Stroessner came down with pneumonia after a hernia operation in Brazil's capital, where he had lived in near total isolation since he was forced from power.
He died of a stroke at 11 a.m. with his family gathered around him in the Hospital Santa Luzia, his grandson Alfredo Dominguez Stroessner said in a radio interview. Dominguez Stroessner said his grandfather left no instructions on his funeral but that the family was considering a burial in Encarnacion, the Paraguayan city where the former dictator was born.
Stroessner seized power in a 1954 coup and through fraud and repression governed Paraguay longer than any other contemporary head of state in the Western Hemisphere. He remains hated by many in Paraguay, where he was accused of repression and his associates of corruption. But even some of his fiercest critics predicted Stroessner would be remembered for bringing Paraguay into modern times.
President Nicanor Duarte told reporters Tuesday, amid reports of Stroessner's failing health, that there were no plans to honor the former leader after his death.
Paraguay has sought for years to question Stroessner about government opponents' "disappearances" during his rule. Human rights activists say Stroessner's government was a key part of "Operation Condor," a network of right-wing military governments, secretly supported by U.S. intelligence agencies, that repressed leftist dissidents across South America in the 1970s and early 1980s.
The son of a German immigrant father and a Paraguayan mother, Stroessner rigged his re-election every five years after he seized power. While human rights violations increased, his rule also saw increased stability and progress in the landlocked country, which had been noted for economic stagnation and political turmoil.
Stroessner oversaw Paraguay's transformation from a country with open sewers and no running water, even in the capital, to a relatively prosperous and modern nation. His public works projects included the $16 billion Itaipu dam — built with neighboring Brazil — which began producing power in early 1985. But most of the new wealth did not reach average citizens in the nation of 3.8 million people.
Stroessner, meanwhile, put his name on schools, public buildings and the international airport. An important river port was christened Puerto Stroessner. His portrait decorated the walls of public offices, shops and living rooms, and a huge neon sign in a central plaza of the capital, Asuncion, blinked the message: "Stroessner: Peace, Work and Well-being."
Public dissatisfaction with his regime became increasingly evident in the mid-1980s and protesters and police sometimes fought in the streets of Asuncion, unrest inconceivable a few years earlier.
The general described virtually all his opponents as Marxist subversives bent on returning the country to political chaos.
A staunch U.S. ally, Stroessner was stung in 1986 when the Reagan administration put his regime on its list of Latin American dictatorships. Among the others was Nicaragua, whose Sandinista rebels had overthrown his friend President Anastasio Somoza and assassinated him in exile in Paraguay.
A significant segment of the ruling Colorado Party, his main tool of political control, began to accuse him of repression and dictatorial tactics.
Stroessner tried to consolidate his power in late 1988, ordering many military officers to retire and trying to force retirement on a powerful army commander, Gen. Andres Rodriguez. Rodriguez rebelled on Feb. 2, 1988, sending soldiers and tanks to the presidential guard headquarters, where Stroessner had taken refuge. Stroessner surrendered and went into exile in Brazil, where he remained for the rest of his life.
Rodriguez became de facto president until hastily called elections made him the constitutionally elected head of the government, a position he held until the first civilian government was elected in 1993.
Following his ouster, Stroessner was granted political asylum and lived as a recluse in Brazil. Neighbors reported they rarely saw him leave his house along the shores of Lake Paranoa in Brasilia.