The Republic of Paraguay is an independent State since May 15, 1811, located at the very heart of South America. Paraguay's neighbours are the Federative Republic of Brazil, the Republic of Argentine and the Republic of Bolivia. It has around five and a half millions of inhabitants in four hundred seven thousand sixty-two thousands square kilometres (approximately 11 people per square kilometre).

The territory is basically divided in two regions: the oriental region, most populated and fertile; and the occidental, known as Paraguayan Chaco, a huge and flat territory, more arid, where German origin colonies and indigenous tribes provide most its population. The territory is politically divided into 17 departments. The Paraguay River is our dorsal spine, flowing south toward the Parana River, which in turn, with the Uruguay River form the River Plate or Rio de la Plata Basin.

Paraguayan people are racially homogenous, the result of the mixture of local indigenes with Spanish conquerors. A hybrid culture appeared as a product of this fusion. Paraguayan people are also known as "Guarani people" in reference to our indigenous ancestors. Almost 90% of our population still continues speaking "Guarani", which is since 1992, an official language of the Republic, sharing the same quality of the Spanish language, our other official language.
Paraguay's name probably comes from and indigenous word meaning, "water which flows to the sea", in reference to Paraguay River, or maybe it derivates from the word "Payaguaes" the name of an indigenous tribe settled in the oriental region at the time the Spanish conquerors arrived.
To facilitate your understanding, I will adopt a classical division in three sections, each one corresponding to a specific period of our history.
Part One
Section 1: Pre Hispanic period:
The indigenes were the first people who arrived in America. Ethnologists, anthropologists, historians and archaeologists agree that the American aborigines are not from this continent. They have possibly emigrated from Australia and from South East Asia. They presumably arrived in America by three different routes. One of these routes was the Bering Strait. Another, the Antarctic pole which in ancient times was physically united with the American continent and with Australia, and finally the third was the Pacific Ocean, through which the Malaysians and Indonesians aborigines came to America, probably first to Panama or Colombia, after a period of settlement in Polynesia.
Nevertheless, those scientists disagree on the date of arrival of these indigenous people in America. The arrival date varies from 30.000 to 10.000 B.C. Paraguayan indigenes are thought to be originated from Proto-Malaysian or Proto-Indonesian aborigines (south east Asia) and settled in the oriental region of Paraguay around 2.000 B.C., after having taken south direction and crossed the Amazon forest. So, when the Spanish arrived in Paraguay, our indigenes were already living there for more than three thousand years. Indigenes people, who arrived in the occidental region or Paraguayan Chaco, probably came from Australia, by the Antarctic Pole. Thus, the Paraguay River acted as natural wall or division among indigenes of different origins.
Indigenes settled in a vast zone from the Atlantic Ocean to the Paraguay River, are also referred to as Guarani-Tupi linguistic family. The Guaranis or Guaranies, located in the oriental region of Paraguay, were composed of several "nations" or guaras, without a centralized government and characterized by their democracy because their decisions were taken by consensus. The Karios' guara were established in the central part of the oriental region, where the capital city Asuncion is actually located.

Guarani peoples spoke a very similar language among them and Europeans had to learn it, not only to communicate with them but also to be reliable to the indigenes. The Guaranis' conditions of life were known thanks to the work of the Chroniclers or Voyagers. They described their customs and sent it to Europe. This is how we know that the Guaranies practiced the anthropophagi or cannibalism, but only with male adults, excluding women and children. The victims were prisoners, and according to the chronicles, this horrible practice was aimed at diminishing and instilling fear in the rival tribes.
Guaranis were semi nomad peoples. They settled in a place for a certain period of time and lived from agriculture, hunt and fishing activities. They cleaned a small part of the forest called "rozado", to cultivate land and stayed there as long as the land was productive or peace was not in danger.
When the Spanish arrived at the beginning of the 16th century, pacific coexistence with the Guaranis was something very fragile. There were many indigenes revolts that caused lots of deaths. Gradually, the Spanish imposed their superiority by the means of the use of gunpowder and horses. Contrary to the legend that says Guaranis were very friendly people, new research shows that they defended their land fiercely.
