Before the arrival of the Spaniards in 1537, Guarani-speaking people were spread over a large area with the center around Paraná and its bees in Paraguay. The original Guarani population hardly constituted any solid state, though the word nation is often used about it. Guaraní were resident horticulturists who hunted, fished and sunk alongside.
As the Spaniards did not find gold deposits in Argentina, they sought a new route to Peru along the Paraguay River, where they founded the Asunción. This became the main seat of Spanish expansion on the southwestern part of the continent until 1580, when the Viceroy of La Plata was established in Buenos Aires. Of great importance in the colonial period was the Jesuits’ “civilization project” from 1609. They established urban communities where the Guarani Indians contributed their craft under a theocratic-socialist organizational form. Many Indians also received good education. After the banishment of the Jesuits in 1767, the system collapsed, and most became day laborers on Spanish goods.
- Countryaah: Check to see the location of Paraguay on the world map. Also covers major mountains, rivers and lakes in Paraguay.
Radical nationalism and isolation
Spain’s defeat in the Napoleonic Wars led to political unrest in La Plata. To see more information other than history, please visit Abbreviationfinder to learn more about climate, population, government, and economy for the country of Paraguay. In the political vacuum that arose, Paraguay proclaimed its independence in 1811, not only from Spain, but also from the Viceroy. José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia was elected consul for life by a 110-person congress; a position he held until his death in 1840. During these years, Paraguay underwent a very radical transformation of its social, economic and political institutions without outside support. Francia’s strong nationalismisolated the country from the outside world, but the standard of living of the regular Paraguayans was significantly higher than usual on the continent. Both the church and the landlords were deprived of their properties. The country was self-sufficient in agricultural goods and illiteracy was almost eliminated in the first half of the 19th century. Foreign capital interests were not allowed to invest in Paraguay, and the country also developed its own industry and weapons production.
Foreign intervention and war
The major neighboring countries Argentina and Brazil failed to compete with Paraguay’s success and felt threatened by the country’s military strength. In 1865 they united with Uruguay and declared war on Paraguay, funded by British banks. The Triple Alliance War lasted for five years. After the war, a large number of European immigrants arrived. Both Brazil and Argentina had seized large parts of the country and exploited the population as cheap labor. The victors were almost bankrupt, but they regarded the war as a victory for civilization.
Just over 60 years later, a new war marked Paraguay, this time against Bolivia. The discrepancies were about the poor Chaco area and the possibility of oil deposits there. The two countries each had their own oil company on their side. Bolivia suffered heavy losses this time against a captured Paraguayan army, and the Chaco area was divided following a demarcation line in Paraguay’s favor. When the war was over, it turned out that there was no oil in the area. Nor has Paraguay made any significant use of the Chaco area. For the following 18 years, Paraguay was characterized by political instability with a series of changes in power.
From 1954 to 1989 Paraguay was ruled as a dictatorship under General Alfredo Stroessner Matiauda. After coming to power in a coup he made the Colorado Party his political instrument. All civil servants had to be members of the party, which every four years won an overwhelming victory in the “election”. No president of Latin America has been in power for as long as Stroessner. The danger of coups was diminished by the fact that his loyal officer corps enjoyed significant benefits in controlling the pronounced smuggling economy in the country. Political oppositionwas considered “communist conspiracy” and in practice meant prolonged prison sentences. The torture methods were notorious, and a third of the population lived in land volatility. Paraguay was also the home of Nazi offenders, including Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele. Stroessner was the only Latin American head of state to support Nicaragua’s dictator Somoza, who lived in exile in Paraguay until he was killed in 1980. Stroessner also had very close relations with the apartheid regime in South Africa.
After 35 years in power, Latin America’s oldest military dictatorship was liquidated in 1989. Stroessner was deposed by the more reform-friendly General Andrés Rodríguez and sought political asylum in Brazil. Throughout his time as a dictator, Stroessner maintained a democratic facade, and legitimized his power through the Colorado Party. Shortly after the coup, Rodríguez legalized most other opposition parties, writing elections where he himself was a candidate for the Colorado Party. Not unexpectedly, he won, and with a solid majority in the National Assembly, conditions facilitated constitutional reform and the introduction of constitutional democracy. Paraguay was given a new constitution in 1992.
The first election after the constitutional amendments was held in 1993, and was won by the Colorado Party with Juan Carlos Wasmosy as presidential candidate. However, the party has many remnants of the Stroessner era in its ranks, many of which are linked to the armed forces. Traditionally, the army has used its privileges to conduct large-scale smuggling activities from neighboring Brazil and Argentina. However, because of the Mercosur FTA, smuggling has become less lucrative. Wasmosy has also been investigated for questionable business with Paraguay’s most important export article, electric power from the world’s largest hydroelectric power stationItaipú, which produces 20 times more power than Paraguay needs. The surplus is mainly exported to Brazil.
Attempts at liberal reforms in Paraguay have encountered strong opposition from a relatively strong trade union movement and a peasant movement, and Wasmosy has also come under pressure from the defense leadership and opposition in the National Assembly. A general strike in March 1996 paralyzed the country, and Defense Lino Oviedo intervened to take control of the situation. Instead, the fear of relapse to military dictatorship led to new demonstrations and concerns in neighboring countries. With this episode, the Colorado Party has exposed its ambivalence in breaking with the authoritarian course of the past. The May 1998 presidential election was won by Colorado Party candidate Raúl Cubas Grau.
