Kunt. You lying. No, can you indeed see look this shit up? Oh, no, I know why Robert is happy on this episode. Oh, he's called Hanskunt. Yes, Hanskunt. Oh, he, I was going to say he was born. Yeah, this guy from the day he was born, which was fucked. Look, so this guy, first of all, the von means that he's German nobility. He is a German officer. Well, let me tell you the rest of the story. So he is a German general officer throughout the first world war in the Eastern front. And he has a reputation for two things. One, he is a competent logistical commander. And two, whenever there's any kind of combat, his go-to tactic is to throw every man he has into a suicidal headlong charge. He is a, he is one of the worst German command. He is terrible at what he's doing. He gets a shitload of men killed. But he's also, he becomes after the war a celebrity in Bolivia. Now, this is very like, like the question of like, why is this guy so beloved by the Bolivian? A lot of it is that like he loves Bolivia. Like he moves there after World War I. He like gets a job kind of acting as an instructor for the Bolivian military. This is very common at the time too. I mean, you have to remember that while von Kunt is very bad at what he does, I know, I know. The German military has just almost won a war against the world. So all of these little countries and big countries in South America are like, oh, the best people we can get to help us reform our militaries is some German guy, right? Because like, they got, they came pretty close to winning. So the Bolivians fall in love with von Kunt because he's just kind of this, despite the fact that he's shit-eatingly incompetent, he looks in talks like this like archetypal image of the Prussian military genius. And they just all kind of buy it. Paraguay's, again, Paraguay's army is commanded by Estegaribia, who's one of the best military leaders in the modern history of the Americas. And so the Chaco war, which results when Bolivia invades, is a fascinating conflict. It is going to be a test and ground for a lot of tactics that are key in World War II. This is not a military history podcast. So we're not going to labor long on the specifics. But there is one key detail. I think we need to talk about, which is that when the Paraguay and start arming up in the late 20s and early 30s, they have to make one of those tough decisions that countries who don't spend a trillion dollars a year on their army have to make, which is like, what kind of artillery do we buy? Because we can't afford a lot of it. And we can't afford many different kinds. So we're either going to be getting a few big guns or a lot of little ones. Now World War I had proven that modern wars can't really be one without big guns, but big guns come with all sorts of logistical hurdles. And Paraguay did not have the industrial base to manufacture the kind of shells and parts that larger field pieces needed. Artillery was also super vulnerable to air power. And Bolivia had an air force that outnumbered Paraguay's more than two to one. So the very savvy Bolivian military planners or Paraguay and military planners decided instead of buying a bunch of big, a few big field guns that planes can bomb. Why don't we just get hundreds and hundreds of 81 millimeter mortars? We'll just get a shit load of little mortars. And these are like man portable indirect fire weapons that you can camouflage easily. You can like pick them up and run like a motherfucker after shooting some stuff off. And they fire a small enough shell that Paraguay could afford to make it indigenously. This was a huge success. Paraguay becomes maybe the first nation to use mortars effectively in a modern combined arm since in the 20th century. They use mortars very similarly to how you're going to see them used in Ukraine and stuff during this conflict. And they just massacre the Bolivians. This war goes terrible for Bolivia despite having by far more men and tanks and stuff. And one of the officers who is in command of a mortar of a bunch of mortars during this war, I think he winds up at the end and control of a mortar regiment that helps to win the Chaco war is a guy who eventually a general named Alfredo Stressner. Right? That's the job that stress the big job Stressner does is he is a mortar commander. Now, Stressner's father Hugo had been part of the massive German diaspora that had moved to South America in the years leading up to the first world war. Hugo was a Bavarian who'd worked as an accountant for a brewery. His mother was the daughter of a wealthy Paraguayan family of it's she's actually a mix of basque and indigenous Paraguayan descent. Yeah. And so Stressner, fairly a lot of privilege, you know, but the fact that his dad is German, they have a lot more like money than most people and his mom comes from a family with money too. He enrolls in a military school when he's 16 and by the time the Chaco war breaks out, he's 19 years old and had established has established a reputation for himself as a competent leader who has earned the respect of his men. Paraguayan politics remains tumultuous in the years after