The Guaranies were subjected to an ominous regime called "la Encomienda" which was very similar to a slavery regime. In fact every native was considered as a vassal of the Kings of Spain. They were forced to abandon their habitat and serve the "encomenderos", or Spanish people. Families were scattered in different places causing an irreparable cultural damage. But even in these conditions, the Guaranies continued to struggle
Jesuit Catholic Order arrived in Paraguay at the beginning of the 17th century with the express mission of taking those unconverted from the forest and putting them in the hand of God. Jesuits were given huge extension of land by the Spanish regime. They settled in a vast area that today corresponds to five countries: Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Bolivia. With the help of indigenes, Jesuits constructed more than 30 cities, called Missions. In Paraguay there were seven Missions, all of them exist until today and represent Paraguay's most important tourist attraction. Recently, two Paraguayan Mission were included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO.
Indigenes, in general were well treated during this period that lasted more than 150 years, until the Jesuits were ejected from Spain Kingdom, around 1779. Natives were, by the action of Jesuits, completely converted to the Christian faith. But the Jesuits, who isolated the indigenes from the Spanish colonial authorities, taught the former not only religion but different kinds of arts, namely sculpture, painting, music, among others. It is said that Jesuits and natives lived in so perfect harmony that Missions were called the "Republic of God". After the expulsion of the Jesuits, aborigines went back to forest, abandoned by the ruling authority.
A special paragraph to the aborigines living in the occidental region: As the Chaco region has never been densely populated or submitted to a massive urbanization plan, the indigenes living in this region were almost completely forgotten by three centuries. A timid essay of colonization started unsuccessfully in the 19th century, but it wasn't until the 20th century, in which foreign colonies settled in the middle of the Chaco, when Paraguayan started to realize the existence of these tribes.
Of an estimated population of one million at the beginning of the colonization period, today already exist a number ranging from fifty to one hundred thousand aborigines, in both regions.
Finally to conclude this section, I would like to stress the fact that much of what we know today about our indigenes has been possible thanks to the publication of important works of prestigious researchers like the late Leon Cadogan, the author of the "Mythic texts of Mya-Guarani of Guaira", and the "Dictionary of Mbya-Guarani"; the late Professor Mrs. Branislava Susnik, who patiently investigated the migrations of Guaranis; Professor Miguel Chase-Sardi, who died recently and was one of the most fervent defender of the indigenes and finally the Order of Jesuits, who came back to Paraguay 75 years ago, through some of its outstanding representatives like father Bartomeu Melia and others.
Section Two: The Conquest
As you all know, Columbus arrived in America on October 12, 1492, marking the beginning of "the encounter of two worlds" (el Encuentro de dos Mundos), as Mexican Professor Miguel Leon Portilla, a notable defender of America's Indians used to say.
In general the conquest is referred as to the period of time in which Spain sent great expeditions to America, financed by rich Spanish people, that in return, received from the King, the administration, the authority and even a portion of the richness (i.e. silver or gold) of the land to be conquered.
Generally it was a tough time because the Spanish captains faced strong resistance of the aborigines in all parts of the continent, from Florida in North America to Patagonia, the southern part of Argentina.
In Paraguay, this period goes from 1524, the year of the discovery of Paraguay by Captain Alejo Garcia, to the end the 17th century .Our Lady of Asuncion, (Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion) the official name of our capital city, was founded on August 15, 1537, by the captain Juan de Salazar y Espinoza. Another important governor was Domingo Martinez de Irala, who played a decisive role in the consolidation of the city of Asuncion as the center of the conquest.

Asuncion is called the "Mother of the cities", and the center of the conquest, because it was the first city provided with a minimum infrastructure: Cabildo or City Hall established in 1541, Church, soldiers casern, all surrounded by a wall made of woods or palisade. In sum, a small fortress that served as a safe place or refuge. Most of the important cities in the south cone of the continent, like Buenos Aires (second foundation), Cordoba, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Santa Fe de la Vera Cruz, Villa Rica del Espiritu Santo, Santiago de Xerez, Ontiveros o Ciudad Real, Concepcion del Bermejo, Corrientes and others, were founded from expeditions organized and arranged in Asuncion. Thus, Asuncion was the capital of the "Provincia Gigante de Indias" as it was called the very first Spanish territorial possession in America, and that consisted of a huge extension of land comprising today's territories of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Chile.
