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|Republic of Paraguay
República del Paraguay (Spanish)
Tetã Paraguái (Guaraní)
|Motto: Paz y justicia (Spanish)
"Peace and justice"
|Anthem: Paraguayos, República o Muerte (Spanish)
"Paraguayans, Republic or Death"
(and largest city)
25°16′S 57°40′W / 25.267°S 57.667°W
||95% mestizo, 5% other
||Constitutional presidential republic
||Chamber of Senators
||Chamber of Deputies
||May 14, 1811
||406,752 km2 (59th)
157,048 sq mi
||▲ 0.761 (medium) (101st)
|Drives on the
It lies on both banks of the Paraguay River
and is bordered by Argentina
to the south and southwest, Brazil
to the east and northeast, and Bolivia
to the northwest. Because of its central location in South America, the country is sometimes referred to as Corazón de América
— Heart of America.
As of 2009 the population was estimated at over six million.
The country is named after the river that runs through the center of the country, from north to south. There are at least four versions for the origin of the river's name. The literal translation from Guaraní
is Para = of many colors; Gua = from or belonging to or place; Y = water or river or lake
Paraguay is divided by the Río Paraguay
into the eastern region, officially called Eastern Paraguay (Paraguay Oriental) and known as the Paraná region; and the western region, officially called Western Paraguay (Paraguay Occidental) and also known as the Chaco
The terrain consists of grassy plains and wooded hills in the east. To the west, there are mostly low, marshy plains.
The local climate
ranges from subtropical
, with substantial rainfall in the eastern portions, though becoming semi-arid in the far west.
Pre-Columbian society in the wooded, fertile region which is now present-day Paraguay consisted of seminomadic tribes, who were recognized for their fierce warrior traditions. These indigenous tribes were members of five distinct language families, and 17 separate ethnolinguistic groups still remain today.
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 the expulsion of the Jesuits 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 political instability and infighting, and devastating wars with its neighbors.
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's prewar population of approximately 525,000 was reduced to about 221,000 in 1871, of which only about 28,000 were men.
Paraguay also 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
, but 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, Bolivia, Europe, or North America.
Both the Colorado Party
and Liberal Party
maintain distinct official versions of Paraguayan history
. During the pillaging of Asuncion (Saqueo de Asunción
) in 1869, the Brazilian Imperial Army ransacked and relocated the Paraguayan National Archives to Rio de Janeiro where they have been kept secret
, making Colonial and early National Period history difficult to study.
Between 1904 and 1954, Paraguay had thirty-one presidents, most of whom were removed from office by force.
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% of the vote compared to almost 31% for Blanca Ovelar
of the Colorado party.
Government and politics
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 dictator Alfredo Stroessner
, who remained in office for more than three decades. Paraguay modernized to some extent under Stroessner's regime, though his rule was marked by extensive human rights abuses.
The splits in the Colorado Party in the 1920s 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.
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 sixth 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.
In resposne to 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 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.
Paraguay consists of seventeen departments and one capital district (distrito capital). These are, with their capitals indicated:
The departments are further divided into districts
Paraguay population density (people per km2
There is no official data on the ethnic composition of the Paraguayan population, because the Department of Statistics, Surveys and Censuses (DGEEC) 
of Paraguay does not include the concepts race
in census surveys,
although it refers to the proportion of indigenous population. According to the census of 2002, the indigenous population was 1.7% of Paraguay's total population.
Traditionally, the Paraguayan population is considered mixed (mestizo
in Spanish), because of the widespread offspring of Guaraní women and Spanish settlers during Spain's domination of the country.
The Ministry of Education and Culture of Paraguay refers thus to the population of the country:
- "The dominant ancestry is European, which represents a large proportion of the population, mostly descendants of Spanish, Germans, Italians (who have contributed to repopulate the country after the Triple Alliance War) but also a large number of people of German descent, because the German Mennonites (mostly in the western part of the territory). There are 17 Mennonite colonies, only in the Paraguayan Chaco. It is one of Latin American countries with less indigenous trait (because the traditional Paraguayan population - Guaraní-Spanish mix - has been destroyed by the Allies in 1870, for which it had to repopulate the country by resorting to the Italian immigration).".
According to the CIA World Factbook
, Paraguay has a population of 6,669,086, 95% of which are mestizo
(mixed European and Amerindian) and 5% are labelled as "other" 
and are members of indigenous tribal groups. They are divided into 17 distinct ethnolinguistic groupings, many of which are poorly documented. One remarkable trace of the indigenous Guaraní culture that has endured in Paraguay is the Guaraní language
, understood by 90% of the population.
About 75% of all Paraguayans speak Spanish
. Guaraní and Spanish are official languages.
