The Paraguay History Collections Part One

The Paraguay History


Part one


Created By

Dr iwan suwandy,MHA

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The history of Paraguay is poorly documented, as almost no archaeological research has been done and little is known of Paraguay‘s pre-Columbian history. What is certain is that the eastern part of the country was occupied by

Guaraní peoples for at least 1,000 years before the Spanish colonization of the Americas. Evidence indicates that these indigenous Americans developed a fairly sophisticated semi-nomadic culture consisting of several independent multivillage communities. The first Spaniards settled in the territory in the 16th century. They were predominantly young men, as few women followed them to the region. Following the Spanish conquest and colonization, a large mixed (mestizo) population developed, which spoke the language of their indigenous mothers but adopted much of their fathers’ Spanish culture[citation needed].

Paraguay’s colonial history was one of general calm punctuated by turbulent political events; the country’s economy at the time made it unimportant to the Spanish crown, and the distance of its capital from other new cities on the South American continent lead to isolation.

Paraguay declared its independence from Spain in 1811; since then, the country has had a history of dictatorial governments, from the Utopian regime of

José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia (El Supremo)

to the suicidal reign of


 Francisco Solano López,

who nearly devastated the country in warfare against the combined forces of Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay from 1865 through 1870. The so-called Paraguayan War ended in the near annihilation of Paraguay and set the stage for the formation of a two-party (Colorado vs. Liberal) political system that persists until the present day.

Following political turmoil during the first three decades of the 20th century, Paraguay went to war again, this time with Bolivia. From 1932 to 1935, approximately 30,000 Paraguayans and 65,000 Bolivians died in fighting over possession of the Chaco region.

Initiative and creativity were stifled for many years during the rule of a series of dictators. From 1870 to 1954, Paraguay was ruled by 44 different men, 24 of whom were forced from office.

In 1954,


General Alfredo Stroessner

took advantage of the strong link between the armed forces and the Colorado Party to overthrow the government; he ruled until 1989.

Although there is little ethnic strife in Paraguay to impede social and economic progress, there is social conflict caused by underemployment and the enormous gap between the rich and the poor. Positive steps to correct these inequities have occurred since the 1989 ousting of the last dictator, and the country’s political system is moving toward a fully functioning democracy. However, the tradition of hierarchical organizational structures and generous rewarding of political favors prevails

Read More Informations

the flag

Paraguay, officially the Republic of Paraguay (Spanish: República del Paraguay), is a landlocked country in South America. It is bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. Paraguay lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, which runs through the center of the country from north to south. Due to its central location in South America, it is sometimes referred to as Corazón de América, or the Heart of America.


The Guaraní have been living in Paraguay since prior to the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century, when Paraguay became part of the Spanish colonial empire. Paraguay gained independence from Spain in 1811.


Independence House

The Casa de la Independencia Museum is located in the oldest building in Asuncion. Built in 1772, the house was constructed of palm wood and bamboo and features adobe walls and a thatched roof. Although the house was used as a residence, it was the center of one of the most important events in Paraguay’s history. It was in this humble home that the emancipation from Spain was planned in secret meetings. On May 14, 1811, a group of brave patriots left the house at dawn and surrounded the house of the Spanish governor. They demanded that he relinquish control over the nation, the surrender was carried out without any bloodshed.


In 2010, Paraguay experienced the largest economic expansion in Latin America and the second fastest in the world, only after Qatar.



The name of the river, Paraguay, is thought to come from Guaraní para, “of many varieties”, and gua, “riverine”.


There is no conclusive explanation for the origin of the name Paraguay.


The Spanish officer and scientist Félix de Azara suggests two versions: water from the Payaguas (Payaguá-and Payagua-i), referring to natural Payaguas living on the coasts of the river, and the other was due to the name of a great chief called “Paraguaio.”
The French-Argentine historian and writer Paul Groussac argued that it meant “river that flows through the sea (Pantanal).”
The ex-president and Paraguayan politician, Juan Natalicio Gonzalez said it meant “river of the habitants of the sea.”
Fray Antonio Ruiz de Montoya said that it meant “river crowned.”


Paraguay is divided by the Río Paraguay into the eastern region, 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 country lies between latitudes 19° and 28°S, and longitudes 54° and 63°W. 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 to temperate, 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 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 remain today.