It is important to highlight in this period, the beginning of the process of inter-racial union, between Spanish conquerors and female natives, known as "el mestizaje", which is the origin of the Paraguayan people. It is probably in this time that the Paraguayans' identity or our national consciousness was born.
Female aborigines played an important role in this time. They were the "concubines" of the Spanish conquerors. Their children or "mestizos" were better tolerated in an incipient and dominant Spanish society. The mestizos represent the origin of the Paraguayan nationality.
This period correspond to an epoque in which everything was discovered and conquered in the vast new continent. This period ends when the "Provincia Gigante de Indias" was divided into several smaller provinces, after the conclusion of the conquest of the territories of Paraguay and the River Plate Basin (Argentina, Uruguay, part of Brazil, Chile).
Section Three: The Colony
After the Conquest, the Colony represents a very long period of time, approximately two centuries (1600-1800), in which the Spanish Kingdom initiated the administration of the new continent, imposing their laws: the Indians Laws; their authorities: viceroy, governors etc; and their cultural and religions patterns. It is a quite interesting period because as a result of the long coexistence between an occidental or European model and a local one, a new kind of society was shaped. These new societies, with European and autochthones ingredients, would turn to independent states, in the course of the 19th century.
The Colony is, therefore, a very long transitional period in which an oppressed society, the American colonies, chose to take in charge their own destiny, and to become independent from the Spanish rule, after a long process of decadence of the latter.
In Paraguay the colony goes until May 15, 1811, the date of our National Independence. Lets examine the most important events that happened in my country in the Colonial period.
From the beginning of the 17th century, the Province of Paraguay suffered several territorial transformations. The importance of the inland location of the fortified city of Asuncion, once considered the center and refuge of the conquest period because it represented a shell against permanent attacks of the aborigines' tribes, started to fade.
As soon as these indigenes were dominated by the Spanish because of the natural process of racial mixture called mestizaje, and the metropolis (Spain) increased its expeditions to America, other cities like Buenos Aires and Lima started to gain predominance in South America in detriment of Asuncion. Thus, in 1616, the province of Paraguay was divided in two smaller provinces: The province of Buenos Aires and the Province of Guaira or Paraguay. Since that year, Paraguay was deprived of maritime coast and became a Mediterranean or land locked province, and was placed under the administrative control of the Viceroy of Peru.
Paraguay has had an isolated existence since then, and this isolation or oblivion worsened as the time passed. To make things more dramatic, the province and its inhabitants were exposed to permanent attacks of its neighbours the "mamelucos" and their masters, the Portuguese "bandeirantes", who started a bellicose and deathly strategy, aiming at obtaining more land from Spanish Kingdom by this method. Lacking of the necessary military support from the distant viceroy of Peru, the inhabitants of the province of Paraguay had to learn to defend themselves.
When the time of our independence arrived, the "criollos" (Creole) and "mestizos", the latter being considered as the genuine Paraguayan people, were sufficiently trained to face any exterior menace and felt very confident in their own forces.
Another important event in this period was the arrival of the catholic order "The Company of Jesus", or Jesuits, in 1603, to evangelize the aborigine tribes of Paraguay. Jesuits were given huge extension of lands. They were under the authority of the King of Spain and its representatives in America and managed to build 30 Missions or Indigenes towns in which was virtually impossible to visit, even for the Spanish governors, without the permission of their religious authorities. The closeness of the Missions and the sensitivity the Jesuits showed in defence of the Indigenes generated several frictions with the civil or local authorities.

Even tough today's perception is that Jesuits represented a positive aspect of the colony in the sense that their presence served to alleviate the penuries of the natives, who were languishing under the "encomienda" system, the citizens of Asuncion in that epoque did not establish warm relations with them. They were considered as "power inside the power", because of their ability to influence Spanish authorities according to their own interest.
In this context, it is right to think that Asuncion's citizens developed a sense of self-protection not only against the Spaniard rule but also against the power of the Jesuits.
But the main aspect to be mentioned during this period in my opinion is the organization of the entity called "El Cabildo" or an equivalent of the nowadays' city hall. The Cabildo was thus a popular institution, integrated by the most distinguished neighbours of Asuncion and its responsibilities were very similar to those Cabildos that existed in Spain.
