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The Slaves of Paraguay

To the Editors:

Having recently returned from Paraguay on a trip sponsored by Survival International to see the conditions of life of the forest Indians in Paraguay, I feel bound to share the following impressions.

Forest Indians continue to die out, having been driven out of their primeval forests to be rendered sedentary on “reservations” where they are subject to malnutrition, deculturation, and medical neglect and torture. While in Paraguay in August and September of 1977 I interviewed four young Indians who, some two weeks prior to my encounter of them, had been held as slaves, at least two of them, in Asunción. One had been bartered for two dogs by her owner. Two showed scars of torture. All four had succeeded in escaping. Significantly, the “authorities” contemptuously refused to accept the names and addresses of the slave owners and slave traders when I offered them to them.

The slave trade in women for purposes of prostitution is the scandal of the countryside. On December 20, 1977, Jack Anderson’s column revealed what was known to any casual visitor in Asunción. A military bordello, commanded by a Colonel Perrier of the Paraguayan army, offered a select clientele of high-ranking brass, including General Stroessner, the sexual services of eight-to fourteen-year-old girls. The Anderson story was based on an unimpeachable eye-witness account. Two nine-year-old girls were discovered bleeding from their vaginal areas outside the bordello in the Barrio Sajonia. The informant, now in the United States, stated under path that the neighbors informed her that the girls came within the jurisdiction of a Colonel Perrier and when she persisted in seeking help she was arrested and beaten for three days at an Asunción prison before influential relatives secured her release.

I have reason to believe that most of the enslaved prostitutes of Colonel Perrier’s ménage were Indian.

It is not irrelevant to inquire whether Colonel Perrier’s hacienda is the beneficiary of American aid.

General Arnalfo Gonzalez, practically if not officially in charge of Indian affairs, referred to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in my presence as a Jew and a German and not one he would recognize as an American.

Dr. Josef Mengele, who used to select candidates for the gas chamber if Nazi Germany, is widely acknowledged as enjoying lavish Paraguayan hospitality.

Undisturbed by its human rights rhetoric, the Carter administration in the meantime does its level best to prop up a Stroessner dictatorship through official economic aid and the encouragement of private American investment.

Richard Arens

Member, Board of Directors

International League for Human Rights

Temple University

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