Paraguay police search for more bodies in ex-dictator's house

Ciudad del Este (Paraguay) (AFP) –


Paraguayan authorities were searching Friday for more bodies at the former home of late dictator Alfredo Stroessner, where the remains of three people were unearthed last week, as police investigate whether they belong to some of the 423 people killed or forcibly disappeared under his regime.

Squatters discovered three human skulls and other bones when they dug up a bathroom floor after occupying the sprawling property earlier this month.

The 30-hectare (74-acre) hillside property, on farmland near Ciudad del Este in Paraguay's tri-border area with Brazil and Argentina, had been abandoned for years.

Dozens of people were excavating the house and surrounding foundations on Friday under the direction of police, hacking at thick concrete using pickaxes and crowbars.

Stroessner ruled Paraguay with an iron fist from 1954 to 1989 -- South America's longest dictatorship.

The occupants said Friday they had discovered more bones at the end of an underground tunnel at the property.

"We discovered a tunnel filled with rubble. We're told it's about 100 meters long and ends in a pit, where there are more bones," said Rafael Esquivel, a former municipal official who is a spokesman for the occupants.

"Nobody knows how many died here," he said.

The macabre discovery of human remains at the beginning of September shocked the South American country 30 years after the end of the dictatorship.

Under Stroessner, 423 people were executed or "disappeared," 18,722 tortured and 3,470 forced into exile, Paraguay's Truth Commission said in its report on the dictatorship.

The bodies of only 37 of those murdered have been found. Only four have been identified.

Stroessner was deposed in a coup in 1989 and fled to Brazil where he died in 2006.

Truth Commission president Rogelio Goiburu said the skulls, femurs and other bones found at the beginning of the month have been sent to Asuncion for forensic examination.

"A lot of people don't know what kind of a beast ruled us for 35 years," Goiburu told AFP.

Goiburu's father Agustin, a doctor and opponent of Stoessner, was one of the dictatorship's "disappeared."

Stroessner had another country mansion in Ayolas, 300 kilometers (180 miles) to the southeast.

"He had several other houses," Bishop Mario Medina, who coordinated official investigations into the dictatorship's disappeared, told AFP

"They were actually houses of pleasure where he took his friends to make parties and orgies with girls, young women."