2010 Annual Meeting

Attending this year’s annual meeting were the new Paraguayan  Ambassador  to the United States, Rigoberto Gauto and his wife Estela Espinola-Gauto.

Ambassador Gauto  was born in Asunción, Paraguay, in 1952. The Ambassador is fluent in English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Guaraní. A biography of Ambassador Gauto is available on the Embassy website.

Dr. Bob Klemm gave a heartfelt presentation on the 15-year relationship that he and KPP have had with the Asunción Zoo.  You can view his powerpoint presenation here to get an idea of the great strides that have been made for the health of the animals and their zoo habitats here:

Paraguay Zoo Project

Donna Schenck-Hamlin not only coordinated this year’s annual meeting, she also gave a very informative presentation on the Archives of Terror Project, otherwise known as the archives of the Center for Documentation and Archive of Human Rights (Centro de Documentación y Archivo para la Defensa de Derechos Humanos , or the CDYA).

Donna reported on the progress that has been made so far in the cataloging pilot project which KPP has been entrusted with.

To learn more about the project, you can view Donna’s

powerpoint presentation  here:

Case History of a KPP project

The archive contains photographs, fingerprints and descriptions of those detained, tortured and sometimes killed.
Above is a police record of Argentinean Dora Marta Landi, captured by Paraguayan police and returned under Operation Condor agreements to Argentina, where she was never found again.

The Man Who Discovered the Archives of Terror

For many years KPP has been working with the Paraguayan government to protect, restore and catalog the so-called Archives of Terror.  Donna Schenck-Hamlin working on the project.  To read more about the project, click here.

Below is an account of the Archives’ discovery from the UNESCO website:

On 22 December 1992, a Paraguayan, Martín Almada, discovered three tons of documents in a police station. They turned out to be the archives of Operation Condor, which confirmed the crimes carried out in the 1970s and 1980s by the six dictatorships of the Southern Cone of Latin America. A former UNESCO colleague looks back.

During the 1960s I was director of a primary and secondary school in the suburbs of San Lorenzo (Paraguay). My wife, Celestina Pérez, and I lived in accommodations provided by the Juan Bautista Alberdi Institute, named after the Argentinean lawyer who had defended Paraguayan interests following the devastating conflict of 1870. Our once well-educated and prosperous country had never recovered. So much so that, in 1954, the military dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner, undoubtedly the most savage in the entire Southern Cone of Latin America, descended on us.

We carried on our work as educators against a backdrop of permanent siege and the suspension of civil and political freedoms, looking to the Brazilian Paulo Freire for inspiration on the pedagogy of the oppressed. For us, school was the antechamber of democracy.

When I was elected president of the Association of School Teachers, my colleagues and I launched a campaign entitled “A roof for every Paraguayan teacher”, because primary teachers were in dire need of housing. In 1965, we built a cooperative teachers’ residence in San Lorenzo called Villa del maestro. In the 1970s, I was able to take up my studies again in Argentina, at La Plata University, with a scholarship from the Argentinean government. I submitted a thesis on educational science, specializing in educational policy, on the theme of “Paraguay, Education and Dependency”, which argued that, in my country, education only helped the ruling classes, and that it perpetuated underdevelopment and subjugation. I was the first Paraguayan to receive a PhD in educational science.

When I went back to Paraguay in November 1974, I was immediately arrested and brought before an Operation Condor military tribunal, where Paraguayan officials sat next to Argentinean, Brazilian, Bolivian, Chilean and Uruguayan military attachés. For 30 days I was subjected to barbaric torture, based on “scientific” techniques taught at the School of the Americas in the Panama Canal Zone [a zone controlled by the USA from 1903 to 1979].

I was accused of “intellectual terrorism” for my education work and for having demanded a decent salary and housing for teachers.

Meanwhile, Celestina was put under house arrest at the school. For ten days the political police called her and made her listen to my shouting and crying. On the tenth day, at midnight, they told her, coldly, that the “subversive educator” had died, asking her to come and collect the body. This news proved fatal and Celestina died in December 1974.

After three years in a detention centre, I was transferred, for “misconduct” – I had taught my cellmates to read – to the Emboscada concentration camp, 45 km from Asunción. I went on hunger strike for 30 days. Thanks to the energetic intervention of the Committee of Paraguayan Churches (CIPAE) and Amnesty International, I was conditionally released in September 1977. But the freedom was only relative – I was re-arrested in November and interrogated at the infamous Technical Section of the Ministry of the Interior. This “elementary school” for assassins operated without interruption from 1956 to 1992.

An exile at UNESCO

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) then negotiated political refugee status for me in Panama, where the government backed my application for a post in Paris as education consultant for Latin America, in November 1978. I went on to join the staff of UNESCO’s Education Sector, where I stayed until the end of 1992. I was one of many Latin Americans to come under the protective wing of UNESCO – including Argentineans Julio Cortázar and Juan Gelman, the Bolivian Fernando Laredo, Chileans Mario Leyton and Miguel Núñez, and the Ecuadorian Jorge Adoum.

Reading UNESCO documents made me realize that my campaign was justified and I continue to think that we were right to fight, so that the following recommendation by the then Director-General, Amadou-Mahtar M’Bow, could be applied: “To teach everyone to respect and ensure that others respect, one’s own human rights and those of other people, and to be prepared, when necessary, to find the courage to defend them in all circumstances, even the most difficult – such is the most imperative moral duty of our generation.”

