Forces loyal to Gen. Andres Rodriguez rounded up backers of the previous government Saturday to consolidate power after a violent coup. Reports linked the nation's new leader to drug trafficking.
Ousted President Alfredo Stroessner, who had held power since 1954, was believed still under house arrest awaiting a flight to exile two days after the overthrow that left an estimated 300 dead.Rodriguez, who had been Stroessner's second-in-command, vowed to restore democracy and respect human rights. But diplomatic and political sources expressed doubt.
A Western diplomat in Asuncion, speaking on condition of anonymity, said reports are common in Paraguay that Rodriguez allows cocaine traffickers to use an airstrip he owns in deserted Chaco Province along the border with Bolivia. However, he said the reports are unproven.
In Indiana, John Hoyt Williams, a professor of Latin American history at Indiana State University, said the drug smuggling allegations against Rodriguez were common knowledge. "It's appeared in print in a number of places. There's never been an official indictment of him however," said Williams.
"He was in fact, up until 1983, the muscle behind Stroessner. In 1983 they had a falling out, but Rodriguez was so powerful that Stroessner could not jail him or shoot him or anything. He was `promoted' to a desk job where he had no control of troops but had a fancy title."
The Cox newspaper group, citing a classified U.S. State Department report, said on Friday that Rodriguez is considered by law enforcement authorities in Paraguay to be the country's No. 1 drug trafficker.