Dramatic presidential change in 1999
In February 1999 it was marked in Paraguay that it was ten years since the palace coup against General Alfredo Stroessner. But already a month later, the country was plunged into a serious political crisis, triggered by the assassination of Vice President Luis María Argaña. The Vice President had fought for control of the ruling Colorado Party with a factionled by President Cubas and his political adviser, former Army Chief Lino Oviedo. The attack led to riots and clashes between security forces and protesters in the capital’s streets. Cubas ordered armored vehicles against the protesters to assist the security forces trying to disperse the crowd using water cannons and tear gas. The turmoil, in turn, led Congress to urge military forces to refuse to obey the president’s orders and rather ring the country’s democratic institutions. Congress accused Cubas and his political ally Oviedo of being behind the killing. By then, a court case had already been opened against the president in connection with the pardon of Oviedo, who in the spring of 1998 was sentenced to ten years in prison after the coup attempt in 1996. Shortly after the killing of Argaña, Cubas was forced to step down, and Luis Ángel González Macchi took over as president. Cubas fled in exile to Brazil, while Oviedo sought refuge in Argentina; he later returned and was indicted. Oviedo’s supporters were accused of being behind a failed coup attempt in 2000, and the following year, the governor had to retire after a financial fraud affair.
After the turn of the millennium
At the 2003 presidential election, Nicanor Duarte of the Colorado Party triumphed, with promises of anti-corruption and poverty reduction. Duarte was considered a populist and was the first president outside the traditional power elite. Shortly after the election, corruption charges were filed against his predecessor Macchi, and in 2006 he was sentenced to six years in the first trial. When former President Cubas’ daughter was abducted and killed in 2005, stricter fighting against organized crime was announced, and replacements were made both in the government and in the police leadership. Paraguay is constantly struggling with a reputation as a hiding place for criminal activity, as South America’s most corruption-prone country and with what Duarte has called a “growing killing culture”. On the whole, it seems democracy that in 1990 replaced Alfredo Stroessnersdictatorship not to have the expectations of the population; Stroessner died in 2006, and in a UN study that same year, 62 percent indicated a desire for a “strong leader”, not a new dictator, to clean up what is considered a corruption culture within the power-bearing Colorado Party.
Around 18 percent of the population lives below the UN poverty line. Paraguay experienced an economic upswing during the so-called “soy boom” in the years after 2000 – but with deforestation, economies of scale and increased pace of escape into major cities as a counterpoint. Paraguay has joined the Latin American free trade cooperation Mercosur, but without it having produced the expected results. Under Duarte, the country refused to cooperate and, among other things, favorable oil deliveries from Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez and placed greater emphasis on a good relationship with the United States.
The 2008 presidential election marked the end of 61 years of conservative rule during the Colorado Party. It was the left-wing former bishop, Fernando Lugo, who lost the victory, as a result of a collaboration between parties from the center-left side called Alianza Patriótica para el Cambio (APC). The election campaign was based on promises of the fight against poverty, indigenous rights and land reform.
During his reign Lugo has faced great challenges in meeting his election promises. His government has not had a majority in Congress. The center-left side has only 2 of 45 representatives in the Senate. This has limited the president’s ability to act. Rumors of internal divisions in the center-left alliance have created political instability during the period. In particular, the suspicion of a conspiracy against the president, led by Vice President Federico Franco, has created internal conflicts in the alliance.
Changes Lugo has had a breakthrough for are the establishment of a council for agricultural reforms, the slowdown of land privatization, and the implementation of public health measures. He has introduced significant changes in the country’s environmental and indigenous policies. The President has also renegotiated the Brazil-Paraguay energy agreement for the Itaipú hydroelectric power plant. The new agreement was signed in 2009.
At the same time, Lugo’s government has taken up the fight against the widespread corruption in the Paraguayan administration. Several corruption cases have been uncovered. However, Lugo has himself been accused of corruption, on the basis of having distributed key positions to friends and family members.
Despite external reports (among others from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean – ECLAC) on significant economic growth in Paraguay in 2010, little has benefited the disadvantaged part of the country’s population. Poverty reduction in the period is reported as weak, based on Paraguay’s commitments to the UN Millennium Development Goals. Specific improvements in rural areas where 39 percent (figures from the CIA World Factbook 2010) of the population live have been few. There is still a great lack of drivable roads, electricity and public health services. Long periods of drought have led to serious food shortages in some places. So far, the president has also failed to cope with the recent rise in crime and murder rates in the country’s capital Asuncion.
In June 2012, Fernando Lugo was appointed President of the National Assembly, after being put on trial. The decision came after the majority in the assembly accused Lugo of not doing enough in advance of a clash between police and landless peasants a week earlier, in which 17 people were killed.
The National Assembly’s decision was received with heavy criticism in the rest of Latin America, with several countries refusing to recognize the country’s new President Federico Franco (Lugo’s former vice president). The reactions came as a result of the time spent in the deposition process, which many believe went too fast and without the president being able to prepare his own defense. Lugo himself claimed that he was forced to step down by what he called a parliamentary coup presented as a legal process. In the international press, the incident was referred to as a coup d’état.
Federico Franco was sworn in as Paraguay’s president on June 22, 2012, as representative of the PLRA Liberal Party. It is 72 years since the last representative of this party held the presidential office.
At the presidential election on April 21, 2013, the Colorado Party candidate Horacio Cartes was elected new president.