Europeans 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 de Espinosa. The city eventually became the center of a Spanish colonial province, as well as the 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 overthrew the local Spanish administration on May 15, 1811. Paraguay’s first ruler was the dictator Jose Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia. He ruled Paraguay from 1814, until his death in 1840, with very little outside contact or influence, creating a utopian society based on Rousseau’s Social Contract. After his death, Paraguay went through the very brief ownership of various military officers under a new junta, until the secretary Carlos Antonio Lopez, Francia’s nephew, declared himself dictator. Lopez modernized Paraguay, and opened it up to foreign commerce. The relationship with Buenos Aires was limited to a non-aggression pact; Paraguayan independence from Argentina was declared in 1842. After Lopez’s death, power was transferred to his eldest son, Francisco Solano Lopez in 1862. Lopez’s expansionist aims lead to the War of the Triple Alliance in 1864. Paraguay fought against Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, and was defeated in 1870 after five years of the bloodiest war in South America. According to William D. Rubinstein, “The normal estimate is that of a Paraguayan population of somewhere between 450,000 and 900,000, only 220,000 survived the war, of whom only 28,000 were adult males.” Paraguay also suffered extensive territorial losses to Brazil and Argentina.


the Chaco

More Photos of the Chaco

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.


Paraguay’s Government Palace Palacio de los Lopez

Palacio de los Lopez, One of the most beautiful buildings in the city of Asuncion is the government palace. The construction of the Palacio de los Lopez began in 1857 as the residence for General Francisco Solano Lopez. But, the construction stopped with the outbreak of the War of the Triple Alliance and the palace wasn’t completed until 1892.

The official narrative of Paraguay’s history is fraught with disputes among historians, educators and politicians. The “authentic” version of historical events, wars in particular, varies depending on whether it was 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 in secrecy, making Paraguayan history in the Colonial and early National periods difficult to study.


Between 1904 and 1954, Paraguay had thirty-one presidents, most of whom were removed from office by force.


From 1954 to 1989, the country was ruled by Alfredo Stroessner and the Colorado party. The dictator oversaw an era of economic expansion, but at the cost of a poor human rights and environmental record. Torture and death for political opponents was routine. After his overthrow, the Colorado continued to dominate national politics until 2008.


Leftist former bishop Fernando Lugo achieved a historic victory in Paraguay’s presidential election of 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.


Paraguay is a representative democratic republic, with a multi-party system and separation of powers in three branches. Executive power is exercised solely by the President, who is head of state and head of government. Legislative power is vested in the two chambers of the National Congress. The Judiciary is vested on Tribunals and Courts of Civil Law and a nine-member Supreme Court of Justice, all of them independent of the executive and the legislature.


tomb of the unknown soldier

More Photos of the Hall of Honor

Paraguay gained its independence from Spain in 1811, and its first president was Jose Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia, who was originally appointed with Fulgencio Yegros as alternative consul, but in 1814, de Francia was appointed president. He established new laws that more or less completely removed the powers of the church and the cabinet, forbade colonial citizens from marrying one other, being allowed to marry only blacks, mulattoes or natives, and cut off Paraguay from the rest of South America. Because of de Francia’s abolition of freedom, and his drive for complete power, Yegros and several other ex-politicians attempted to host a coup-d’etat against him, which failed, and they were imprisoned for life.


the cathedral

After World War II, politics became particularly unstable, with several political parties fighting for power in the late 1940s, which most notably brought about 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, until 1989. Paraguay was modernized to some extent under Stroessner’s regime, although his rule was marked by extensive abuses.


The splits in the Colorado Party in the 1980s, and the conditions that led to this — Stroessner’s advanced 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.



PLRA leader Domingo Laino served as the focal point of the opposition in the second half of the 1980s. The government’s effort to isolate Laino by exiling him in 1982 had backfired. On his sixth attempt, in 1986, Laino 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 Laino’s return.


Cabildo- Cultural Center

More Photos of the Museum

However, the Stroessner regime relented in April 1987, and permitted Laino to arrive in Asunción. Laino 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.


stream driven engine

More Photos from the Railroad Museum


In response 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 PLRA, 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. Laino and several other opposition figures were arrested before dawn on the day of the election, February 14, and held for twelve hours. The government declared Stroessner’s re-election with 89% of the vote.


While contending that these results reflected the virtual Colorado monopoly on 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.


On February 3, 1989, Stroessner was overthrown in a military coup headed by General Andrés Rodríguez. As president, Rodríguez instituted political, legal, and economic reforms and initiated a rapprochement with the international community.


