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State

Capital

Paraguay

Asuncion

Currency unit

Guarani

Connections

Poverty

Serfdom

South America

Cold War

Spain

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 Economics

 Green

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History

Paraguay is one of the two buffer states between Brazil and Argentina, the local major powers. The outside observer may think that the country has had no luck, having passed through terrible wars and revolutions and being ruled for the most part by psychopaths and crooks.

When the Europeans arrived the area (including the lower parts of Bolivia and parts of north eastern Argentina and western Brazil) had a population of tens of millions organized in several large nations. The results of colonization has been to reduce this population to a remnant.

It was the site of a remarkable Jesuit colony during the 17th century. The Jesuit missionaries organized the native Guarani people into what they termed "Reducciones" - kibbutz-like communities in which they lived on terms of equality. At the coast the Spanish and Portuguese colonial rulers had organized the usual pattern of slave estates governed by aristocratic landowners. These resented the existence of unexploited Indians in the interior and no doubt feared the example if their own slaves came to know that life without slavery was possible. They persuaded the government to expel the Jesuits and brought the experiment to an end in 1767. (This has parallels with 20th century attempts by people in Central America to change the habitual pattern of life and land ownership - they are usually labeled Communists and overthrown by the power of the United States.)

The resulting state became independent from Spain but came into conflict with the successors in Brazil and Argentina. There were wars with Brazil from 1864 to 1870. Half the population died. From 1932 to 1935 there was another damaging war with Bolivia over an area known as the Chaco (believed wrongly to have oil). Land was lost to Bolivia and Brazil.

From 1954 until 1989 it was ruled by a dictator of German origin, Alfredo Stroessner, who gave asylum to former Nazis (including Josef Mengele and Martin Bormann) and operated a ruthless regime. He was overthrown but by people of a similar type. It was one of the last military dictatorships remaining in Latin America. He was replaced by one of his associates and went into exile.

During the 1970s and 1980s there was an agreement with the military governments of Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay to capture and return dissidents from the other countries.

It is the only American country where an Amerindian language, Guarani, is spoken by most of the people, including the people of mixed descent, and used officially. Will this influence its future?

It can be argued that the fall of the dictatorship, which was as bad as any of the classic 20th century type - torture, imprisonment without trial, censorship, death squads - was due to the end of the Cold War. Documents revealed since the fall have shown that Paraguay was an important link when western governments wished to do things in secret which they had declared illegal. These included the supply of arms to Iran, Iraq and South Africa. The Cold War allowed this nasty regime to be labeled part of the "Free World" . Now that there is no Communist enemy the right wing dictatorships are no longer supported.

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Spanish

Guarani

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Politics

There was a one party state. Although there was a structure of Assembly and President these were veils for the real power which was the personal power of the president exercised through non- constitutional force.

Following the overthrow of Stroessner, by one of his associates in 1989, there are some signs that the elected element may be becoming stronger.

Elections were held in May 1993. The opposition won seats in the assembly but not a majority. The former ruling party retained power. Is the dictatorship now ended? Perhaps only on the surface. Only after some time will it be possible to say whether the dictatorship is at an end. People are still powerless in face of economic "development" .

The 1998 elections saw the handover of one elected president to another for the first time in Paraguay's history.

The 2008 elections saw the opposition candidate - Fernando Lugo, a former Catholic Bishop - win for the first time for 60 years, ending the monopoly power of the Colorado Party.

In June 2012 he was "impeached" by the opposition party-controlled Senate and made to resign.

Interesting reading

The film "The Mission" was based loosely on history.

US$
The Mission (Two-Disc Special Edition)

The Mission

 History

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Economics

A center for smuggling between Brazil and Argentina. A big supplier of electricity to Brazil. Does the whole country benefit? It is said that Paraguay gets a poor price and very little of the electricity itself.

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Rights

 Climate

Green/Ecology

Like other dictatorships there was no concern for the environment. A huge dam at Itaipu is criticized for its environmental effects. Since the revolution rapid forest cutting (to prevent confiscation); river development without consultation affects ordinary people.

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

 Climate

Human Rights

There are believed to be political prisoners and little respect for the freedom of the courts or the rule of law.

During the Stroessner period there were disappearances (police executions in secret), torture and other abuses. Hundreds of secret graves have been found. There are signs of a revival of the rule of law as independent prosecutors (Juges d'instruction) search the records of the former secret police.

Have accepted western standards been achieved yet? Probably not, as many of the people who served under the dictatorship are still in place.

Climate effects

Last revised 24/06/12


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