In the late 1980s, Paraguay was an authoritarian regime under the personalistic control of Stroessner. Whereas Francia took the title of The Supreme Dictator (El Supremo Dictador), Carlos Antonio López The Most Excellent One (El Excelentísimo), and Francisco Solano López The Marshall (El Mariscal), Stroessner called himself The Continuer (El Continuador). Indeed, not only did Stroessner continue the authoritarian tradition of these three nineteenthcentury dictators and the twentieth-century example of Estigarribia and Higinio Morínigo, he also remained in office for more than three decades. Stroessner assumed power following a more open but highly unstable period in Paraguay's history.
The political instability of the immediate postwar period, culminating in the civil war in 1947, offered important lessons for most Paraguayans. As Riordan Roett and Amparo Menéndez-Carrión put it: "Paraguayans have thus learned to equate open politics with weakness and authoritarian politics with strength." The personalistic nature of Stroessner's regime, which is known as the Stronato, is evident in the names of the capital's airport (President Alfredo Stroessner International Airport), the second largest city (Puerto Presidente Stroessner), and in a prominent neon sign on top of a building in the central square of Asunción that flashes: "Peace, Work, Well-being with Stroessner."
Stroessner's enduring, active, and highly involved control completely determined the workings of the structure of government. Not only does the Constitution of 1967 grant the president extensive powers in relationship to the other institutions, but the powers of the central government far outweigh those of other levels. Furthermore, Stroessner personally picked all important civilian and military personnel.
Despite the authoritarian nature of his rule, Stroessner argued in his speeches that the country had a functioning democracy, pointing with pride to the multiparty character of the legislature and the constitutional requirement of separation of powers. At the same time, however, Stroessner insisted on an "authentically Paraguayan democracy." Such a democracy required, in Stroessner's view, a strong government in order to ensure the state of law. Paraguayan democracy also meant freedom and security without anarchy and terrorism.
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