Small groups of ethnic Italians
, and Argentines
settled in Paraguay, and they have to an extent retained their respective languages and culture, particularly the Brazilians who represent the largest number. An estimated 400,000 Brazilians live in Paraguay.
Many of the Brazilians are descendants of the German, Italian and Polish immigrants.
There are also an estimated 63,000 Afro-Paraguayans, or 1% of the population.
Some 10,000 German-speaking Mennonites
live in the Paraguayan Chaco
Paraguay's population is distributed unevenly through the country. About 56% of Paraguayans live in urban areas. The vast majority of the people live in the eastern region near the capital and largest city, Asunción
, accounting for 10% of the country's population. The Gran Chaco
region, which includes the Alto Paraguay
and Presidente Hayes Department
, and accounts for about 60% of the territory, is home to less than 2% of the population.
According to the 2002 census, 89.6% of the population is Roman Catholic, 6.2% is evangelical Christian, 1.1% is other Christian, 0.6% practice indigenous relig
A U.S. State Department report on Religious Freedom names Catholic, evangelical Christian, mainline Protestant, Jewish (Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform), Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), and Baha'i as prominent religious groups and also mentions a large Muslim community in Alto Paraná
as a result of Middle-Eastern immigration, especially from Lebanon
, and also the Mennonite community in Boquerón.
Various poverty estimates suggest that 30-50% of the population is poor.
In rural areas, 41.20% of the people lack a monthly income to cover basic necessities, whereas in urban centers this figure is 27.6%. The top 10% of the population holds 43.8% of the national income, while the lowest 10% has 0.5%. The economic recession has worsened income inequality, notably in the rural areas, where the Gini coefficient
has risen from 0.56 in 1995 to 0.66 in 1999.
Similarly, land concentration in the Paraguayan countryside is one of the highest in the globe: 10% of the population controls 66% of the land, while 30% of the rural people are landless.
This inequality has caused a great deal of tensions between the landless and elites.
Paraguay is a developing country
with a 2005 Human Development Index
score of 0.755.
It ranks as the second poorest country in South America with a 2007 GDP per capita
of US$4,000. Approximately 2.1 million, or 35%, of its total population is poor and approximately 1 million, or 18% of the population live off less than US$ 2 a day.
However, Asuncion in Paraguay is ranked as the world's least expensive city to live in for the fifth year running.
Paraguay has a market economy
marked by a large informal sector
that features both re-export of imported consumer goods to neighboring countries, and thousands of small business enterprises. Paraguay's largest economic activity is based on agriculture, agribusiness and cattle ranching. Paraguay is ranked as the world's third largest exporter of chalk boards, and its beef exports are substantial for a country of its size. A 23.Aug.2008 Financial Times
article about Paraguay
states “Take record commodities prices, add a subtropical climate that gives farmers five harvests every 24 months and vast tracts of virgin arable land and it is no surprise that tiny Paraguay has emerged as one of the big beneficiaries of the global food crisis”. Such perception may put Paraguay into the focus of international agro producers. Reuters
India reports that "Some of India
's top vegetable oil firms plan to lease or buy land in Paraguay."
Paraguay allows foreign land ownership of any size. Only nationals of Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia cannot own land in specific frontier regions. Some media reports at the end of 2008 stated that foreign land purchases will be restricted but were wrong. They were based on a misunderstanding of that Brazilians/frontier-regions-reglementations. Indeed land purchases by foreigners, attracted by low land valuations,
have for long been a feature of the Paraguayan economy. A large percentage of the population derive their living from agricultural
activity, often on a subsistence basis. Despite difficulties arising from political instability, corruption and slow structural reforms, Paraguay has been a member of the free trade bloc Mercosur
, participating since 1991 as one of the founding members.
Paraguay's economic potential has been historically constrained by its landlocked geography, but it does enjoy access to the Atlantic Ocean
via the Paraná River
. Because it is landlocked, Paraguay's economy is very dependent on Brazil and Argentina, its major trade partners. Roughly 38% of the GDP
derives from trade and exports to Brazil and Argentina.
Through various treaties, Paraguay has been granted free ports in Argentina, Uruguay
and Brazil through which it sends its exports. The most important of these free ports is on the Brazilian Atlantic coast at Paranaguá
. The Friendship Bridge
that spans the Paraná River between Ciudad del Este
and the Brazilian city of Foz do Iguaçu
permits about forty thousand travelers to commute daily between both cities, and allows Paraguay land access to Paranaguá. A vibrant economy has developed in Ciudad del Este and Foz do Iguaçu
mostly based on international commerce and shopping trips by Brazilian buyers colloquially called sacoleiros
Bilateral European Union
(EU)-Paraguay trade in goods amounts to €437 million in 2005; the EU importing around €269 million and exporting roughly €168 million. In 2005, trade with EU represented 8.9% of Paraguay’s total trade. The EU market represents 13.7% of Paraguay exports and 6.1% of its imports.