During the week, I was a Latin American educator working for UNESCO. But at the weekend, for almost fifteen years, I spent my time researching the mystery of Operation Condor in Paraguayan police journals. Father Charles Antoine, then head of the weekly magazine Dial (which published news about Latin America), offered help with methodology and let me use his library outside working hours.

The Paraguayan military dictatorship came to an end in February 1989, and, in December 1992, I went back to live in my own country. Through my research, I was convinced that the archives of Operation Condor could be hidden in three places.

Outcome of the investigation

Martín Almada is laureate of the French Republic Human Rights Award (1997), the Right Livelihood Award (2002) and the Tomas Moro Prize from the Paraguayan Catholic University of Asunción (2007). He is Commander of the Order of May of the Argentine Government.

The new democratic constitution of June 1992 gave us the right to access the files kept on us. I asked Judge José Agustín Fernández for mine. According to the police, there were no such files, and I had never been detained. So I then requested that the police central archives be searched. This was covered extensively in the newspapers.

Then a woman telephoned me: “Professor, the documents you are looking for are not in the central archives, but in a police station in the suburb of Asunción.” I invited this woman to come to my office, and she brought a map of the place, saying she wanted to help bring about the return of democracy. I immediately passed the information onto the judge and, a few days later, on 22 December, accompanied by national and foreign journalists, we exhumed three tons of documents – the infamous Operation Condor “Archives of Terror”.

They were immediately transferred to the courthouse. We then worked tirelessly to make sure these archives were preserved, while making them available to historians. They played an important role in establishing the Commission of Truth and Justice, which, after four years of hard work (2004-2008), confirmed the crimes carried out by the dictatorship and gave rise to a series of conclusions and recommendations that the democratic government is about to implement.

Human rights organizations, backed by the Paraguayan government, have requested that UNESCO inscribe this entire archive, which I had the honour to rediscover, on the Memory of the World Register. This inscription is crucial because it protects the right of people to their identity and their memory. And protecting memory means making it possible to understand the present and to build the future.

Martín Almada is head of the Celestina Pérez de Almada Foundation, whose distinguishing characteristic is to associate protection of human rights and protection of the environment. The Foundation was awarded the European Solar Prize in Berlin in 2005.

To read Martín Almada’s account of his experience and see some photos  on the UNESCO website   click  here.

Archive of Human Rights Agreement Signed in Paraguay

Check out the article below, which was taken from the Paraguayan Supreme Court website.

Congratulations to KPP member Donna Schenck-Hamlin for her good work on this and to CPK member, Alberto Granada in Paraguay who persisted with this project.

(Submitted by John Poertner)

In this photo are the president of the Paraguayan Supreme Court, Dr. Víctor Núñez and from the Comité Paraguay Kansas, Dr. Ricardo Carrizosa signing their respective documents. Third from the left is Luis Caballero, head of protocol for the Supreme Court; a great friend of KPP and husband of Delia Farias, who was the first teacher to participate in the Lawrence teacher exchange in January, 2005.

Corte firma un acuerdo para completar catalogación de más de 500.000 documentos

Un importante acuerdo firmó la Corte Suprema de Justicia con el Comité Paraguay Kansas con el fin de fortalecer el Centro de Documentación y Archivo para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos (CdyA) y culminar la catalogación de la colección de más 500.000 documentos que se encuentran en el mencionado centro. El documento fue rubricado por el presidente de la máxima instancia judicial, doctor Víctor Núñez y el titular del Comité Paraguay Kansas, doctor Ricardo Carrizosa.
En la gráfica el presidente de la Corte Suprema de Justicia, doctor Víctor Núñez y del Comité Paraguay Kansas, doctor Ricardo Carrizosa firmado los respectivos documentos.

Asunción, viernes, 27 de junio de 2008

Con el propósito de fortalecer el Centro de Documentación y Archivo para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, (CDyA), además de concretar un proyecto de apoyo con el fin de completar el proceso de catalogación de la colección de más de 500.000 documentos que el centro alberga, la Corte Suprema de Justicia firmó un convenio con el Comité Paraguay Kansas.

El acto contó con la presencia del presidente del máximo tribunal del país, doctor Víctor Núñez y del titular del Comité, doctor Ricardo Carrizosa, quienes refrendaron el documento en cuestión.

Durante el acto, el Presidente de la Corte Suprema resaltó la importancia del acuerdo, sobre todo por relacionarse al archivo, permitiendo de esta manera hacer conocer al mundo la historia reciente del Paraguay y evitar que vuelva a repetirse. En tanto que, el titular del Comité Paraguay Kansas valoró el interés demostrado por la máxima instancia judicial del país en preservar los documentos, a la par de agradecer la confianza depositada en el comité para la concreción del acuerdo.

En base al acuerdo, el Comité se compromete, bajo la supervisión del CDyA, encargarse del personal y el equipamiento técnico del proyecto, así como obtener y manejar los fondos necesarios para la realización del proceso de catalogación de los archivos.

Asimismo, se acuerda que los materiales técnicos operacionales, tanto originales como copias, que se produzcan como resultado del trabajo gestionado, quedarán incorporados al patrimonio del Centro de Documentación y Archivo.

La Corte Suprema de Justicia, por su parte, facilitará copias de las colecciones específicas que lo consideran de interés para su incorporación a las bibliotecas de las Universidades del Estado de Kansas, poniendo de esta forma a consideración de los docentes y estudiantes que deseen realizar trabajos de investigación. Se prevé, además que en todas las investigaciones y publicaciones en las que se haga referencia a documentos del CDyA se deberá citar la fuente de origen. La firma del convenio se realizó en la Sala de Acuerdos de la Corte Suprema de Justicia.

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