Paraguay: The Truth, Knowledge And The History Of This South American Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Paraguay

Introduction In the disastrous War of the Triple Alliance (1865-70) – between Paraguay and Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay – Paraguay lost two-thirds of all adult males and much of its territory. It stagnated economically for the next half century. In the Chaco War of 1932-35, Paraguay won large, economically important areas from Bolivia. The 35-year military dictatorship of Alfredo STROESSNER ended in 1989, and, despite a marked increase in political infighting in recent years, Paraguay has held relatively free and regular presidential elections since then.
History Pre-Columbian society in the wooded, fertile region which is now present-day Paraguay consisted of seminomadic, Guarani-speaking tribes, who were recognized for their fierce warrior traditions. Europeans first arrived in the area in the early sixteenth century and the settlement of Asunción was founded on August 15, 1537 by the Spanish explorer Juan de Salazar y Espinoza. The city eventually became the center of a Spanish colonial province, as well as a primary site of the Jesuit missions and settlements in South America in the eighteenth century. Jesuit Reductions were founded and flourished in eastern Paraguay for about 150 years until their destruction by the Spanish crown in 1767. Paraguay declared its independence after overthrowing the local Spanish administration on May 14, 1811.

Rendition of Paraguayan soldier grieving the loss of his son by José Ignacio Garmendia

Paraguay’s history has been characterized by long periods of authoritarian governments, political instability and infighting, and devastating wars with its neighbors. Its post-colonial history can be divided into several distinct periods:
1811 – 1816: Establishment and consolidation of Paraguay’s Independence
1816 – 1840: Governments of José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia
1840 – 1865: Governments of Carlos Antonio Lopez and Francisco Solano Lopez
1865 – 1870: War of the Triple Alliance
1870 – 1904: Post-war reconstruction and Colorado Party governments
1904 – 1932: Liberal Party governments and prelude to the Chaco War
1932 – 1935: Chaco War
1935 – 1940: Governments of the Revolutionary Febrerista Party and Jose Felix Estigarribia
1940 – 1948: Higinio Morinigo government
1947 – 1954: Paraguayan Civil War (March 1947 until August 1947) and the re-emergence of the Colorado Party
1954 – 1989: Alfredo Stroessner dictatorship
1989 to date: Transition to democracy

In addition to the Declaration of Independence, the War of the Triple Alliance and the Chaco War are milestones in Paraguay’s history. Paraguay fought the War of the Triple Alliance against Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, and was defeated in 1870 after five years of the bloodiest war in South America. Paraguay suffered extensive territorial losses to Brazil and Argentina. The Chaco War was fought with Bolivia in the 1930s and Bolivia was defeated. Paraguay re-established sovereignty over the region called the Chaco, and forfeited additional territorial gains as a price of peace.

The history of Paraguay is fraught with disputes among historians, educators and politicians. The official version of historical events, wars in particular, varies depending on whether you read a history book written in Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil or Bolivia, and even European and North American authors have been unable to avoid bias. Paraguay’s history also has been a matter of dispute among Paraguay’s main political parties, and there is a Colorado Party and Liberal Party official version of Paraguayan history. Certain historical events from the Colonial and early national era have been difficult to investigate due to the fact that during the pillaging of Asuncion Saqueo de Asunción, the Brazilian Imperial army ransacked and relocated the Paraguayan National archives to Rio de Janeiro. The majority of the archives have been mostly under secret seal since then, in effect, precluding any historical investigation.

Leftist former bishop Fernando Lugo achieved a historic victory in Paraguay’s presidential election in April 2008, defeating the ruling party candidate and ending 61 years of conservative rule. Lugo won with nearly 41 percent of the vote compared to almost 31 percent for Blanca Ovelar of the Colorado party.

Geography Location: Central South America, northeast of Argentina
Geographic coordinates: 23 00 S, 58 00 W
Map references: South America
Area: total: 406,750 sq km
land: 397,300 sq km
water: 9,450 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than California
Land boundaries: total: 3,995 km
border countries: Argentina 1,880 km, Bolivia 750 km, Brazil 1,365 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: subtropical to temperate; substantial rainfall in the eastern portions, becoming semiarid in the far west
Terrain: grassy plains and wooded hills east of Rio Paraguay; Gran Chaco region west of Rio Paraguay mostly low, marshy plain near the river, and dry forest and thorny scrub elsewhere
Elevation extremes: lowest point: junction of Rio Paraguay and Rio Parana 46 m
highest point: Cerro Pero (Cerro Tres Kandu) 842 m
Natural resources: hydropower, timber, iron ore, manganese, limestone
Land use: arable land: 7.47%
permanent crops: 0.24%
other: 92.29% (2005)
Irrigated land: 670 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 336 cu km (2000)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.49 cu km/yr (20%/8%/71%)
per capita: 80 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: local flooding in southeast (early September to June); poorly drained plains may become boggy (early October to June)
Environment – current issues: deforestation; water pollution; inadequate means for waste disposal pose health risks for many urban residents; loss of wetlands
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: landlocked; lies between Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil; population concentrated in southern part of country
Politics Paraguay’s politics takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Paraguay is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of the National Congress. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

Politics in 1970s

After World War II, politics became particularly unstable with several political parties fighting for power in the late 1940s, which most notably led to the Paraguayan civil war of 1947.[4] A series of unstable governments ensued until the establishment in 1954 of the stable regime of Alfredo Stroessner, who remained in office for more than three decades. Alfredo Stroessner’s regime slowly modernized Paraguay, although his rule was hampered by the extensive human rights abuses of rival communists.