Huge untapped reserves of fertile virgin land : the Chaco
, Palmar de las Islas Region
While the country’s external debt is 40% of GDP, Paraguay’s economy is still driven by agricultural production (27% of GDP and 84% of exports). It is a structure which is vulnerable to climatic factors and price volatility. Those vulnerabilities, combined with inequality, explain why poverty currently affects 40% of the population.
Paraguay’s economy grew by 6.4%
in 2007 and 5.8%
in 2008, fastest growing sector being agriculture with 10.5% growth.
Although ranked 112th out of 175 countries in the 2006 World Bank Doing Business ranking, Paraguay has ranked particularly well in the "Protecting Investors" sub-category within that index. The indexes vary between 0 and 10, with higher values indicating greater disclosure, greater liability of directors, greater powers of shareholders to challenge the transaction, and better investor protection, respectively.
The "Disclosure Index" for Paraguay is 6, whereas the Latin American region ranked only 4.3 (OECD countries ranked 6.3 on average). The country ranked 5 in "Director Liability Index", the same as OECD countries and better than the 5.1 attributed to its neighbors. In the "Shareholder Suits Index" category, Paraguay obtained 6 points, in contrast with 5.8 for its neighbors and 6.6 for OECD countries. The comprehensive "Investor Protection Index" attributed 5.7 to Paraguay, 5.1 to its neighbors and 6.0 to OECD countries on average.
Paraguay, "South America´s Forgotten Corner" is an off the beaten track destination for eco-travellers with a sense of adventure. Its compact size and pristine habitats means that visitors can build a large and varied animal list with a minimum of travelling. Visit the magical Atlantic Forest with its myriad of wonderfully-coloured birds (including the Guyra Pong our national bird!); the fascinating but under-studied Cerrado, home to some of the most threatened animals on earth; the lush, remote and rarely-visited Paraguayan Pantanal, a wetland paradise; the unique Mesopotamian Flooded Grasslands an unspoilt wet savannah and forest mosaic; or head up to the mysterious, isolated Chaco, without doubt the best place in South America to see large mammals. Few travellers ever make it to Paraguay, but those that do are blessed with a natural experience to rival that of the most famous eco-tourist destinations on the planet.
Industry and manufacturing
The industrial sector produces about 25% of Paraguay’s gross domestic product
(GDP) and employs about 31% of the labor force. Output grew by 2.9% in 2004, after five years of declining production. Traditionally an agricultural economy, Paraguay is showing some signs of long-term industrial growth.
industry is quickly supplanting foreign suppliers in meeting the country’s drug needs. Paraguayan companies now meet 70% of domestic consumption and have begun to export drugs. Strong growth also is evident in the production of edible oils, garments, organic sugar, meat processing, and steel.
Nevertheless, capital for further investment in the industrial sector of the economy is scarce. Following the revelation of widespread financial corruption in the 1990s, the government is still working to improve credit options for Paraguayan businesses. In 2003, manufacturing made up 13.6% of the GDP, and the sector employed about 11% of the working population in 2000. Paraguay’s primary manufacturing focus is on food and beverages. Wood products, paper products, hides and furs, and non-metallic mineral products also contribute to manufacturing totals. Steady growth in the manufacturing GDP during the 1990s (1.2% annually) laid the foundation for 2002 and 2003, when the annual growth rate rose to 2.5%.
exceeds 91 %. Literacy does not differ much by gender.
Primary education is free, mandatory and takes nine years. Secondary education takes three years.
Paraguay has several universities. The National University of Asunción was founded in 1889.
The net primary enrolment rate was at 88% in 2005.
Public expenditure on education was at about 4.3 % of the GDP in the early 2000s.
Public expenditure on health is 2.6 % of GDP and private expenditure on health 5.1 %.
Infant mortality was 20 per 1,000 births in 2005.
Maternal mortality was 150 per 100,000 live births in 2000.
The World Bank
has helped the Paraguayan government reduce Paraguay's maternal and infant mortality. The Mother and Child Basic Health Insurance Project
aimed to contribute to reducing mortality by increasing the use of selected life-saving services included in the country's Mother and Child Basic Health Insurance Program (MCBI) by women of child-bearing age, and children under age six in selected areas. To this end, the project also targeted improving the quality and efficiency of the health service network within certain areas, in addition to increasing the Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare's (MSPBS) management.
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- General information
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