Martin Almada was born in 1937 in Puerto Sastre, Paraguay.
After six years of Martin's birth, Almada family moved from their hometown to San Lorenzo city near to Paraguay's capital Asuncion. Martin had to start to work at very early age for supporting his poor family and tried to earn money by selling pastries in the streets of San Lorenzo when he was only six.
Although he had a very difficult life, Almada was a very successful student at the school and got excellent grades. He went to "National Academy of Agronomy" and received a degree in Education 1963.
Almada was elected as the president of the "Teachers' Association", in San Lorenzo in 1962 while he
was already working as a primary school teacher. As the head of the Association, he promoted a
community action plan aiming to construct houses for teachers, especially the female ones, who
didn't have the means to have their own houses, in the same year. The community action plan received
support from various sectors of the Paraguayan society and the adhesion of several international
organizations. It succeeded to construct houses and give them to the female teachers who were posed
against the military dictatorship of Paraguay at that time.
Later on, establishment of the cooperative and the action plan became one of the reasons that lead the abduction of Dr. Martin Almada by the political police of the military dictatorship. He suffered tremendously in the hands of Paraguay security.
Martin Almada and his wife professor Celestina Pérez de Almada founded "Juan Bautista Alberdi
Institute" in 1963, in San Lorenzo. The Institute worked to promote primary, secondary and technical
educational services and became a very important center for socio-cultural development in the area.
The Institute developed the self-determined education model with in the frame work of the first
cooperativism movement, a collectivist initiative that was violently oppressed in November 1974 by
the military dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner. Many members and affiliates of the
Institute, among them Dr. Martin Almada's wife Celestina, have been persecuted by the state forces.
Martin Almada kept fighting against the social inequality as a trade unionist. His quest for justice
took him to "Law School of National University of Asuncion", where he got a degree in law and became
a lawyer, in 1968. As a lawyer, he dedicated his life to defend the rights of the workers and worked
for the labor unions and other related organizations.
In the year of 1972, he went to "National University of La Plata" in Argentine, on a scholarship
granted by Government of Argentine and received his doctorate in Education, in 1974. He was the
first Paraguayan who received such a title.
Later on, his Doctoral thesis, "Paraguay: Education and Dependency" was sent by the Argentinean Police to the Paraguayan Police, as a part of the "Operation Cóndor" and it was used against Dr. Martin Almada by the Paraguay security, as an evidence of his "subversive" ideas and him being an "intellectual terrorist" that lead him political persecution by the military junta.
That was not all; while studying at the university in Buenos Aires, he joined the "Popular Movement
of Paraguay" (MOPOCO), a dissident organization of the "Officialist Party" which had been founded in
Argentine, in 1959 by the oppositions of Stroessner regime. It was led by Dr. Waldino Ramón
Lovera who became a victim of torture committed by the Paraguayan security. The MOPOCO regularly
denounced human rights violations committed by the ruling Military junta of Paraguay and supported
the civil society in its struggle for democracy and the return of the refugees from their exile.
His connection to that organization was another "crime" that the dictators of Paraguay did not
Dr. Martin Almada was abducted from Argentine in a joint operation of Paraguayan and Argentinean Security Forces in 1974. He was taken back to Paraguay and put in prison until the year of 1977. And during those long years, he was repeatedly and brutally tortured by the state security.
In December of the same year his wife, Celestina Perez, was psychologically tortured and killed. She died by heart attack after receiving the recordings of her husbands torture and the message that he wouldn't have survived the interrogations.
Thanks to the energetic intervention of Amnesty International he recovered his liberty in 1977. The
local group of Amnesty International from Basel, Switzerland, the world Committee of Churches and
several Human Rights Organizations had launched a broad campaign during the 30 days of his hunger
strike, which at least forced the government of Alfredo Stroessner to set him free.
Dr. Almada was granted political asylum in Panama in 1978, together with his sons.
On the recommendation of the Government of Panama, UNESCO in Paris hired him as the Consultant for Latin America. So he moved to Paris, where he worked for UNESCO until the end of 1992. He worked as an UNESCO expert in Education in several programs in Africa and Latin-America.
During his exile he relentlessly campaigned on human rights issues. After the fall of the
Argentinean Junta in 1983, he made several visits to Argentine to speak about human rights there.
Since 1980 Dr. Martin Almada took part in lots of conferences and colloquiums on Human Rights, such as in the University of Paris VIII, France; the University of Basel, Switzerland; the University of Oslo, Norway; the University of Stockholm, Suede; the University de Carabobo, Venezuela and in the Commission of Education of the Brazilian parliament, and provided information especially about the situation in Paraguay.
Following the fall of military dictatorship in Paraguay in February 1989, Dr. Martin Almada
immediately returned to his country and began to play a leading role in the new human rights
movement and in the transition to democracy.
