Paraguay

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Paraguay, or the República del Paraguay, is a landlocked country in South America bordering Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. The name Paraguay means "water that goes to the water," derived from the Guaraní words pará ("ocean"), gua ("to/from"), and y ("water"). The expression in Guaraní often refers solely to the national capital Asunción, but in Spanish refers to the entire country.

Slightly smaller than California, Paraguay has a population of 6,036,900 (2003). The (2002 figure) per capita GDP is only $940 (2002 figure) and 49.3% of the population earns less than $2 a day. The wealthiest 10% of the population receives 60.7% of all income while the poorest 10% receives only .5. (1998 figures).

History

Europeans first arrived in the area in the early 16th c. and the settlement of Asunción was founded on August 15, 1537, by the Spanish explorer Juan de Salazar. The city eventually became yet another Spanish colony, as well as a primary headquarters for Jesuit missions and settlements in South America in the 18th century.

Paraguay declared its independence by overthrowing the local Spanish authorities on May 14, 1811. In the disastrous War of the Triple Alliance (1865-1870), Paraguay lost 140,000 square kilometres of its territory (e.g. the Misiones region) and suffered a huge loss of its male population. Tradition holds that up to two thirds of the adult male population died. Paraguay gained a large part of its current territory at the expense of Bolivia, in the aftermath of the Chaco War, the culmination of a long series of border disputes between the two countries. They tried to settle their claims diplomatically along the second half of the 19th century. Successive negotiations failed to produce a definitive agreement, and Paraguay established its jurisdiction by encouraging the settlement of the largely unpopulated Chaco area. By 1935, Bolivia had regrouped and was able to stop the advance of the Paraguayan army. Exhausted by a long war, and having expanded its territory considerably, Paraguay accepted the mediation of the League of Nations.

In May 1954, General Alfredo Stroessner took power. He was "elected" president to complete the unexpired term of his predecessor and then "re-elected" president seven times, ruling almost continuously under the state-of-siege provision of the constitution with support from the military and the Colorado Party. During his 35 years in power, political liberty was severely limited and all political opposition was repressed in the name of national security and anti-communism. Though a 1967 constitution gave dubious legitimacy to Stroessner's control, Paraguay became progressively isolated from the world community.

Gen. Stroessner was overthrown in a military coup d'etat by General Andres Rodriguez on February 3, 1989. Rodriguez then , as the Colorado Party candidate, easily won the presidency as the Colorado Party candidates in a May election. The Colorado Party dominated the Congress so a more genuine democratization was not in the cards.

External

  • Transperancia Paraguay
  • U.S. Aid to Paraguay
  • Americas.org News and Commentary: Paraguay
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