The splits in the Colorado Party in the 1980s and the conditions that led to this — Stroessner’s age, the character of the regime, the economic downturn, and international isolation — provided an opportunity for demonstrations and statements by the opposition prior to the 1988 general elections.

The PLRA leader Domingo Laíno served as the focal point of the opposition in the second half of the 1980s. The government’s effort to isolate Laíno by exiling him in 1982 had backfired. On his fifth attempt, in 1986, Laíno returned with three television crews from the U.S., a former United States ambassador to Paraguay, and a group of Uruguayan and Argentine congressmen. Despite the international contingent, the police violently barred Laíno’s return. However, the Stroessner regime relented in April 1987 and permitted Laíno to arrive in Asunción. Laíno took the lead in organizing demonstrations and diminishing somewhat the normal opposition party infighting. The opposition was unable to reach agreement on a common strategy regarding the elections, with some parties advocating abstention and others calling for blank voting. Nonetheless, the parties did cooperate in holding numerous lightning demonstrations (mítines relámpagos), especially in rural areas. Such demonstrations were held and disbanded quickly before the arrival of the police.

Obviously stung by the upsurge in opposition activities, Stroessner condemned the Accord for advocating “sabotage of the general elections and disrespect of the law” and used the national police and civilian vigilantes of the Colorado Party to break up demonstrations. A number of opposition leaders were imprisoned or otherwise harassed. Hermes Rafael Saguier, another key leader of the PRLA, was imprisoned for four months in 1987 on charges of sedition. In early February 1988, police arrested 200 people attending a National Coordinating Committee meeting in Coronel Oviedo. Forty-eight hours before the elections, Laíno and several other National Accord members were placed under house arrest.

Although contending that these results reflected the Colorados’ virtual monopoly of the mass media, opposition politicians also saw several encouraging developments. Some 53% of those polled indicated that there was an “uneasiness” in Paraguayan society. Furthermore, 74% believed that the political situation needed changes, including 45% who wanted a substantial or total change. Finally, 31% stated that they planned to abstain from voting in the February elections.

Relations between militants and traditionalists deteriorated seriously in the months following the elections. Although Chaves and his followers had not opposed Stroessner’s re-election bid, Montanaro denounced them as “legionnaires” (a reference to those Paraguayan expatriates who fought against Francisco Solano López and who were regarded as traitors by the original Colorados). By late 1988 the only major agencies still headed by traditionalists were the IBR and the National Cement Industry (Industria Nacional de Cemento). In September 1988, traditionalists responded to these attacks by accusing the militants of pursuing “a deceitful populism in order to distract attention from their inability to resolve the serious problems that afflict the nation.” Traditionalists also called for an end to personalism and corruption.

People Population: 6,831,306 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 36.9% (male 1,283,311/female 1,240,769)
15-64 years: 57.9% (male 1,988,256/female 1,968,869)
65 years and over: 5.1% (male 161,811/female 188,290) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 21.7 years
male: 21.5 years
female: 22 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.39% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 28.47 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 4.49 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.07 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female
total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 25.55 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 29.74 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 21.16 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 75.56 years
male: 72.99 years
female: 78.26 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 3.8 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.5% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 15,000 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: 600 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne disease: dengue fever and malaria (2008)
Nationality: noun: Paraguayan(s)
adjective: Paraguayan
Ethnic groups: mestizo (mixed Spanish and Amerindian) 95%, other 5%
Religions: Roman Catholic 89.6%, Protestant 6.2%, other Christian 1.1%, other or unspecified 1.9%, none 1.1% (2002 census)
Languages: Spanish (official), Guarani (official)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 94%
male: 94.9%
female: 93% (2003 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 12 years
male: 12 years
female: 12 years (2005)
Education expenditures: 4% of GDP (2004)

In Paraguay, a Community Fights for the Right to Grow Food

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘GLOBAL VOICES’)

 

In Paraguay, a Community Fights for the Right to Grow Food

In Paraguay alone, between 700 or 800 varieties of mandioca (also called yuca or cassava) are grown on 445,000 acres, yielding 6 million tons of the staple crop. Photo by Juana Barreto. Used with permission.

This post is an abridged version of a story produced by Kurtural and published on Global Voices with the author’s permission. It is part of the series “The landless don’t go to the supermarket,” which will be published and re-edited by Global Voices.

Before dawn, Severiano Ruiz Díaz detonates an explosive firework beside his house, but his children slept right through the blast. Throughout the rest of the community of Primero de Marzo, Ruiz Díaz’s neighbors wait, listening for a second explosion that would signal the presence of police. But today, there is no second blast, and a new day begins for the 300-plus families in Primero de Marzo, a community where food is plentiful in a hungry nation.