The June 1992 constitution established a democratic system of government and dramatically improved protection of fundamental rights. In May 1993, Colorado Party candidate Juan Carlos Wasmosy was elected as Paraguay’s first civilian president in almost 40 years, in what international observers deemed fair and free elections.


water view in Asunción

With support from the United States, the Organization of American States, and other countries in the region, the Paraguayan people rejected an April 1996 attempt by then Army Chief General Lino Oviedo to oust President Wasmosy, taking an important step to strengthen democracy.


church of Fray Alonso de Buenaventura

More Photos of the church of Fray Alonso de Buenaventura

Oviedo became the Colorado candidate for president in the 1998 election, but when the Supreme Court upheld in April his conviction on charges related to the 1996 coup attempt, he was not allowed to run and remained in confinement. His former running mate, Raúl Cubas, became the Colorado Party’s candidate, and was elected in May in elections deemed by international observers to be free and fair. One of Cubas’ first acts after taking office in August was to commute Oviedo’s sentence and release him from confinement. In December 1998, Paraguay’s Supreme Court declared these actions unconstitutional. In this tense atmosphere, the murder of Vice President and long-time Oviedo rival Luis María Argaña on March 23, 1999, led the Chamber of Deputies to impeach Cubas the next day. The March 26 murder of eight student antigovernment demonstrators, widely believed to have been carried out by Oviedo supporters, made it clear that the Senate would vote to remove Cubas on March 29, and Cubas resigned on March 28. Senate President Luis González Macchi, a Cubas opponent, was peacefully sworn in as president the same day.


Santísima Trinidad del Paraná Ruins

More Photos of Trinidad Mission

In 2003, Nicanor Duarte Frutos was elected and sworn in as president.


church of Reducción de Jesús

More Photos of the Jesus Mission

For the 2008 general elections, the Colorado Party was once again a favorite. This time, their candidate was not an internal opponent to the President and self-proclaimed reformer, as in the two previous elections, but Minister of Education Blanca Ovelar, the first woman to appear as a candidate for a major party in Paraguayan history. However after sixty years of Colorado rule, voters chose a non-politician, former Roman Catholic Bishop Fernando Lugo. Although he was a longtime follower of the controversial liberation theology he was backed by the center-right Liberal Party, the Colorado Party’s traditional opponents.


from a Paraguayan saddle factory

Photos of the Saddle factory

Outgoing President Nicanor Duarte Frutos hailed the moment as the first time in the history of this nation that a government had handed power to opposition forces in an orderly and peaceful fashion.


mate supplies

More Photos of Mate

Lugo was sworn in on August 15, 2008, but unlike other South American countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia, Lugo’s leftist agenda remains largely unimplemented as the Paraguayan Congress continues to be dominated by right-wing elected officials.


Monument in Filadelphia

More Photos of Filadelphia

Political instability in the past year, fueled by disputes within Fernando Lugo’s cabinet, has led the right wing Colorado Party to regain popularity. Reports suggest that the businessman Horacio Cartes is the new political figure amid disputes. Despite the DEA’s strong accusations against Cartes involving him in drug trafficking, he continues to amass followers in the political arena.


road in Chaco

On January 14, 2011, the Colorado Party convention enabled Horacio Cartes to run as the presidential candidate for the party, even though, as reports suggest, the party’s constitution didn’t allow it.

Chronology collectictions






The French Revolution, the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the subsequent war in Europe weakened Spain’s ability to maintain contact with and defend and control its colonies. When British troops attempted to seize Buenos Aires in 1806, the attack was repulsed by the city’s residents, not by Spain. Napoleon’s invasion of Spain in 1808, the capture of the Spanish king, Ferdinand VII, and Napoleon’s attempt to put his brother,

Joseph Bonaparte,

on the Spanish throne, severed the major remaining links between metropolis and satellite. Joseph had no constituency in Spanish America. Without a king, the entire colonial system lost its legitimacy, and the colonists revolted. Buoyed by their recent victory over British troops, the Buenos Aires cabildo deposed the Spanish viceroy on May 25, 1810, vowing to rule in the name of Ferdinand VII.



Yegros, Francia and Caballero.

The porteño action had unforeseen consequences for the histories of Argentina and Paraguay. News of the events in Buenos Aires stunned the citizens of Asunción, who had largely supported the royalist position. Discontent with the Spanish monarchy was dismissed because of a bigger rivalry with the city of Buenos Aires.