the Chaco war, but Stressner succeeded in sliding past most people's radar because he's really fucking boring. We don't have a I don't have a I'm found a lot on this guy's early life on his childhood and stuff, but he is it seems accurate to say based on the stuff I have read that goes into detail that he is a quiet sober man whose main hobbies are chess, fishing and a weekly poker game. He gets married to a schoolteacher who's a few years older than him in 1940. They have three children and most people who knew Stressner at this point in time would be like, yeah, he's a quiet family man. He plays a lot of chess, you know, he's about as boring a guy as you're going to get. In 1940, he gets picked for advanced training at a military college and he returns home a major who superiors call him a complete officer who was discrete and circumspect. Again, everyone, everything about this guy is he is quiet and competent and not really worth talking about in much detail outside of that, which is again, we just finished our episodes on Romania and Chau Chescu. You always got to watch out for the quiet guys. If you ever meet someone who is quiet and competent, bear mace them. That's the only thing to do. You know, somebody, you know, changes your car oil, you know, quiet and competent mechanic, mace them. Do it to anybody who's good at anything and humble. That's the only way we can save ourselves from another Alfredo Stressner. So yeah, yeah, that's that's that seems fair. So by the early 40s, Perigui had taken a kind of rough stab at democratic politics. This never goes great for them and the parties that they have are never very committed to any scheme that might make them give up power if they happen to take it. The largest conservative party in the country is the Colorado party and it has both a democratic wing, which means a wing that cares about democracy and a wing that doesn't so much care about democracy. And in the early 40s, that second wing is run by a man named one Natalicio Gonzalez. Now, he'd been involved in a number of violent protests and one failed revolution before for which he'd been exiled and then sent to a concentration camp from which he had escaped. So Gonzalez has quite a background. And he had prior to getting like exiled the second time, he has been kind of a rabid, almost religious nationalist. And then he gets exiled the second time and he winds up like most Periguians who get exiled fleeing to Argentina. And Willie's in while he's in Argentina, he meets a bunch of socialists who have also been exiled because they had tried to do, you know, a revolution. And these socialists, you know, even though they're pretty left-wing guys, also happen to be nationalists. And so Gonzalez becomes more and more convinced that the right politics for Perigui might be some kind of, you'd call it national socialism. Yeah, I can see what this is going. It's bad. Now, James, I know what you're saying, but this is the mid-30s. No one else has thought of national socialism in this period of time. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Long bells are not being rung around the world. There's no evidence of like how this could go badly in the mid-1930s. So Gonzalez becomes, yeah, he's, he's, I, we've just been joking about this. Gonzalez does accurately identify one of the biggest problems with Perigui, which is the kind of economic liberty, like the economic liberalism that has allowed a tiny number of elites to buy all of the land and natural resources in the country, right? He recognizes this is a huge problem that is just an justification for the rich to take advantage of the poor. Now, the leader of Perigui at this point in the early 40s is a dictator named Moringo. In 1940, he had suspended the Constitution and banned political parties like you do. But in 1946, he legalized political activity again and formed a cabinet with the Colorado Party and a democratic socialist party. Now, Gonzalez is back in the country by this point and he does not like the idea of the Colorado Party sharing power with a coalition government. So he starts to build a street fighting movement for the Colorado's in order to like, you know, beat and murder their opponents in the streets kind of themed after the essay in Germany. Yeah, a little bit of a vibe I'm picking up. Yeah. Now, things come to a head at the start of 1947, which brings Perigui a fun new civil war called the Barefoot Revolution. The side shook out roughly to every other political party and most of the officers on one side and just the Colorado Party, but a bunch of soldiers also on the other side. And it's it's ugly. It's very short but extremely bloody. And one of the reasons why the the Colorado Party wins this civil war is that Alfredo Stressner is a general by this point and he isn't command of the country's largest artillery division. And when you kind of just have one artillery division and the other side doesn't have an artillery division, you know, what it's very easy to reach. Yeah, it's just kill everybody. That's a real tough one to ever come. Yeah. Yeah. Now, so Stressner is a big part of why his side wins this civil war. And over the next two years, things do not calm down though. There are in two years six coos and countercoos and Stressner participates in four. So he is by by like 19 the early 50s, he is like one of the most experienced cooers on the planet. Like this guy can give notes to the CIA. Oh, you guys are doing a coup. No, I've been in a bunch of those. Let me tell you. I mean, walk you through the basics. