Rodriguez, Career Soldier, Unseats Stroessner With AM-Paraguay, Bjt
ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) _ Gen. Andres Rodriguez is a farmer’s son who found his niche in the military, rising to command its most elite unit and ultimately overthrowing the Western Hemisphere’s longest-ruling leader.
Rodriguez was second-in-command to President Alfredo Stroessner, the military dictator and personal friend he ousted Friday.
Rodriguez, who is believed to be 64, grew up in the town of San Salvador, 250 miles east of the capital. He left his rustic beginnings for a career in the military, and in 1961 was named commander of the prestigious First Army Corps.
Instead of the farm, his home is a plush mansion outside the capital.
The First Army Corps, one of three, is the biggest and best equipped in the army, whose overall size numbers about 12,500.
Rodriguez and Stroessner were friends as well as professional colleagues. The two families became joined when Rodriguez’s daughter, Marta, married Stroessner’s son, Alfredo.
It was not clear why Rodriguez chose to unseat Stroessner or why he acted when he did.
When he struck, it was with great force. Rodriguez moved in on the headquarters of the police and presidential guard with 40 to 50 tanks, plus mortars, cannons, recoilless rifles, heavy machine guns and manpower.
Diplomatic and political observers link the strike by Rodriguez, a stocky man of medium height, with an order he received from Stroessner to become defense minister, or at least step down as army commander. Rodriguez refused.
Opposition leader Domingo Laino speculated it was because the general privately sided with the traditionalist wing of the ruling Colorado Party, which has called for a transition to a more democratic government and sought to distance itself from Stroessner.
Rodriguez is well-known in the capital, but the first time many Paraguayans heard of him was Friday morning when he said in his clipped, commanding voice over the radio that Stroessner was under arrest and he was ″taking command of the country from this moment.″