But in Paraguay the Cabildo, by a Royal Ordinance of 1537 was given the power to nominate -temporarily- the substitute of Governor of the province of Paraguay, in case of vacancy or force major reasons. This extraordinary power was used in several occasions. In case of incompetence or unpopularity of the governors, the Cabildos' members had the power to replace those, creating serious frictions or even military confrontations with their upper authorities in Lima and Buenos Aires.
One of the most famous examples of the "rebellion" of the Province of Paraguay occurred from 1705 to 1735, in the "Comuneros Revolution". During this period, the Cabildo of Asuncion headed a bloody confrontation against Spanish authorities that tried to impose unpopular governors to the province of Paraguay. In the end, the superiority of the Spanish forces triumphed over the "Comuneros" or popular forces, but this event was considered in Latin America as an early example of self-determination and autonomy that would provoke the next secession revolutions in the 19th century.
From the social point of view, Paraguay's population during the Colony was represented by a decreasing number of Spanish, the (Criollos) or Creole who were children of Spanish people born in America, the mestizos or descendants of Spanish male and female indigenes and finally the aborigines.
While the minority of Spanish held the most important political posts during the whole colony period, the Creoles exceptionally exerted high responsibilities and were normally appointed in less important duties. One notable exception to this rule was the nomination of Hernando Arias de Saavedra, called by his short name "Hernandarias", the first Creole appointed governor of the Province of Paraguay.
Later, due to the Spanish's lack of interest to defend the province, the Creoles and mestizos were allowed to join the army of the province. Thus, it was quite natural the appearance of a strong sense of solidarity between the Creoles and the mestizos.
This solidarity or affinity between the two of the most -numerically- important social classes in Paraguay constitute the political and the social backbone of the Paraguayan society and its legitimate aspirations resulted in the independence of Paraguay.
One important feature of the province was the fact that the language of the aborigines was ordinary spoken in all social classes. The indigenes maybe have lost their land in favor of the Spanish people but the latter were definitively conquered by the natives' language.
To conclude my reference to this important period I would like to say some words about the economy. The isolated province of Paraguay was oppressed by royal taxes on its main agricultural products (tobacco, Yerba mate, cotton). These taxes contributed to the impoverishment of the Province. The diezmo and estanco were the most hated taxes imposed to the Yerba mate and tobacco, respectively. The collected money was considered as a tribute that Paraguayans should pay in retribution for the use of the kingdom's land. In fact, the Spanish Crown was heavily indebted to supporting its wars against other Europe's powers.
On the other hand, additional charges (tolls) were established in the "Puerto preciso de Santa Fe" and Buenos Aires. To make the things worse, the Jesuits were exempted from paying these taxes, and contributed to the general rejection of this oppressive situation, which benefited very much to the enrichment of this religious order, and to the poverty of the citizens of Asuncion.
These are the main characteristics of the colonization period, but these situations can also be considered -collectively or individually- as a remote origin of the Paraguayans patriots' revolt that happened on May 15, 1811. The province of Paraguay and the inhabitants of Asuncion were thus just expecting the right moment to freed themselves from the Spanish rule that had neglected politically and exploited economically one of its most noble provinces.
Section IV: The Independence Period.
The expected moment for independence arrived in 1811, when it was known, in Asuncion, that the King of Spain, Fernando VII was imprisoned by French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, who put his brother Jose as regent of the Spanish crown. American colonies were abandoned and fearing an invasion of other European armies, started to prepare their own defences. On the other hand, the Portuguese Crown, proclaimed a family kinship with the Spanish kingdom to offer "protection" to the American colonies.
In this situation, the patriots, proclaimed the independence of Paraguay in the morning of May 15, 1811. The Spanish governor Bernardo de Velazco was invited to conform the first independent government called the "triunvirato", along with Jose Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia and Juan Valeriano de Zeballos.
Who these patriots were and which were the real causes of our independence?
We can summarize some of the most important causes:
- The self-reliant and self-confident sentiment acquired by the "mestizos" and "criollos" social classes during the long colony period, by opposition to a minority and irresolute Spanish social class. By the time of the Paraguayan independence, mestizos and criollos integrated most of the military forces. Thus, the mestizos were the backbone of the future Paraguayan society.