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Now, it is a well-known fact that carrying out coos are it's like eating potato chips. You never stop with one, right? And in Stressner's case, he has he does like five. And in 1954, he decides it is his turn to be the man doing the cooing. He had succeeded in gaining the support of the military by this point and Gonzales is wing of the Colorado party. And now I'm going to quote from an article in Vanity Fair by Alex Sumatof. The coup took place while all of a Sunsian society was at the Philharmonic. Legend has it that the shooting started just at the thunderous beginning of Beethoven's fifth. Da da da dum. And everyone thought that it was part of the show until soldiers burst onto the stage and announced that a coup was underway. This is not the strength. This is like a this is not a thing that has not happened before either. Like this is a way to do coos. Oh, yeah. Look, if you're not timing your coup with an orchestral presentation like at the Philharmonic, what are you even doing? Right? Yeah, come on. It's a coup without culture. And it's that way of a coup at all. Have a little bit of art, you know? That's all I'm saying about a good old fashioned coup. It's you know, you could do it in a in a Marla piece because I don't know if you've seen Marla's hammer. No. Okay, it's worth googling. It's a giant fucking hammer that like I guess like every every orchestra has to have one because there's this one piece that he wrote that one of the instruments is just a dude hitting a wooden box with it like a comedy side of tamar. And I feel like that would give you some more cover for coos in Beethoven. So they fucked up in that regard. Yeah. Yeah, there's a there's a John Waters quote where he's like talking about today's hackers and the thing that that depresses him about the fact that they all just kind of like wear hoodies and shit. And he's like, look, I love what you're doing. But if you're going to like hack into the defense department's computers and like spread top secret information to try to bring them down, you should have an outfit for that, right? You've got to like a little panache, you know? That's what you got to respect about stress. And he's got a little bit of panache here, you know? This is this is a this is a coup that's got some art to it. Gosh darn it. So you know what else has art to it? It's is it gold? Gold is the only real form of art, James, because gold never fades. 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Just fill out a brief questionnaire to get matched with a licensed therapist. Discover your potential with BetterHelp. Visit slash behind today to get 10% off your first month. That's slash behind. What a great time. We're all back. We're talking about the beginning of the stress-ner era. So the period of time that he's in power, his regime, is known as the stronato. And it's one of those things where like a lot of the this is sort of one of the there's this kind of concept in Paraguay and politics that's evolved over the last 100 years or so called I don't know how to pronounce this but MbaRET, which is an indigenous Guarani word meaning like the law of the strongest, right? This is a strongly belief. This is just kind of like the, I mean, we've gone through the history here, right? This is the habit of the time, right? It's been nothing but strong mendictators. And to be frank, like you, if you're one of these people who's living through these periods where there's like seven coups in two years, you might just find yourself wanting someone strong enough to stop it, right? Someone who could actually hold onto power so everyone can get their fucking breath. Like he comes to like stress-ner is it's not going to be easy for him to solidify power because Paraguay is famously unstable. But also he has this benefit that very few dictators get where everything has been so bad for so long that people are willing to put up with a lot from a dictator if he can actually hold things together. And like we talk about how the instability of the Vymar years contributed to the rise of the Nazis. That's not a long period of time. This is like a hundred something years of constant chaos and bullshit. So given the fact that Paraguay goes through presidents like porn directors go through Loube, the fact that stress-ner manages to make himself dictator is again not in and of itself impressive. Someone had managed to do that about every year since 1870. What's impressive is that he'd held onto that title for he holds onto this title. He's in power for 35 years. That is almost unprecedented in world history. Saddam rules Iraq less than 30 years. Stalin is in power for like 29 