The porteños bungled their effort to extend control over Paraguay by choosing José Espínola y Peña as their spokesman in Asunción. Espínola was “perhaps the most hated Paraguayan of his era”, in the words of historian John Hoyt Williams. Espínola’s reception in Asunción was less than cordial, partly because he was closely linked to rapacious policies of

 the ex-governor, Lázaro de Rivera,

who had arbitrarily shot hundreds of his citizens until he was forced from office in 1805. Barely escaping a term of exile in Paraguay’s far north, Espínola fled back to Buenos Aires and lied about the extent of porteño support in Paraguay, causing the Buenos Aires cabildo to make an equally disastrous move. In a bid to settle the issue by force, the cabildo sent 1,100 troops under

 General Manuel Belgrano

 to subdue Asunción. Paraguayan troops soundly thrashed the porteños at Paraguarí and Tacuarí. Officers from both armies, however, fraternized openly during the campaign.

From these contacts the Paraguayans came to realize that Spanish dominance in South America was coming to an end, and that they, and not the Spaniards, held the real power.

The Paraguayan royalists’ ill-conceived actions inflamed nationalist sentiment. Believing that the Paraguayan officers who had beaten the porteños posed a direct threat to his rule,

Governor Bernardo de Velasco

 dispersed and disarmed the forces under his command and sent most of the soldiers home without paying them for their eight months of service. Velasco previously had lost face when he fled the battlefield at Paraguarí, thinking Belgrano would win. Discontent spread, and the last straw was the request by the Asunción cabildo for Portuguese military support against Belgrano’s forces, who were encamped just over the border in present-day Argentina. Far from bolstering the cabildo’s position, this move instantly ignited an uprising and the overthrow of Spanish authority in Paraguay on May 14 and 15, 1811.

Dictatorship and war



José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia



Litograph of José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia, a 19th century ruler of Paraguay, with a mate and its respective bombilla.



José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia played a crucial role in the nation building of Paraguay

José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia was one of the greatest figures in Paraguayan history. Ruling from 1814 until his death in 1840, Francia succeeded almost single-handedly in building a strong, prosperous, secure, and independent nation at a time when Paraguay’s continued existence as a distinct country seemed unlikely. He left Paraguay at peace, with government coffers full and many infant industries flourishing. Frugal, honest, competent, and diligent, Francia was popular with the lower classes. Despite his popularity, Francia trampled on human rights, imposing a police state based on espionage, threats and force. Under Francia, Paraguay underwent a social upheaval that destroyed the old elites.

Paraguay at independence was a relatively undeveloped country. Most residents of Asunción and virtually all rural inhabitants were illiterate. Urban elites did have access to private schools and tutoring. University education was, however, restricted to the few who could afford studies at the National University of Córdoba, in present-day Argentina. Very few people had any experience in government, finance, or administration. The settlers treated the Indians as little better than slaves, and the paternalistic clergy treated them like children. The country was surrounded by hostile neighbors, including the warlike Chaco tribes. Strong measures were needed to save the country from disintegration.


By outwitting porteño diplomats in the negotiations that produced the Treaty of October 11, 1811 (in which Argentina implicitly recognized Paraguayan independence in return for vague promises of a military alliance), Francia proved that he possessed skills crucial to the future of the country.

Francia consolidated his power by convincing the insecure Paraguayan elite that he was indispensable. But at the end of 1811, dissatisfied with the political role that military officers were beginning to play, he resigned from the junta. From his retirement in his modest chacra (cottage or hut) at Ibaray, near Asunción, he told countless ordinary citizens who came to visit him that their revolution had been betrayed, that the change in government had only traded a Spanish-born elite for a criollo one, and that the present government was incompetent and mismanaged. In fact, the country was rapidly heading for a crisis. Not only were the Portuguese threatening to overrun the northern frontiers, but Argentina had also effectively closed the Río de la Plata to Paraguayan commerce by levying taxes and seizing ships. To make matters worse, the porteño government agitated for Paraguayan military assistance against the Spanish in Uruguay and, disregarding the Treaty of October 11, for unification of Paraguay with Argentina. The porteño government also informed the junta it wanted to reopen talks.




 Assuming control

When the junta learned that a porteño diplomat was on his way to Asunción, it panicked because it realized it was not competent to negotiate without Francia. In November 1812, the junta members invited Francia to take charge of foreign policy, an offer Francia accepted. In return, the junta agreed to place one-half of the army and half the available munitions under Francia’s command.