- The progressive isolation of the Spanish governor of the province of Paraguay, from its own authorities, and,
- The example of autonomy and independence that was reflected by the French Revolution and most importantly by the 13 Colonies of the North America Confederation
The patriots were: among the military members: colonel Fulgencio Yegros, colonel Vicente Ignacio Iturbe, captain Pedro Juan Caballero, colonel Juan Valeriano Zeballos (Spanish but supporter of the revolution). Among the civil citizens: doctor Jose Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia, Mrs. Juana Maria de Lara.
The Paraguayans patriots or proceres were distinguished members of the Spanish army garrison located in Asuncion and members of the civil society. But most of them were Creoles or mestizos, very well educated people, and all of them aware of the situation in Spain and also suspicious on the intentions of the Portuguese crown and the Buenos Aires' Viceroy that wanted and tried -unsuccessfully- the annexation of the province of Paraguay.
But I have to stress once again that the most important factor was that the patriots were all deeply convinced that a new Paraguayan nation was born in the 19th century, and it corresponded to Paraguayans to take the destiny of the nation in their own hands.

In these difficult circumstances, the patriots plotted against the Spanish governor from the beginning of the year 1811, and decided to install an autonomous government. The Paraguayan revolution was the only that succeeded without the loss of any human life and without the use of any fire guns.
At the beginning of our new life as a free or independent nation, nevertheless, Paraguay had to assure its independence and be recognized as a sovereign state. In view to obtaining these important goals, Paraguay's successive government proceeded in two different manners: firstly the isolation period: from 1813 to 1840, secondly: the openness period: from 1842 to 1870.
The first served to the consolidation of our independence by closing our national borders and exerting controls over the scarce foreign visitors, and the second aiming to obtaining international reconnaissance and cooperation by a totally opposite policy: the openness of our frontier and the promotion and development of education.
In the first period, the most important political figure was the dictator Jose Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia; and in the second the constitutional president Carlos Antonio Lopez and his son the general Francisco Solano Lopez.
By 1864, Paraguay, in spite of its geographical isolation, was one of the more prosperous nations in South America. It had its own rail way transportation, hundreds of schools, an ammunition factory, shipbuilding docks, telegraphs service and Asuncion city was adorned by Europeans style buildings, due to the presence of many outstanding architects and professors.
Francia's period was important to definitively seal important aspects of our nationality. It is believe that during these long 30 years of isolation Paraguayan people not only learned how to live autonomously, without foreign dependence, but also forged forever its national customs and its particular culture.
Lopez's period, on the contrary, was synonymous of modernization. Every aspect of our national life was upgraded. But the emphasis was put on education and political freedom. Carlos Antonio Lopez's motto was "school are monuments to freedom". During his government, indigenes' slavery condition was abolished and the first political Constitution was adopted in 1844.
It is quite normal that Paraguayans argue about who was the most predominant figure in its history: Francia or the Lopez. The fact is that each one of them played the exact role in the exact moment of our history.
Section five: The hecatomb (1864-1870) and the reconstruction of the country (1870-1900)
Unfortunately, the progress reached by my country in the fifty or sixty years after its independence was completely destroyed by an outrageous war called the "triple alliance war" that lasted from 1864 to 1870. Paraguay fought an unequal war against three countries: Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. The result of this war was the complete destruction of my country.
These three countries repeatedly sustained that the triple alliance war was not directed against Paraguayan people but instead against its tyrant the Marshall Francisco Solano Lopez who was oppressing its people. But an English newspaper published, in 1866, under the title "The Alliance of Shame", the complete text of the real alliance secret pact between them, in which they clearly stated their territorial pretensions. This pact also stated that no one of them could declare peace separately to Paraguay and that war should finish only after the allies get all the Paraguayans' territories they were reclaiming.
In spite of the international campaign to put an end to the shameful war, the allies went on until the total annihilation of the Paraguayan army, in Cerro Cora, on March 1, 1870, which is also the date of the Marshall Lopez death.

This war carried out terrible consequences to the future of our country. Besides the imputation of great part of our territory, the Republic of Paraguay had to borrow huge amounts of money -for the first time in its history- to pay war's indemnification fees to the victims of the victorious countries. To repay these loans, the government had to sell, at low price, immense extensions of land to foreign companies, which took the bests land of our territory. The problem of an adequate and fair distribution of land to the Paraguayan people has its origin in this event that is more than 130 years old and remain unsolved until today.