Soon after his arrival, he started to struggle for bringing the torturers to justice and get compensation for the victims. He filed an action in the courts against Stroessner and his accomplices for the murder of his wife, his wrongful imprisonment and the confiscation of his goods. In April 1991 a judge issued an arrest warrant to detain Stroessner, which has been extended to an international warrant in 2002.
In the same year Dr. Martin Almada published his book "Paraguay: Proyecto National", as a contribution to the foundation of a new constitution after the Dictator Alfredo Stroessner was ousted in 1989.
He finally returned to his country in 1992 and created the "Foundation "Celestina Perez de Almada"in
memory of his deceased wife. The Foundation's basic goals are:
1. Defending Human Rights to contribute to and to strengthen the process of democratization in Paraguay, which had started on February 3, 1989.
2. The education in times of crisis, linked to self-determination and the protection of the environment.
From its foundation, the Foundation "Celestina Perez de Almada", and Dr. Martin Almada himself have put a big effort to achieve those goals.
After a long search, on December 22, 1992 Dr. Martin Almada found out the location of secret
Political Police archive of Alfredo Stroessner Regime and protected the archive from being destroyed
by the security, as it was done in some neighboring states. Publicly known as "Archive of Terror",
the Archive contains the files of thousands of political prisoners, detained "disappeared", the
recordings of the interrogations, and an important part of the written communications between the
security forces of the La Plata States concerning their cooperation in the Operation Condor.
Today the Archive represents the major part of the "Documentation Centre on Human Rights of the Judicative of the Republic".
In June of 1993 Dr. Martin Almada founded the "National Commission of Human Rights and for the NEVER
AGAIN of State Terrorism".
In the same year he called for a Tribunal on the repression in the Southern Cone on the base of the Archives of Terror. The Tribunal took place in Buenos Aires, Argentine, on August 17, 1993.
In January of 1994 he became the founder and Coordinator of the Paraguayan branch of the "American
Association of Jurists" (AAJ).
In remembrance of the 2nd anniversary of the discovery of the Archives Dr. Martin Almada organized a seminar on "Human Rights in Latin-America and the Caribbean" from December 15 to 18, 1994 in Asuncion, Paraguay.
On September 15, 1995, Dr. Martin Almada served as an expert in the Ethical Tribunal against
international fascism in Buenos Aires, organized by the League for the rights of man.
On December 22, 1995 he became President of the first "Ethical Tribunal against Impunity", that took part in Asuncion. The Ethical Tribunal found General Ramón Duarte Vera, ex-head of the Police of Alfredo Stroessner, guilty for relevant crimes against Human Rights.
In 1996 Dr. Martin Almada promoted the project "Centre for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims in
Paraguay", in cooperation with the "International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims" (IRCT)
in Copenhagen, Denmark.
As an international observer he participated in session of the "Ethic Tribunal against Impunity", when the condemnation of the Argentinean Capitan Alfredo Ignacio Astiz for crimes against humanity was told on October 4, 1996 in Buenos Aires, Argentine.
In December 1996 he was president of another Ethic Tribunal, which took place in Asuncion, and tried and condemned the General Ramón Duarte Vera, ex-chief of the Police of the Stroessner regime on December 13. On December 20, when the Ethic Tribunal condemned the ex-Dictator Alfredo Stroessner for a series of crimes and crimes against humanity, Dr. Martin Almada was sitting at the chair of the judge.
He represented Latin America in the 50th anniversary celebration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights organized by the United Nations, in Paris, on December 8, 1998.
In 1999 Dr. Martin Almada denounced the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in Spain, for his common
responsibility together with Alfredo Stroessner for the Operation Condor. He testified two times
before the Spanish judge Baltazar Garzón, on December 3, 1998 and April 14, 1999 in Madrid.
In 1999 Dr. Martin Almada participated in the "International Forum of Jurists" linked to the cases against the military dictatorships in the Southern Cone which took place in Geneva, Switzerland, on April 8 and 9, 1999.
In the following years and as president of the "Ethic Tribunal against Impunity" he proceeded to
undertake intensive activities on national and international level to inform the public about the
crimes of the South American dictatorships and their consequences in the frame of the Operation
Condor, an activity which is still ongoing. He handed over the documents of the "Operation Condor"
to judges in Spain, France, Italy, Switzerland, Argentine and Chile.
On September 25, 2001 he spoke in a conference on the subject "Operation Condor - A criminal pact" which took place in the University ACRIS in Santiago de Chile. At the same day he handed over a declaration of testimony and several documents on the "Operation Condor" to the judge Juan Guzman Tapia who was trying to open a case against Ex-dictator Pinochet.
On February 2002, Dr. Martin Almada led a group of human rights activists, visiting several police
stations, confiscating new archive material.
In the same year he requested that UNESCO should list the Archives of Terror as an international cultural site in its "Memory of the world" register.
For his work Dr. Martin Almada received several awards such as the "Right Livelihood Award 2002", on
December 9, 2002.