In the absence of anyone equal to him on the junta, Francia now controlled the government. When the Argentine envoy, Nicolás de Herrera, arrived in May 1813, he learned to his dismay that all decisions had to await the meeting of a Paraguayan congress in late September. Meanwhile, Paraguay again declared itself independent of Argentina and expelled two junta members known to be sympathetic to union with Argentina. Under virtual house arrest, Herrera had little scope to build support for unification, even though he resorted to bribery

The congress, which met on September 30, 1813, was certainly the first of its kind in Latin America. There were more than 1,100 delegates chosen by universal male suffrage, and many of these delegates represented the poor, rural Paraguayan majority. Ironically, the decisions of this democratically elected body would set the stage for a long dictatorship. Herrera was neither allowed to attend the sessions, nor to present his declaration; instead, the congress gave overwhelming support to Francia’s anti-imperialist foreign policy. The delegates rejected a proposal for Paraguayan attendance at a constitutional congress at Buenos Aires and established a Paraguayan republic, the first in Spanish America, with Francia as first consul. Francia was supposed to trade places every four months with the second consul, Fulgencio Yegros, but Francia’s consulship marked the beginning of his direct rule because Yegros was little more than a figurehead. Yegros, a man without political ambitions, represented the nationalist criollo military elite, but Francia was the more powerful because he derived his strength from the nationalist masses.



In 1820,

 four years after a Paraguayan congress had named Francia dictator for life with the title El Supremo Dictador (supreme dictator), Francia’s security system uncovered and quickly crushed a plot by the elite to assassinate El Supremo. Francia arrested almost 200 prominent Paraguayans and executed most of them. In 1821, Francia struck again, summoning all of Paraguay’s 300 or so peninsulares (people born in Spain) to Asunción’s main square, where he accused them of treason, had them arrested, and held them in jail for 18 months. Francia released them only after they agreed to pay an enormous collective indemnity of 150,000 pesos (about 75 percent of the annual state budget), an amount so large that it broke their predominance in the Paraguayan economy.

Targeting the church

One of Francia’s special targets was the Roman Catholic Church. The church had provided an essential ideological underpinning to Spanish rule by spreading the doctrine of the “divine right of kings” and inculcating the Indian masses with a resigned fatalism about their social status and economic prospects. Francia banned religious orders, closed the country’s only seminary, “secularized” monks and priests by forcing them to swear loyalty to the state, abolished the fuero eclesiástico (the privilege of clerical immunity from civil courts), confiscated church property, and subordinated church finances to state control.

The common people of Paraguay benefited from the repression of the traditional elites and from the expansion of the state. The state took land from the elite and the church and leased it to the poor. About 875 families received homesteads from the lands of the former seminary. The various fines and confiscations levied on the criollos helped reduce taxes for everyone else. As a result, Francia’s attacks on the elite and his state-socialist policies provoked little popular resistance. The fines, expropriations, and confiscations of foreign-held property meant that the state quickly became the nation’s largest landowner, eventually operating forty-five animal-breeding farms. Run by army personnel, the farms proved so successful that the surplus animals were given away to the peasants.



In contrast to other states in the region, Paraguay was efficiently and honestly administered, stable, and secure (the army having grown to 1,800 regulars). Crime continued to exist during the Franciata (the period of Francia’s rule), but the justice system treated criminals leniently. Murderers, for example, were put to work on public projects. Asylum for political refugees from other countries became a Paraguayan hallmark. An extremely frugal and honest man, Francia left the state treasury with at least twice as much money in it as when he took office, including 36,500 pesos of his unspent salary, the equivalent of several years’ salary.

The state soon developed native industries in shipbuilding and textiles, a centrally planned and administered agricultural sector, which was more diversified and productive than the prior export monoculture, and other manufacturing capabilities. These developments supported Francia’s policy of economic self-sufficiency, no longer being reliant on another nation.

Francia’s greatest accomplishment, the preservation of Paraguayan independence, resulted directly from a non-interventionist foreign policy. Regarding Argentina as a potential threat to Paraguay, he shifted his foreign policy toward Brazil by quickly recognizing Brazilian independence in 1822.

This move, however, resulted in no special favors for the Brazilians from Francia, who was also on good, if limited, terms with Juan Manuel Rosas, the Argentine governor. Francia prevented civil war and secured his role as dictator when he cut off his internal enemies from their friends in Buenos Aires. Despite his “isolationist” policies, Francia conducted a profitable but closely supervised import-export trade with both countries to obtain key foreign goods, particularly armaments.

All of these political and economic developments put Paraguay on the path of independent nationhood, yet the country’s undoubted progress during the years of the Franciata took place because of complete popular abdication to Francia’s will. El Supremo personally controlled every aspect of Paraguayan public life. No decision at the state level, no matter how small, could be made without his approval. All of Paraguay’s accomplishments during this period, including its existence as a nation, were attributable almost entirely to Francia. The common people saw these accomplishments as Francia’s gifts, but along with these gifts came political passivity and naïveté among most Paraguayans.[citation needed]





 Carlos Antonio López

Confusion overtook the state in the aftermath of Francia’s death on September 20, 1840, because El Supremo, now ‘El Difunto’ (the Dead One), had left no successor. After a few days, a junta emerged, freed some political prisoners, arrested Francia’s secretary Polycarpo Patiño, and soon proved itself ineffectual at governing.