Moreover, the after war's period was characterized by political instability. It is important to notice that immediately after the end of war, Paraguay adopted a new National Constitution, in 1870, and that during this constitutional period two of the most important political parties were founded: The Democratic Center, or Liberal Party, on 10 July 1887; and The National Republican Association, or Red Party, on August 25, of the same year.

Nevertheless, the last years of the 19th century witnessed some important events like the creation of the National University, the central bank and other modern public and private institutions.

Part Two
Section one: Paraguay in the 20th century. The Chaco's War.
Sub Section A: The Liberal Era.
Still heavily affected by the consequences of the Great War and by political skirmish that produced frequent coups, the Republic of Paraguay had to face another international war in the first half of the new century.
This time the confrontation was against Bolivia, in the so-called Chaco War. The whole occidental region or Paraguayan Chaco was pretended by Bolivians, which started an aggressive campaign of occupation. Paraguayan army, still in a phase of reorganization, had to take arms and reject the invasion during three long years (1932-1935).
Paraguay, victorious in this war, ended its military confrontation on June 12, 1935, after signing an armistice, and in 1938 signed a Peace and Limit Treaty with Bolivia, in Buenos Aires. Our army successfully defended the Chaco territory, and the end of war marked the beginning of its real development, with the arrival of foreign colonies (the Mennonites) that greatly contributed with the economy of the region.

From 1904 to 1940, around 36 years, there was a political predominance of the Liberal Party, (called the Liberal Era), which held power without a real political opposition. Nevertheless, this party was gravely divided in internal movements. There were lots of coups, and the army was frequently involved in those cups. Presidents of the Republic and its cabinets changed almost every year, some of them stayed in power only for months. The imminence of the Chaco's war brought some time of political stability. There were some outstanding and eminent Presidents like Cecilio Baez, Manuel Gondra, Eligio Ayala, Eusebio Ayala (the victorious President of the War), and the last Liberal President, the Marshal Jose Felix Estigarribia.
The National Constitution of 1870 was in force for 66 years. Some historians and politicians blame this Constitution to be one the most important causes of the political instability. They said that this was a very liberal Constitution, not suitable for a country that was ruined after an extermination war. In fact, this Constitution was a mere copy Argentine's Constitution and was imposed to the new Paraguayans authorities by the victorious powers that remained in Asuncion for several years after the end of the conflict.
The real power was in the Parliament's hands. They had the power to ask the demission of the President of the Republic. For these reasons only few of them could finish they constitutional term of four years.
In spite of this long period of unrest, the country was modernized by the arrival of foreign capital, interested basically in the exploitation of the country's reach natural resources. The economy philosophy of the Liberal Party proclaimed the principle of free market, with a minimum intervention of the State and this conjuncture suited very well for the attraction of foreign companies. But a salvage exploitation of our human and natural resources, and the consequent transfer of the companies' profits outside the country were the origins of the creation of the first labour unions, in the 1920's.
Coincidently, the spread of the communist ideology arrived to Paraguay and in 1928 the Paraguayan Communist Party was founded. Another leftist party, the "Revolutionary Febrerist Party" or Partido Revolucionario Febrerista, appeared in the political scene in 1936, founded by the Colonel Rafael Franco, who briefly exerted as President of the Republic during that year. In 1937 President Franco was overthrown by a new coup.
Coincidently, the spread of the communist ideology arrived to Paraguay and in 1928 the Paraguayan Communist Party was founded. Another leftist party, the "Revolutionary Febrerist Party" or Partido Revolucionario Febrerista, appeared in the political scene in 1936, founded by the Colonel Rafael Franco, who briefly exerted as President of the Republic during that year. In 1937 President Franco was overthrown by a new coup.
With a new government and a new Constitution everything seemed to be prepared for a period of calm and progress. Unfortunately, the President Estigarribia, the hero of the Chaco's War, suddenly died tragically on September 7, 1940, in an aviation accident.
From 1940 to 1948, the General Higinio Morinigo governed Paraguay. This was considered as a military period because of Morinigo banned all political parties activity and gave the main political posts to former war veterans. Morinigo said the people were not enough educated to vote and a strong government was the only solution for the political crisis. Nevertheless, he realized that was almost impossible to govern without the participation of the political parties. In 1945-46 he tried to open the political scenery by lifting the political parties interdiction and inviting the exiled politician to come back to the country.
