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Almada was born in Puerto Sastre, but moved with his family to San Lorenzo, near the capital Asunción, when he was six. After he had finished his studies in educational science in 1963, he founded the educational institution "Juan Bautista Alberdi" in San Lorenzo and the "Centro de Animación Sociocultural". He then embarked on a law degree and graduated in 1968.
In 1972, he became the president of the association of educationalists of San Lorenzo, a local action group that received support by other sections of the society and positioned itself as an opposition of the dictatorship ruling Paraguay at the time.
At that time, Almada graduated at the University of La Plata in Argentina as a doctor of educational science. His thesis on education in his home country was sent to the government in Paraguay (an act of information exchange a part of Operation Condor). As a result, Almada's work was rejected by the regime of Alfredo Stroessner, his wife was killed, as were two of his followers. He himself was imprisoned as a political enemy in 1974, nearly tortured to death, and kept in prison for about three and a half years. His wife, in house arrest, was forced to hear through a telephone her husband's cries as he was tortured. She died after the political police falsely told her Martìn had died and "presented" her a loincloth covered with blood with nails they said were used to remove his fingernails.
A campaign by Amnesty International resulted in Almada's release in 1977. He went into exile with his mother and his children, at first in Panama, and wrote a book Paraguay: The Forgotten Jail, the Country in Exile about torture and, most importantly, the torturers, whose name and faces he well remembers, and the extensive network of corruption through which the country was "run" by a dictatorship dedicated to an absurd anti-communism in the practical absence of any communist movement worth speaking of, actually a mask for the suppression of any even marginally left-leaning idea or practice. Almada's book, a sobering read definitely not for the squeamish, raised debate about human rights all over the world. In 1986, he worked for UNESCO until 1992, when he returned to Paraguay. There he concentrated on the publication of papers of the dictatorship that reveal its repression and torture and in 1992, he finally uncovered the "Terror archives".
He received several awards for his courage and work, including the prize "Antorcha a la libertad" of the Libre Foundation in Asunción in 1999 and the Right Livelihood Award in 2002.
Paraguay: The Forgotten Jail, can be downloaded from Martín Almada's website. Versions are available in English, Italian and Spanish.
- How Paraguay's 'Archive of Terror' put Operation Condor in focus. BBC, 22 December 2012.