 In January 1841, the junta was overthrown. Another coup followed sixteen days later led by two sergeants. They lacked the authority to rule and chaos continued until in March 1841 when congress chose Carlos Antonio López as first consul.


 In 1844 another congress named López president of the republic, a post he held until his death in 1862. Paraguay had its second dictator.

López, a lawyer, was one of the most educated men in the country. Until his elevation to consul, López, born in 1787, had lived in relative obscurity. Although López’s government was similar to Francia’s system, his appearance, style, and policies were quite different. In contrast to Francia, who was lean, López was obese (a “great tidal wave of human flesh”, according to one who knew him). López was a despot who wanted to found a dynasty and run Paraguay like a personal fiefdom. Francia had pictured himself as the first citizen of a revolutionary state, whereas López used the all-powerful state bequeathed by the proverbially honest Francia to enrich himself and his family.

López soon became the largest landowner and cattle rancher in the country, amassing a fortune, which he augmented with the state’s monopoly profits from the yerba maté trade. Despite his greed, Paraguay prospered under El Excelentísimo (the Most Excellent One), as López was known. Under López, Paraguay’s population increased from about 220,000 in 1840 to about 400,000 in 1860.


Under López, Paraguay began to tackle the question of slavery, which had existed since early colonial days. Settlers had brought a few slaves to work as domestic servants, but were generally lenient about their bondage. Conditions worsened after 1700, however, with the importation of about 50,000 African slaves to be used as agricultural workers. Under Francia, the state acquired about 1,000 slaves when it confiscated property from the elite. López did not free these slaves; instead, he enacted the 1842 Law of the Free Womb, which ended the slave trade and guaranteed that the children of slaves would be free at age twenty-five. The new law served only to increase the slave population and depress slave prices as slave birth rates soared.


Foreign relations began to increase in importance under López, who retained Paraguay’s traditional mistrust of the surrounding states, yet lacked Francia’s diplomatic adroitness. Initially López feared an attack by the Buenos Aires dictator Rosas. With Brazilian encouragement, López had dropped Francia’s policy of neutrality and began meddling in Argentine politics. Using the slogan “Independence or Death”, López declared war against Rosas in 1845 to support what was ultimately an unsuccessful rebellion in the Argentine province of Corrientes. Although complications with Britain and France prevented him from moving against Paraguay, Rosas quickly established a porteño embargo on Paraguayan goods.


The elder López also had infuriated the Brazilians by not helping overthrow Rosas in 1852 and by forcing Brazilian garrisons out of territory claimed by Paraguay in 1850 and 1855.



After Rosas fell in 1852, López signed a treaty with Buenos Aires that recognized Paraguay’s independence, although the porteños never ratified it. In the same year, López signed treaties of friendship, commerce, and navigation with France and the United States. Nonetheless, growing tensions with several countries, including the United States, characterized the second half of López’s rule. In 1858 the United States sent a flotilla to Paraguayan waters in a successful action to claim compensation for an American sailor who had been killed three years earlier.

Although he wore his distrust for foreigners like a badge of loyalty to the nation, López was not as cautious as he appeared. López recklessly dropped Francia’s key policies of neutrality without determining where his allegiances lay. He allowed unsettled controversies and boundary disputes with Brazil and Argentina to smolder. The two regional giants had tolerated Paraguayan independence, partly because Paraguay served to check the expansionist tendencies of both opponents. Both were satisfied if the other could not dominate Paraguayan affairs. At the same time, however, a Paraguay that was antagonistic to both Brazil and Argentina would give these countries a reason for uniting.





Francisco Solano López



Francisco Solano López, the final ruler of the López dynasty.

Born in 1826, Francisco Solano López became the second and final ruler of the López dynasty. He had a pampered childhood; his father raised him to inherit his mantle and made him a brigadier general at the age of eighteen. He was an insatiable philanderer, and stories abound of the cruel excesses to which he resorted when a woman had the courage to turn him down.

His 1853 trip to Europe to buy arms was undoubtedly the most important experience of his life

; his stay in Paris proved to be a turning point for him. There, Solano López admired the trappings and pretensions of the French empire of Napoleon III.