years. Mao is in power for like 27 years. It is extremely uncommon for a dictator or a king at any point in history to reign for more than 30 years. Very, very rare. The fact that stress-ner does this in a place as unstable as Paraguay means that he's doing something competent from like a consolidation of power standpoint. He's good at what he's doing. Not in a moral sense, this is not an easy situation to handle. So obviously one of the things that stress-ner has to deal with as soon as he takes power is the fact that there's going to be a million other people who are already planning to coup him out of power and take power themselves. And I want to quote now from an article by or from a book by Peter Lambert. At the time of the 1954 coup, the different factions within the Colorado Party supported stress-ner in the belief that they would be able to use him for their own political ends. And the event, however, before 1956 and 1966, stress-ner manipulated existing factional divisions to consolidate his own control over the Colorado Party. Through skillful political maneuvering, stress-ner selectively purged, real or perceived party opposition. Epifanio Mendez Flitas, the major political rival to stress-ner, was isolated and exiled in 1956. In 1959, stress-ner responded to rebellion within the Colorado Party by dissolving Congress, sending troops onto the streets and exiling 400 members of the more reformist Colorado activists. The explosion of his powerful minister of the interior Edgar L. Yasefning, in 1966, represented the final move in eliminating internal party opposition and bringing the party firmly under his control. And that's like a good high-level overview of what stress-ner does to consolidate power. But it doesn't provide a lot of texture, it's just sort of a list of people who get purged and kicked out. So I want to read another quote from that Vanity Fair article, which deals with the story of a single person stress-ner had to suppress. Take, for instance, the case of Napoleon or Tugosa, an attractive upper-class cavalry officer who ended up being the longest-held political prisoner in Latin America. The theories about why he was arrested are many in Baroque, but some of them involve a sinister plot to overthrow stress-ner. When a young cadet, Alberto Benitez was killed, either by other officers to cover up a homosexual clique, or because he was tortured by the police as encouragement to reveal details of a coup plot, the minister of the interior, Edgar Yusson-Fran, or so one theory goes, hit upon the brilliant idea of pinning the mortar on Ortegausa, who was not actually involved in any plot yet, but was just the sort you had to watch out for. Putting him away would be what is known as an accapete, a warning slap to anyone who got ideas about moving against the president. Ortegausa's insistence on his complete innocence fell on death years. He was not allowed to be present at his trial, and one of his lawyers was arrested in beaten. He was condemned to death, although stress-ner later commuted the sentence to life imprisonment, after a priest threatened to break the seal of confession until who the real murderers were. So yeah, that's stress-ner. That's how this guy wields and consolidates power. That's a nice guy, yeah. It's a pretty normal thing to do. He is such a nice guy that he has given, we've gone through all of these other dictator nicknames, stress-ner gets the best of them, because people just start calling him the tyrannosaur. What the fuck? Look, he says like reptile. If honestly though, like this guy's a piece of shit, but if that's the nickname that you get, that's hard to beat. That's about as hard a nickname as anyone's ever gotten. Yeah, this is pretty bold. And they given that in part because he's in power for so long, right? He's like this ancient, implacable malevolent force. Now, legally, Perigway continues to maintain the trappings of a democracy, including a Congress that occasionally gets to vote on stuff that doesn't matter. For example, since 1929, the country had been in a legal state of siege, which suspended civil liberties, including habeas corpus. Stress-ner continued this, and Congress renewed the state of siege every 90 days. His justification was the threat of communism, which pleased the Americans. Many of the changes stress-ner brought were initially positive. The biggest achievement of his reign was simply staying in power, which put an end to the ceaseless stream of coups and civil conflicts that had racked Perigway for generations. This allowed the state to actually focus on delivering services to regular people. One example of this would be stress-ner stabilization of the Guarani, Perigway's currency, which had been essentially worthless for decades. He set a peg for the currency's value at 125 Guarani to 1 US dollar. And while every other currency inflated rapidly in South America during this period of time, he was able to use the hammer of state power to keep the Guarani locked into place. However, as Alex Shomatov notes, there was a price for all this. When student and labor group demonstrated in the recession