(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)
|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:
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. 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)
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%
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)