Paraguay: Location, History, Size, Population, & Government

About the location, size, population, and government of the country Paraguay.

PARAGUAY

NITTY GRITTY

Location--One of the 2 landlocked South American countries, located in central South America. Neighbors are Brazil to the northeast, Bolivia to the northwest, and Argentina to the south and southwest.

How Created--Early Spanish gold seekers used the extensive Paraguayan river system as an easy gateway to the riches of the Incan Empire, which lay on Paraguay's western edge. Lacking in mineral wealth, Paraguay was settled by farmers rather than exploited by treasure hunters, and generally ignored by the Spanish Government. Independence occurred in 1811, after Paraguay refused a joint independence with Argentina in 1810. Paraguay's territory was increased by 20,000 sq. mi. in the Chaco War (1932-1935).

Size--157,047 sq. mi. (406,752 sq. km.).

Population--2,850,000: mestizo, 74%; white, 21%; Amerindian, 3%; black, 1%; other, 1%. 95.1% Roman Catholic.

Who Rules--In theory a republic with a President and bicameral legislature elected every 5 years. Current head of state is Gen. Alfredo Stroessner, who had himself elected President in 1954 after a coup, and who has been "reelected" 3 times since. Recently he has permitted token political activity, and has run opposite sure losers in the presidential campaigns. In the 1973 election, 25% of the voters cast blank ballots or did not go to the polls at all, in protest. His 20-year-old dictatorship is the most enduring in South America.

Who REALLY Rules--Paraguay has been called Stroessner's "private estate." He controls the country, in conjunction with a select group of foreign businessmen, upper-level military, and landed wealth (11 huge farms cover 35% of eastern Paraguay). He rules the country virtually unchallenged; every 90 days the puppet legislature automatically renews the state-of-siege law which gives him the right to jail anyone, anytime, without a trial. (There are believed to be over 100 political prisoners in Paraguayan jails who have been held for as long as 10 years without trial.)

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