Alfredo Stroessner Matiauda, was a Paraguayan military officer who served as President of Paraguay from 1954 to 1989. He ascended to the position after leading an army coup in 1954. His 35-year long rule, marked by an uninterrupted period of repression in his country, was the longest unbroken rule by one individual in South America in the twentieth century. His rule is ranked 14th-longest among other non-royal national leaders since 1870, and made him one of the world's longest-serving non-Communist heads of state.
General Stroessner was born in Encarnación, Paraguay. He entered the national military school at the age of 16 and received his commission in 1932. By 1940, he had risen to the rank of major and joined the general staff in 1946. When civil war broke out in 1947, he initially remained loyal to President Higinio Moríńigo, then backed Felipe Molas Lopez in a successful coup against Morínago. He then backed Federico Chávez against Lopez and by 1951 he was army chief of staff. In 1954, he ousted Chávez, becoming president after winning an election in which he was the sole candidate. An arch anti-communist, Stroessner had the backing of the United States. His supporters packed the legislature and ran the courts, and he ruthlessly suppressed all political opposition. He kept his country in what he called a constant "state of siege" that overruled his democratic constitution, enforced a cult of personality, and used torture against political opposition. Membership in his Colorado Party was a prerequisite for job promotion, free medical care and other services. The constitution had to be modified in 1967 and 1977 to legitimize his six consecutive elections to the presidency. In 1988, he won an unprecedented eighth term on a majority, according to official figures, of between 90 and 98 percent of the registered vote.