Latin America & Caribbean

Paraguay country profile

Map of Paraguay

Landlocked Paraguay is at the heart of South America, surrounded by Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil.

Political unrest, corruption and chronic economic problems have plagued the country's fragile democracy since it emerged from the 35-year dictatorship of the late Gen Alfredo Stroessner in 1989.

Around a quarter of Paraguayans live below the national poverty line. Much of the land is owned by a small number of individuals and successive governments have been slow to implement land reform.

The economy is reliant on agriculture and hydroelectric power. Unlike its neighbours, Paraguay does not have a large tourism industry.

Most of the population is of mixed Spanish and Guarani descent, known as mestizos, and speak the indigenous language Guarani as well as Spanish.

The Triple Frontier region, where Paraguay meets Argentina and Brazil, has long been associated with drug-smuggling and other contraband trade.

FACTS

Republic of Paraguay

Capital: Asuncion

  • Population 6.7 million

  • Area 406,752 sq km (157,048 sq miles)

  • Major languages Spanish, Guarani

  • Main religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 71 years (men), 75 years (women)

  • Currency guarani

Getty Images

LEADER

President: Mario Abdo Benítez

Image copyright Getty Images

Former senator Mario Abdo Benítez, of the ruling Colorado Party, assumed office in August 2018.

He narrowly triumphed in a presidential election held three months earlier, having promised to maintain low tax policies to encourage foreign investment.

His victory meant that the right-wing Colorado Party, which has dominated Paraguayan politics for decades, maintained its hold on power.

Mr Benitez is the son of a close aide to former military dictator Alfredo Stroessner, whose record he has faced criticism for defending.

MEDIA

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Rural workers and unions have been agitating for land reform

Private and public outlets make up the broadcasting landscape and media ownership is highly concentrated.

The media operate with few official curbs. Crime reporting can be perilous in an area bordering Brazil and Argentina.

TIMELINE

Some key dates in Paraguay's history:

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Long-term leader Alfredo Stroessner persecuted the indigenous population

1500s - Originally inhabited by the indigenous Guarani people before the arrival of the first Spanish settlers.

1811 - Declares independence from Spain and becomes a republic

1865-70 - War of the Triple Alliance - Paraguay goes to war with Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay in a bid to dominate the region but loses two-thirds of its adult male population and much of its territory. The government begins selling off land to pay off a crippling war debt leading to much of Paraguay's land being owned by a tiny elite.

1932-35 - After decades of economic stagnation, Paraguay wins swathes of land from Bolivia in the Chaco War.

1947 - Following a brief civil war, the right wing National Republican-Colorado Party rules Paraguay as a one-party state and goes on to dominate politics for the next 60 years.

1954-1989 - Army chief Alfredo Stroessner seizes power in a coup and rules for 35 years until he is overthrown by Gen Andres Rodriguez.

1992 - New constitution paves the way for free elections. Despite a failed coup attempt in 1996 and a succession of presidents, there is a long period of political instability and party infighting.

1999 - Bloody street protests follow the assassination of Vice-President Luis Maria Argana, President Raul Cubas resigns. A military coup is foiled the following year.

2008 - Six decades of rule by the right-wing Colorado Party is brought to an end when former Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo is elected president, but the party returns to power in 2013 with election of political newcomer Horacio Cartes.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Paraguay's semi-arid Chaco region is home to Ayoreo-Totobiegosode Indians, whose way of life is under threat from land developers and ranchers

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