Life smiled on María Ramona Noguera, a seamstress, like many others, until one day, in 1996, when her first-born was given back to her, dead. He was delivered to her by his commanders from the unit of the Paraguayan Armed Forces where he was carrying out his mandatory military service. Natural death, they said. It was a lie. The cause of death was torture. From that moment on, she swore that if it was up to her, no mother would shed tears for the death of a son in a military unit ever again.
María Ramona Noguera, whose profession is dressmaking, has become an institution inside the Military Units where young Paraguayans carry out their military service. “Ña María”–as she is known–went through the painful experience of losing a son in doubtful circumstances inside the Armed Forces. From that moment on, she started to fight for other soldiers. She promised that they would never be victims of violence within a military enclosure. “My life was going on calmly and normally, like anyone else's. I had three other children and, in spite of my position as head of a household, my profession allowed us to live without difficulty. But something changed when one morning I got a phone call from the Major of the Military Unit where my son was carrying out his mandatory military service. He told me that on that morning, they had found my son dead in his bed.” From that moment on, María planted herself in front of the military authorities to denounce the doubtful circumstances of the death of her first born child. She also brought his case to the public's attention. She took his body so that a scientific autopsy could be performed. The result was that he had died due to torture. “My son's death marked the beginning of this journey, this campaign.” Along with a small group of mothers, she founded the Association of Relatives of Victims of Mandatory Military Service to support young conscripts, in order to prevent maltreatment and death inside the Armed Forces.
Association of Relatives of Victims of Mandatory Military Service