Jair Bolsonaro paid tribute to the former dictators of Brazil and Paraguay this week at a ceremony to celebrate the Itaipu hydroelectric dam. The Brazilian president, who has spoken previously of his admiration for the military dictatorship that ruled his nation from 1964 to 1985, praised former Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner as a man of vision.
The ex-Army captain also hailed Brazilian general João Batista Figueiredo for inaugurating the dam.
Speaking at a ceremony alongside Paraguay President Mario Abdo Benítez –whose father served as Stroessner's private secretary for 25 years – Bolsonaro eulogized a list of Brazilian military dictators starting with Humberto de Alencar Castelo Branco (1964-1967), Artur da Costa e Silva (1967-69), Emílio Garrastazu Médici (1969-74) and Ernesto Geisel (1974-79).
Figueiredo, who served from 1979-85, was the dictator who restored democracy when he stood down as president. Stroessner served as Paraguay president for 35 years following an Army coup, until his death in 1989.
The Itaipu Dam, located on the Paraná river on the border between Brazil and Paraguay, is one of the two hydroelectricity plants that produce the most power in the world, alongside China's Three Gorges Dam. Construction of the project, one of the world's biggest, was completed in 1984 during Stroessner's rule. It is jointly administered by the two nations.
All of this was possible because a man of vision, a statesman who knew perfectly well that his country, Paraguay, would need to grow. So here is my tribute to honor general Alfredo Stroessner, Brazil's president said, speaking on the Paraguayan side of the dam.
In 1995, Paraguay's Congress passed a bill calling Stroessner's 35-year rule a dictatorship. Victims of human rights violations were allowed to sue for damages. Stroessner was overthrown by a coup in February 1989 and went into exile in Brazil's capital, where he died on August 16, 2006, at age 93.
Paraguayan political analyst Ignacio Martínez said Bolsonaro likely praised Stroessner during his visit either to thank Abdo Benítez, knowing that he admired the dictator because his father was Stroessner's private secretary, or because Bolsonaro has a military mentality, verticality, that was formed by command structures.
Besides waxing nostalgic for Brazil's dictatorship on the campaign trail, after taking office Bolsonaro named former military personnel to seven of his Cabinet's 22 ministerial posts. At the end of his speech,
Bolsonaro told Paraguay's president: It will be a pleasure to welcome you in Brasilia where we will deepen discussions about the welfare of our peoples. The left never again.