of 59, he crushed them. When the Congress objected to police brutality against students protesting a bus fare increase, he dissolved it. The downside to order in progress with stress-ner was one of the largest military and police to general population ratios in the world and the highest proportion of unsentenced prisoners in the Western hemisphere. He purged the old generals and 400 of the old democraticos and replaced them with loyal members of the bandwagon. Membership in the party became compulsory for military officers and civil serenpents and strongly advised for anyone else who wanted to get anywhere. In the various sham elections, he received more votes in some rural areas than there were registered voters. His heavy Leonine face was posted everywhere and radio stations began the day with the the dawn Alfredo Polka. Polka, followed by the message, the constitutional president of the Republic General Alfredo Stressner, salutes the pair of way in people and wishes them a prosperous day. This is like one of the more effective police states I've ever seen anyone institute. He comes to power in a state where holding on for more than two years is almost unheard of. And in a couple of years, he has created the most police country in the Americas. Which is interesting to me. He's a very fast and efficient worker. Yeah, that is like he builds a state around himself. That's... Yes. Yeah, around himself and his maintenance of power. But he also gives people a reason for wanting him to stay in power, which is that for one thing, we're not dealing with these constant over-throws of the government anymore. And as a result, while there's all this chaos in a lot of other parts of Latin America, that's not happening here. And our currency is maintaining its value. It's kind of worth noting. We're about to talk about the US is very involved in Stressner's regime. But this is the only country... They're part of an operation condor, right? But Paraguay is the only country that's involved in condor. That the CIA doesn't do any domestic... Like, they don't have to fund any right wing rebel groups. They don't need to. They don't need to. He has such a hold on power. And there's other things that he does during the early period of his reign. Development projects that provide a lot of jobs for Paraguay. And he builds a road to Brazil that brings new options for trade, or he has people build that road. When he comes to power, there's no storm drains in the capital. There's no running water, really. There's not regular electricity. All of those things come to the capital like once Stressner is in power. And a part of that's just because like, well, we're not fighting this endless series of coups anymore. So we can spend some before our resources on making this place livable. A lot of why he has the money to do this is because he decides to bill himself as an anti-communist. Now, there's people who will argue that he was not really ideologically. He didn't really care one way or the other. He would have been a socialist if that had been the way for Stressner to be in power. That's a thing that some people will argue. But he's wise enough to see that like, well, it's the 1950s and 60s. If I bill myself as an anti-communist, I can get a lot of that sweet ass America money. And that's kind of the best way to improve your material base in Latin America at this period of time. Is have like the CIA black budget shotgun money your way. So the month after he takes power in 54, US development aid to Paraguay increases by 50%. Between 1954 and 1960, the country gets $24 million from us. And we send advisors and CIA agents into Paraguay to train the police in advanced torture techniques. Because he's like, we're not good enough at torturing. And America's like, oh no, we got guys who know to do that. We'll get him right in there. And the reward for the US here is a in 1958, Nixon tries to go to Venezuela. He goes to Venezuela and he gets like pelted with rocks. But then he heads to Paraguay afterwards. And he's like met in the street with a Doring crowd. Stressner's stage manages it. Nixon gets a great photo op out of the situation. So it's all worthwhile for the US. We got Nixon got a nice photo. Well, yeah, that makes us thousands of dead. Yeah, I've seen the photo of Nixon getting pelted with rocks. And I used to live in Venezuela. And yeah, that's a proud moment. A proud moment. Like I've been showing this photo. Of course, like that is what what could be prouder than throwing a rocket Richard Nixon. None of people in this country threw fucking rocks at Richard Nixon. No, if we're being honest, we should all have been throwing rocks at Richard Nixon. That is beyond debate. That's for the a bipartisan consensus on that. I feel like we could end the cold war. But enough people throwing enough rocks at him. The old people of Venezuela picked up where we left off. Yeah, tragically in Paraguay, Stressner's able to stop any rock throwing. Now, that same year, the same year Nixon visits 58, a left-wing guerrilla leader attempts to invade Paraguay. He brings with him 458 soldiers trained in Argentina, who