He fell in love with an Irish woman named Elisa Alicia Lynch, whom he made his lover. “La Lynch”, as she became known in Paraguay, was a strong-willed, charming, witty, intelligent woman who became a person of enormous influence. Lynch’s Parisian manners soon made her a trendsetter in the Paraguayan capital, and she made enemies as quickly as she made friends. Lynch bore Solano López five sons, although the two never married. She became the largest landowner in Paraguay after Solano López transferred most of Paraguay and portions of Brazil into her name during the war, yet she retained practically nothing when the war ended. She buried Solano López with her own hands after the last battle in 1870 and died penniless some years later in Europe


Antonio López also resented having been forced to grant Brazil free navigation rights on the Río Paraguay in 1858. Argentina meanwhile disputed ownership of the Misiones district between the Río Paraná and Río Uruguay, and Brazil had its own ideas about the Brazil-Paraguay boundary. The Uruguayan vortex compounded these problems. Carlos Antonio López had survived mainly with caution and a good bit of luck; Solano López had neither

Several highways and a telegraph system were built. A British firm began building a railroad from Asunción to Paraguarí, one of South America’s first, in 1858. During his term of office, López improved national defense, abolished the remnants of the reducciones, stimulated economic development, and tried to strengthen relations with foreign countries. He also took measures to reduce the threat to settled Paraguayans from the marauding Indian tribes that still roamed the Chaco. Paraguay also made large strides in education. When López took office, Asunción had only one primary school. During López’s reign, more than 400 schools were built for 25,000 primary students, and the state reinstituted secondary education. López’s educational development plans progressed with difficulty, however, because Francia had purged the country of the educated elite, which included teachers.

Less rigorous than Francia, López loosened restrictions on foreign intercourse, boosted exports, invited foreign physicians, engineers, and investors to settle in Paraguay, and paid for students to study abroad. He also sent his son Francisco Solano to Europe to buy guns.

Like Francia, López had the overriding aim of defending and preserving Paraguay. He launched reforms with this goal in mind. Trade eased arms acquisitions and increased the state’s income. Foreign experts helped build an iron factory and a large armory. The new railroad was to be used to transport troops. López used diplomacy to protect the state’s interests abroad. Yet despite his apparent liberality, Antonio López was a dictator who held Paraguayans on a tight leash. He allowed Paraguayans no more freedom to oppose the government than they had had under Francia. Congress became his puppet, and the people abdicated their political rights, a situation enshrined in the 1844 Constitution, which placed all power in López’s hands.



Solano López consolidated his power after his father’s death in 1862 by silencing several hundred critics and would-be reformers through imprisonment. Another Paraguayan congress then unanimously elected him president. Yet Solano López would have done well to heed his father’s last words to avoid aggressive acts in foreign affairs, especially with Brazil. Francisco’s foreign policy vastly underestimated Paraguay’s neighbors and overrated Paraguay’s potential as a military power.

Observers sharply disagreed about Solano López. George Thompson, an English engineer who worked for the younger López (he distinguished himself as a Paraguayan officer during the Paraguayan War, and later wrote a book about his experience) had harsh words for his ex-employer and commander, calling him “a monster without parallel”. Solano López’s conduct laid him open to such charges. In the first place, Solano López’s miscalculations and ambitions plunged Paraguay into a war with Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. The war resulted in the deaths of half of Paraguay’s population and almost erased the country from the map. During the war, Solano López ordered the executions of his own brothers and had his mother and sisters tortured when he suspected them of opposing him. Thousands of others, including Paraguay’s bravest soldiers and generals, also went to their deaths before firing squads or were hacked to pieces on Solano López’s orders. Others saw Solano López as a paranoid megalomaniac, a man who wanted to be the “Napoleon of South America”, willing to reduce his country to ruin and his countrymen to beggars in his vain quest for glory.

However, sympathetic Paraguayan nationalists and foreign revisionist historians have portrayed Solano López as a patriot who resisted to his last breath Argentine and Brazilian designs on Paraguay. They portrayed him as a tragic figure caught in a web of Argentine and Brazilian duplicity who mobilized the nation to repulse its enemies, holding them off heroically for five bloody, horror-filled years until Paraguay was finally overrun and prostrate. Since the 1930s, Paraguayans have regarded Solano López as the nation’s foremost hero.