Morinigo's decision was rapidly changed after the country entered in a violent political convulsion. To make the situation worst, Morinigo appointed all his ministers from the Colorado Party. An opposition coalition integrated by the Liberal, Febrerists and Comunist parties was formed with the aim to put an end to the Morinigo's regime, now backed by the Colorado Party. The confrontation that followed is known to be the most grave and bloodiest civil war in our history "The Revolution of 47".
The 47' civil revolutions thus marked the beginning of the predominance of the Colorado Party in the State's affairs, predominance that last until today.
Sub Section B: The Colorado Era.
The Colorado Party was founded in 1887, and is today's greatest political party in Paraguay.
It is in power since 1948. During the first six years there was a sort of internal fight to determine the heaviest internal movement. In 1954, started Paraguay's longest political regime when the General Alfredo Stroessner took power after elections in which he was the candidate of the Colorado Party. He will remain as President of the Republic until February 3, 1989, in which was ousted by a military coup headed by another General, Andres Rodriguez. The day after Stroessner was exiled and he is still living in that condition in Brasilia, the capital city of the Republic of Brazil.

Stroessner long term is still fresh in the memory of a large number of Paraguayans. His government is usually considered as a dictatorship regime, in which most of the elementary human rights were violated. Communist Party was proscribed and leaders of the opposition Liberal Party were exiled most of the time. Press freedom was severely limited and journalists and intellectuals were persecuted and jailed frequently. Education rights also were affected since the regime exerted control over universities and schools and even imposed study programs that fitted its interests.
Let see which were the factors that contributed the long existence of this regime:
In the internal front, his regime was supported by a combination of political and military forces (the Colorado Party and the Paraguayan Army). Representatives of other fractions of his own Party who disagree with him were also forced to leave the country.
In the external front, a combination of factors contributed to maintain this regime: On one hand, the period of the Cold War made possible that United Stated supported this regime in order to avoid the presence of communism in the region. Even though North American governments knew very well the non-democratic nature of Stroessner's regime, it wasn't until the end of the eighties that they started to put more pressure to democratize it (Human Rights policy of President Jimmy Carter).
On the other hand, in most of the Latin American countries the decades of the 60, 70 and 80, were also characterized by autocratic or dictatorship regimes, namely in Brazil, Argentina, Chile etc. Stroessner didn't received, for more then three decades, any important international sign of alert or any serious warn to make him change his regime.
On the contrary, in 1967, he adopted a new National Constitution and modified it in 1977, in order to remain in power.
Fortunately, at the end of the eighties, the internal situation as well as the international environment changed dramatically, eroding the regime to produce its collapse in February 1989. The Colorado party suffered a profound division in its internal election in 1988 and Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay recovered democracy in the beginning of the eighties, worsening the international isolation of the dictatorship.
Section two: Paraguay in the 21st Century.
Paraguay is today a democratic country. The process or transition away from authoritarian rule toward unrestricted democracy started on February 3, 1989. Since then, the most outstanding events in the political field are:
- Three presidential and legislative elections in 1989, 1993,1998 (the next is due in 2003). In 1993 President Juan Carlos Wasmosy was the first civil President in more than fifty years.
- The adoption of a new Constitution in 1992. This Constitution permitted the election by the people of the Governors and Mayors, for the first time in our history. Mayoral Elections in 1991, 1996 and 2001.
- The creation of a new national political party "National Encounter" or "Encuentro Nacional" whose candidate obtained 22% of the votes in the presidential election of 1993 (third place).
- The creation of the electoral jurisdiction. Under the Law 635/95, a Supreme Electoral Tribunal, (second instance) Electoral Tribunals and Electoral Judges were created. They are the only authorities to enforce electoral laws and to proclaim the legitimate winners of the elections.
- Paraguay's commitment to respect democracy is endorsed by its membership in the Group of Rio (composed only by democratic countries), by the ratification of the Usuhaia Protocol, a democratic chart of the Mercosur's Members, as well as by its adherence to other international multilateral Conventions on Human Rights.