On September 08, 2003 Dr. Martin Almada lectured in an international meeting in Santiago de Chile on
"Journalism and Memory" at the University of Chile, he spoke about journalism and Human Rights
during the military dictatorship in Paraguay.
Besides that, he pushed forward a law project on financial reparation for the victims of Paraguayan State Terrorism.
On April 6, 2004 he took part in a conference at the University of Miami, which was on Operation Condor as well.
Two months later, on June 2, 2004 he gave a lecture on "The discovery of the Archives of Terror of Paraguay" during an international meeting named "Against Terrorism, for Truth and Justice" in Havana, Cuba.
Later on in the same year he spoke about "State Terrorism in Paraguay" in a conference which took place at the University of Rome III, Italy, on September 8.
On November 24, 2004 Dr. Martin Almada gave a briefing on the creation and function of the "Truth and Justice Commission of Paraguay" in an international meeting organized by the "Latin American "Federation of associations of relatives of the detained disappeared" (FEDEFAM) in Bogotá, Columbia.
In June 2005 Dr. Martin Almada, together with 8 other recipients of the Right Livelihood Award, founded the "World Coalition against Torturers" (WCAT) that aims to bring the main perpetrators of the crimes against humanity before a court.
On September 14, 2005 he handed over documents of the "Operation Condor" and testified to the "Commission of Human Rights of the Parliament of Uruguay", in Montevideo.
On January 26, 2006 he testified as a witness at the "Permanent International Tribunal against Terrorism" during the World Social Forum in Caracas, Venezuela.
In 2006 his foundation was able to transform a former secret prison in Asuncion, Paraguay, into a Museum on the Human Rights violations of the Stroessner dictatorship. The "Museum of the Memory" has recently opened.
In April 2006 he was invited to speak to the Latinamerican Parliament at the National Congress of Buenos Aires.
As president of the Paraguayan branch of the "American Association of Jurists", Dr. Martin Almada supports the initiative "Social Peace for a Consolidation of Democracy" which is trying to recuperate the goods defrauded by the dictatorship.
He continues working as a legal advisor for the "Peasants without roofs and land" in Paraguay.
Apart from his Human Rights activities, Dr. Martin Almada - in collaboration with his second wife, María Stella Cáceres and the Foundation "Celestina Perez de Almada" - realized as many projects in the field of fight against poverty, alternative education and protection of the environment, which will not be presented here in details, although in a broader sense they are part of the construction of a more human society in Paraguay as well.
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Dr. Martin Almada published the following books:
"PARAGUAY. EDUCACION Y DEPENDENCIA", Buenos Aires, 1974
"LAS MANOS VACIAS". Collection of poems, he wrote in prison and exile under the pseudonym of José de Antequera y Castro. Roma, Italia, 1986
"PARAGUAY: LA CARCEL OLVIDADA, EL PAIS EXILIADO". A book giving his account and own experience in the concentration camps of the Paraguayan dictatorship and a description of the Paraguayan reality in its most relevant social and political aspects. Edited first in Panama, 1978. Later on reedited in Buenos Aires and Asuncion. Downloadable from: http://www.terrorfileonline.org/es/images/MartinAlmada.pdf
"PARAGUAY: EDUCACION Y PROYECTO NACIONAL". Collection of essays on several aspects of Paraguayan problems.
"PARAGUAY: PROYECTO NATIONAL". A contribution towards the foundation of a new constitution after the Dictator Alfredo Stroessner was thrown over. 1991.
Articles by Dr. Martin Almada can be found under the following web addresses:
On the webpage http://www.martinalmada.org/download.html there are some documents on his work for the foundation , especially on the "Museum of Memory".
The Archives of Terror " are presented at the UNESCO webpage: http://www.unesco.org/webworld/paraguay/
For the discovery of the secret "Archives of Terror" and for his activities for peace and Human Rights, aspects of his life and his struggle have often been an aim of media interest of the channels 13 and 9 of Paraguayan TV.
"BBC" London emitted a documentary under the title "The Secret of the General".
Beside, several journalists of TV programs and newspapers from the Netherlands, Austria, United States of North America, Germany, France and Argentine have realized interviews on his work.
The discovery of the "Archives of Terror" is covered in several Paraguayan and international books y reviews, e. g. the books "Es mi Informe", Paraguay; "El viento del Cóndor", Uruguay; in "Debate para un proyecto de integration latinoamericana", Argentina; and articles in the newspapers "Ñe'engatu", a Paraguayan-international review; "Ko'e yu", a Paraguayan-Latin-American review; "Isto es", Brazil; "Análisis", Santiago de Chile; "Process" Mexico; "Covert Action", USA; "Der Spiegel", Germany; "Dial", France; and others.
Publications on Dr. Martin Almada
can be found on the Internet. Google is giving about 32.000 hits on his name. Here is a small
selection of 17 documents we are considering to give an image about him and his work: