California-size Paraguay is surrounded by Brazil, Bolivia, and Argentina in south-central South America. Eastern Paraguay, between the Paraná and Paraguay rivers, is upland country with the thickest population settled on the grassy slope that inclines toward the Paraguay River. The greater part of the Chaco region to the west is covered with marshes, lagoons, dense forests, and jungles.
Indians speaking Guaraní—the most common language in Paraguay today, after Spanish—were the country's first inhabitants. In 1526 and again in 1529, Sebastian Cabot explored Paraguay when he sailed up the Paraná and Paraguay rivers. From 1608 until their expulsion from the Spanish dominions in 1767, the Jesuits maintained an extensive establishment in the south and east of Paraguay. In 1811, Paraguay revolted against Spanish rule and became a nominal republic under two consuls.
Paraguay was governed by three dictators during the first 60 years of independence. The third, Francisco López, waged war against Uruguay, Brazil, and Argentina in 1865–1870, a conflict in which half the male population was killed. A new constitution in 1870, designed to prevent dictatorships and internal strife, failed to do so, and not until 1912 did a period of comparative economic and political stability begin. The Chaco War (1932–1935) with Bolivia won Paraguay more western territory.
After World War II, politics became particularly unstable. Alfredo Stroessner was dictator from 1954 until 1989, during which he was accused of the torture and murder of thousands of political opponents. Despite Paraguay's human rights record, the U.S. continuously supported Stroessner.
Stroessner was overthrown by army leader Gen. Andres Rodriguez in 1989. Rodriguez went on to win Paraguay's first multicandidate election in decades. Paraguay's new constitution went into effect in 1992. In 1993, Juan Carlos Wasmosy, a wealthy businessman and the candidate of the governing Colorado Party, won a five-year term in free elections.
Raúl Cubas Grau was elected president in May 1998. In 1999, Cubas was forced from office for his alleged involvement in the assassination of Vice President Luis María Argaña. The vice president had criticized Cubas for refusing to jail his mentor, Gen. Lino Oviedo, who had been convicted of leading a failed 1996 coup against Wasmosy. Oviedo was finally arrested in 2004 and jailed.
Luis Ángel González Macchi, appointed caretaker president after Cubas stepped down, was accused of mishandling $16 million in state funds, and in 2006 he was sentenced to six years in prison. Former journalist Nicanor Duarte Frutos became president on Aug. 15, 2003. He has pledged to clean up the pervasive corruption in his nearly bankrupt country. Paraguay has been in a protracted recession since the late 1990s.
On April 22, 2008, Fernando Lugo, a former Roman Catholic Bishop, was elected president of Paraguay beating the Colorado Party's candidate, Blanca Ovelar de Duarte, by 10 percentage points. Lugo's victory ended the Colorado Party's 61 years in power—a system of bureaucracy and patronage founded in 1887. Fernando Lugo was sworn in as president on Aug. 15, 2008.
Paraguay Experiences Largest Economic Growth in South America
In 2010, Paraguay experienced the greatest economic expansion in South America. Its economy was the 2nd fastest expanding economy in the world, after Qatar. Paraguay had a GDP growth rate of 14.5% by the end of 2010. Part of the expansion was due to long-term growth in the country's industrial sector, after years of declining production. Another reason was that rise of Paraguay's pharmaceutical industry, which supplied 70% of domestic consumption in 2010 and even begun exporting drugs. The country also showed rapid growth in the areas of steel, meat processing, organic sugar, and edible oils.
In August 2010, President Fernando Lugo was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He sought treatment in Brazil. He managed to continue his duties as President while undergoing treatment. President Lugo was one of several leaders in the region recently diagnosed with cancer. President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil was treated for lymphoma in 2009. In December 2011, Argentina's president, Cristina Fernández, was treated for thyroid cancer. Venezuela's Hugo Chávez underwent treatment for an undisclosed type of cancer in 2011.
Senate Votes to Remove President Lugo
On June 22, 2012, Paraguay's Senate voted to oust President Fernando Lugo. The vote happened after the Senate convened, put Lugo on trial and went over a list of accusations. The Senate refused Lugo's request for time to come back with a defense. With the presidential elections only nine months away, Lugo accepted the Senate's decision. Vice President Federico Franco replaced Lugo.
Argentina and Brazil immediately announced they would remove their ambassadors from Paraguay. President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina and President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela both called Lugo's dismal a coup d'état.
2013 Elections Return Power to Colorado Party
General elections were held on April 21, 2013. The Colorado Party took the majority in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies, putting them back in control. The Colorado Party had been in power for sixty years until they lost the majority in 2008.
Colorado Party candidate Horacio Cartes defeated the Paraguay Alegre alliance's Efraín Alegre for president. Cartes received 45.80 percent of the vote and is scheduled to take office on August 15, 2013. During his campaign, Cartes, who owns around two dozen businesses in Paraguay, promised to create jobs, modernize public enterprises, and raise private capital to upgrade the country's infrastructure.
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