  - A dramatic event happened in March 29, 1999, when the Vice-President of the Republic Mr. Luis Maria Argana was assassinated. A massive popular protest took place in front of the Parliament building and the President of the Republic Mr. Raul Cubas, facing an unfavourable impeachment process initiated by the Congress, had to resign a few days later this crime. The President of the Parliament Mr. Luis Angel Gonzalez Macchi assumed the Presidency and his term ends in May 2003. This civil protestation was directed against the intervention and influence of some members of the military in the political life of the country. The collapse of the Cubas' administration was regarded as a victory of the civility.
Characteristics of this transitional political period:
- Cohesion rule broke and political parties admitted the existence of internal movements.
- This fragmentation of the main political parties increased the political tension in the country.
- For the first time since 1940, we witnessed a new political coalition between in the Government Colorado, Liberal and Encuentro Nacional, in 1999.
- The predominance of the Colorado party remains, since 1954, but the participation of the opposition parties became more effective and real.
- Society has gained more participation in the political life. The number of social protests and manifestations that have become a routine in the country proves this assertion.
- There has been a declining confidence in the capacity of politicians. Not only the Executive, but also the Legislative branch of the State has eroded its image and people's confidence. The Judicial Power that obtained -painfully- its autonomy after the dictatorship period, has become under fire lately because of the influence of politicians in judicial matters.
- The upcoming presidential election, in 2003, will be vital to demonstrate if traditional parties are declining or not.
- A new political party, Patria Querida, composed by segments of society disenchanted with traditional parties will participate in the next election.
- Corruption cases have flourished since there have been more information about corruption. It does not mean that corruption has necessarily increased but due to the fact that access to information is more open, today is more likely that citizens can initiate or denounce corruption practices.
- Increase of criminality: assassinations, drug traffic and other forms of crimes are challenging seriously the capacity of our democratic regime to get rid of these illegal activities.
- Problem of governance: Democracy has weakened the State's Power. People's participation in public affairs has increased, but this participation, which should be healthy to any country, has been made in a complete disorder, diminishing the seriousness of the democratic institutions. As a consequence, there has been an erosion of the government credibility.
- My country has experimented, like many others in the region, inevitable tension between gobernability, which seeks to maximize consensus and efficient decision-making, and democracy, whose exercise involves the expression of multiple interests and conflict.
Even though the Republic of Paraguay is a democratic country, its political life is still affected by the following practices and beliefs:
- nability to construct the "consensus" on the main issues of the country (economics, social and politics). Without consensus it is almost impossible to tackle the most urgent problems of the country.
- Paraguayan political parties are not used to form coalitions. Instead, they seek the exclusion of other parties in the state's affairs.
- The insufficient level of education of the people, especially in the countryside, contributes to the belief that Paraguay still needs a strong "leader" or caudillo, to govern the country. This individual leadership easily evolved to dictatorship regimes, as history has shown us.
- The previous belief leads to another that says the Paraguayan people is too rebel or immature to live in democracy. This belief has justified in the past the appearance of authoritarian governments.
- Even though Paraguayans recognize the importance of the military in the history of the country, some members of the armed forces, maybe influenced by those previous beliefs, still tend to interfere in politics. Nevertheless this tendency is diminishing and a majority of them are in favor of respecting the unique role of the army, which is assuring and defending the integrity and the independence of the Republic.
- Paraguay has an overwhelming majority of young people. Sixty five percent of the population is under its thirties. This youth is demanding more participation in politics. There is among youngsters, the certainty that they must be the drive force to carry out changes in this field.
- Globalization trend is a challenge to my country. This trend has not only induced its more active participation in -democratic related- international organizations, but also the progressive elimination of frontiers has permitted a deepen integration, especially with our neighbours and Mercosur partners. Integration between countries is -consequently- based on the condition of the respect of democracy. It almost unthinkable that any country in our region, including of course mine, can go back and choose an authoritarian regime because it will produce its automatic isolation from the international community.
- It is foreseeable that in the future, the successive governments will have to widening the door for an increased participation of opposition parties and social actors in the main issues and problems of the country, so that a national consensus can be reached for the benefit of the whole population
Internet web sites about Paraguay:
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores
Secretaria Tecnica de Planificacion
Banco Central del Paraguay
PARAGUAY - A Country Study