Primero De Marzo is an asentamiento or informal settlement, one of at least 200 similar communities established by landless farmers in Paraguay. It has three schools, no church, and nearly 2,500 acres of rich red soil.

The settlement of smallholder farmers is surrounded by soy fields, engulfed by mechanized farming in a country that is the world’s fourth largest exporter of the crop. But in an effort to encourage family agriculture, Primero de Marzo prohibits cultivating soy within its territory. Instead, the community sustains itself through a diverse array of crops.

Paraguay’s small farmers face many obstacles. In Primero de Marzo, those include the lack of roads and competition from contraband produce smuggled in from abroad. Photo by Juana Barreto. Used with permission.

Their small fields are the the last plots of land in the county where food crops — not commodities — are grown. They harvest two kinds of bananas, three varieties of corn, four types beans, sugar cane, yerba mate, peanuts, papaya, sweet potatoes, watermelon and cassava.

Each member of the settlement is assigned at most 25 acres of land, which totals a little less than half of the 4,000-plus hectares of land whose ownership in disputed by the residents, the Paraguayan government, and a group of powerful landowners — the Bendlin Family.

During the long-running dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner, the Bendlin family illegally traded an airplane for the land where Primero de Marzo now stands, an airplane that does not exist in the country’s official aeronautical records. The family are the Paraguayan representatives of a famous German vehicle brand; have relations with Paraguay’s president, Horacio Cartes; and own a lot of real estate in Paraguay’s largest city and capital, Asunción.

The Bendlins were accused of hiring thugs who harassed Primero de Marzo for years and who, on June 11, 2014, attempted to kill Severiano Ruiz Díaz.

But bullets aren’t the community’s only problem. Police have officially evicted the community from their lands on three occasions, burning houses, destroying crops and confiscating or killing livestock. Government officials have charged members of the community with crimes of occupying land and accused them of criminal association. In contrast, the attack on Severiano Ruiz Díaz and instances of police violence during the evictions have not been investigated.

The right to land

Activities in Primero de Marzo begin early and include the whole family. Photo by Juana Barreto. Used with permission.

Severiano Ruiz Díaz speaks about the evictions while finishing breakfast in the hallway of his family’s wooden home. It’s the second house he’s built here, just five meters from the first house that police burned to the ground. The new building is small, but has basic amenities like electricity, thanks to the 14 miles of power lines the community installed themselves to serve all the families in Primero de Marzo.

For rural farmers, the right to land transcends purely economical considerations: It is the right to a domain, the right to exist. But it is a right enjoyed by few in Paraguay. About 94 percent of the nation’s arable land is farmed using mechanized agricultural techniques to produce commodities for export, including soy, corn and wheat.

Conventional agribusiness requires only one employee for roughly every 500 acres, or 40 times fewer jobs than the style of smallholder agriculture practiced in Primero de Marzo — the kind of agriculture that got Severiano Ruiz Díaz shot.

Paraguay faces extreme inequality in land ownership, according to the Gini Index, which measures the extent to which incomes deviate from perfectly equal distribution. Fifteen landowners in Paraguay together hold property twice the size of Puerto Rico, while more than 300,000 Paraguayan families own no land at all.

Days of halfway peace

Every June, the colors of harvest fill Primero de Marzo. Along the crooked path worn by tractors and motorcycles, you can see fields of corn, banana and towering manioca rocking in a winter breeze. These are days of “halfway peace” say the residents.

The community’s agricultural abundance stands in contrast to the violence it has endured, and to the reality of the entire country: Every day, 700,000 Paraguayans face hunger. None of them lives in Primero de Marzo.

Nonetheless, the farmers of Primero de Marzo struggle to sell their products to a hungry nation. The problem begins with transporting their harvest: inadequate roads and exploitative middlemen. Then — even if products reach Paraguay’s main produce market, Mercado Abasto — they must compete against the prices of contraband produce, much of which comes from Argentina.

Although the Paraguayan government is committed to supporting smallholder agriculture in theory, between 2013 and 2016 the importation of fruits and vegetables to Paraguay doubled. Between 2003 and 2013, the number of acres dedicated to growing tomatoes, a staple of Paraguayan cuisine, was halved. This loss of production and diminishment of Paraguay’s food sovereignty has resulted in recurring periods where tomatoes cost more than five times their usual price in Asuncion.

Farmers in Primero de Marzo grow three kinds of corn: white, tupí, and chipá, but famers complain that they have no market for their harvest. Photo by Juana Barreto. Used with permission.

The families in the settlement still inhabit a territory of uncertainty. But while their land remains in dispute, a second generation is growing up in Primero de Marzo, a generation that has inhabited these lands since birth. A generation of children that run and laugh and splash in mud puddles and go to school. Who, like Ruiz Díaz’s children, hope that lunch will be chicken stew.

And while these children grow, the community of Primero de Marzo keeps waiting, each morning, for a second explosion.