Victims of Paraguayan dictatorship identified

The remains of two victims of South America’s longest dictatorship have been identified. Miguel Ángel Soler, a Paraguayan, and Rafaela Filipazzi, an Italian, disappeared nearly 40 years ago during the reign of Alfredo Stroessner, an American ally who seized power in a coup and ruled Paraguay for 35 years, from 1954 to 1989.

Soler and Filipazzi are two of more than 400 individuals who disappeared during the dictatorship. Their remains were among fragments of between 22 and 34 skeletons exhumed between 2006 and 2012 from the grounds of a building used by Paraguay’s secret police.

The remains were identified by an Argentinian team of forensic anthropologists that performed genetic testing using samples from the victims’ children and siblings. Their identities were announced on August 30 by the Ministry of Justice’s Department of Memory and Reparations.

Filipazzi was kidnapped from a hotel in Urugay and brought to Paraguay in 1977 during Operation Condor, a cooperative intelligence-sharing campaign among Southern Cone dictatorships. Soler, a lawyer and official of Paraguay’s Communist Party, was taken prisoner in November 1975. Soler also ran an underground newspaper called Adelante, or forward.

After he was taken prisoner a unpublished story about pedophilia and abuse among Paraguayan officials was found in his possession. The source for the story, Malena Ashwell, who came from a wealthy and influential family, was herself captured in January 1976 and tortured. Thanks to her family’s influence, she was released the following month and fled to the United States. The story Soler was unable to publish did eventually come to light: in 1977, Washington Post columnist Jack Anderson shared Ashwell’s account, identifying her with the pseudonym Ada Rodriguez.

According to Paraguayan newspaper ABC Color, during the event announcing the identity of the remains, a letter from one of Filipazzi’s daughters living in Argentina was read.

“For 40 years we have searched for our relatives, in order to give them at least a Christian burial. I’m talking about a little peace, because for me this will not end until we at least know what happened, why she was kidnapped, why she was abused and assassinated, leaving me orphaned at the age of 12.”

In the coming weeks, the remains of a third body are expected to be identified.

Update: The identity of the third victim, José Agustín Potenza, was released Thursday, September 8. Potenza, an Argentinian musician, was detained in Montevideo, Uruguay in June 1977.