attempted to infiltrate the country and start recruiting foreign and surgeon war. Stressner's CIA backed security. Basically, the CIA learns this is happening. And they warn Stressner. And he sends 6,000 soldiers to crack down. Most of these guys are gunned down, but the survivors are taken and put into like helicopters and dropped into piranha filled waters. Yeah, soon to become Tisha. For proud boys. Yeah. That said, if you are the kind of person who's willing to play ball with a vicious authoritarian, Stressner's regime is not the worst time that you will have had in your lifetime in Paraguay. At least not in the early period of time. However, the fact that he has made his country a stable place that is very friendly for right-wing authoritarians makes it an enticing getaway for a very specific group of people. Escaped Nazi war criminals. So, this is- Oh, good. We're getting to a real fun part of the story here. Paraguay's got this fascinating history with Germany. We've kind of talked about some bits of it, right? And this is the whole region, right? You've got guys like von Kunt going over to Bolivia. Paraguay gets its own Germans. Like as I noted, Stressner's dad is a Bavarian. In 1886, Bernard Forster, who was the brother-in-law of Friedrich Nietzsche, had moved to Paraguay. He moves there because he's like, number 1886, when Forster moves to Paraguay, is like the immediate wake of that horrible devastating war. And so Paraguay is like, we will give Europeans money if they will immigrate here and help us like if- If you're a dude, come to me. Make enough people. Like, we need your come, right? We need- We need- We need a- We need a lot of- We need all this even we can get right now. No. There are not many of us left. So that's when Forster comes over. And Forster also has come related plans, but much more racist ones than the Paraguay and government. Because he is a philosopher of anti-Semitism. And to Forster, the primary appeal of Paraguay is that it doesn't have any Jewish people, right? It does, but it doesn't have a lot of them. And he's like, well, since this country is basically free of Jewish influence, we can use this country's policy to move a bunch of Arians in and create in Weva, Germania, you know, this German paradise in Paraguay. Now, this is obviously- Paraguay people, the German. And it doesn't work for shit. It is not going to succeed. And I'm going to read it, quote, from an article by Nick Forizos here. Forster, his wife Elizabeth and 14 families from Saxony crossed the Atlantic and the dead of winter and reached Paraguay in the swelter of summer. They carved a settlement out of the rainforests, northeast of the capital, a Sonsion. But the isolated community was soon infested with bugs, burrowing into fingernails and toenails, and laying eggs beneath the skin. Ah! The- Yes. The Nijit- Fucking hates an anti-Semite. This is the rule. This next part, James, you're going to really like. Their indigenous neighbors knew the cure, but colonists, the colonists refused to consult an inferior race. They used to, they're being like, yeah, we got like a plant. We just rub on us to deal with that. Oh, you're dying. That's cool. Yeah. Foysteed on his own pay time. We love to see it. The strict colonies, young bucks, pounded nails into the coffin of an unsullied Aryan New Germany when they began betting and wedding local women, plagued by sickness and unpaid bank loans. Forster retreated to the hotel de la go in the town of San Bernardino in 1899 and committed suicide by shooting up with morphine and strict nigh in room 19. So hey, good evening to this episode. Frederick Nietzsche's shitty ass brother-in-law kills himself. That's Nights. Nietzsche really inspired some great suicide. Boy, we're going to talk more about Bernard Forster next episode and a lot more about the Nazis, James. We're not nearly done with the Nazi portion of this episode. Oh, good. Great. Good. But speaking of Nazis, I don't know. That's not a good way to lead into plugs. No. Not speaking of Nazis. Yes. Yeah. How do you get a plug, James? Oh, yeah, definitely not any Nazis, actually. I've returned to Twitter after my ban. So people could finally get for now. For now, yeah, until I post another picture of Mussolini hanging out with his friends and then I'll be back again. That is James Stout. I also do podcasts with you and Sophie and several of our other friends and colleagues. It's called it could happen here. People should listen to it. It's got some banging episodes. Hell yeah. All right. It's going off. Legendary. All right. All right. Legendary. Eeeeee. Okay, everybody. That's the end of the episode. Go, um, you know, go, uh, go let, yeah, bugs, anti-Semites, once the eat plug. Yeah. Yeah. My advice would be if you're too racist to stop the bugs from eating your fingers, maybe rethink your politics. Oh, take a shit ton of morphine. I think. Yeah. Honestly, the morphine in strict nine works fine too if you're an Nazi. I'm fine either way. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You want to find me crying. 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