Solano López’s basic failing was that he did not recognize the changes that had occurred in the region since Francia’s time. Under his father’s rule, the protracted, bloody, and distracting birth pangs of Argentina and Uruguay, the bellicose policies of Brazil, and Francia’s noninterventionist policies had worked in conjunction with one another to preserve Paraguayan independence. Matters had settled down since then in both Argentina and Brazil, as both countries had become surer of their identities and more united internally. Argentina, for example, began reacting to foreign challenges as a nation rather than an assortment of squabbling regions, as Paraguayans had grown to expect. Solano López’s attempt to leverage Paraguay’s emergence as a regional power equal to Argentina and Brazil had disastrous consequences.



The Paraguayan War




Collage of images of the Paraguayan War

Solano López accurately assessed the September 1864 Brazilian intervention in Uruguay as a slight to the region’s lesser powers. He was also correct in his assumption that neither Brazil nor Argentina paid much attention to Paraguay’s interests when they formulated their policies. He was clear that preserving Uruguayan “independence” was crucial to Paraguay’s future as a nation. Consistent with his plans to start a Paraguayan “third force” between Argentina and Brazil, Solano López committed the nation to Uruguay’s aid.

When Argentina failed to react to Brazil’s invasion of Uruguay, Solano López seized a Brazilian warship in November 1864.




He followed this move with an invasion of Mato Grosso, Brazil, in March 1865, an action that proved to be one of Paraguay’s few successes during the war. Solano López then struck at his enemy’s main force in Uruguay; he was, however unaware that Argentina had acquiesced to Brazil’s Uruguay policy and would not support Paraguay against Brazil. Argentina refused Solano López’s request for permission for his army to cross Argentine territory to attack the Brazilian province of Río Grande do Sul, Undeterred, Solano López sent his forces into Argentina. This action set the stage for the May 1865 signing by Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay (now reduced to puppet status) of the Treaty of the Triple Alliance. Under the treaty, these nations vowed to destroy Solano López’s government.

Paraguay was in no sense prepared for a major war, let alone a war of the scope that Solano López had unleashed. In terms of size, Solano López’s 30,000-man army was the most powerful in Latin America but the army’s strength was illusory because it lacked trained leadership, a reliable source of weapons and adequate reserves. Since the days of El Supremo, the officer corps had been neglected for political reasons. The army suffered from a critical shortage of key personnel, and many of its fighting units were undermanned. Paraguay lacked the industrial base to replace weapons lost in battle, and the Argentine-Brazilian alliance prevented Solano López from receiving arms from abroad. Paraguay’s population was only about 450,000 in 1865, a figure lower than the number of people in the Brazilian National Guard, and amounted to less than one-twentieth of the combined allied population of 11 million. Even after conscripting every able-bodied man for the front, including children as young as ten, and forcing women to perform all nonmilitary labor, Solano López still could not field an army as large as those of his rivals.

Apart from some Paraguayan victories on the northern front, the war was a disaster for Solano López. The core units of the Paraguayan army reached Corrientes in April 1865. By July, more than half of Paraguay’s 30,000-man invasion force had been killed or captured along with the army’s best small arms and artillery. The war quickly became a desperate struggle for Paraguay’s survival.

Paraguay’s soldiers exhibited suicidal bravery, especially considering that Solano López shot or tortured so many of them for trivial offenses. Cavalry units operated on foot for lack of horses. Naval infantry battalions armed only with machetes attacked Brazilian ironclads. The suicide attacks resulted in fields of corpses. Cholera was rampant.



By 1867, Paraguay had lost 60,000 men to casualties, disease, or capture, and another 60,000 soldiers were called to duty. Solano López conscripted slaves, and infantry units formed entirely of children appeared. Women were forced to perform support work behind the lines. Clothing shortages were so severe that Paraguayan troops went into battle semi-nude, and even colonels went barefoot, according to one observer. The defensive nature of the war, combined with Paraguayan tenacity and ingenuity and the difficulty that Brazilians and Argentinians had cooperating with each other, rendered the conflict a war of attrition. In the end, Paraguay lacked the resources to continue waging war against South America’s giants.

As the war neared its inevitable denouement, Solano López’s grip on reality loosened further. Imagining himself surrounded by a vast conspiracy, he ordered thousands of executions in the military. In addition, he executed two of his brothers and two brothers-in-law, scores of top government and military officials, and about 500 foreigners, including many diplomats. He frequently had his victims killed by lance thrusts to save ammunition. The bodies were dumped into mass graves. His cruel treatment of prisoners was proverbial. Solano López condemned troops to death if they failed to carry out his orders to the minutest detail. “Conquer or die” became the order of the day.

Solano López’s hostility even extended to United States Ambassador to Paraguay Charles Ames Washburn. Only the timely arrival of the United States gunboat Wasp saved the diplomat from arrest.



Liberals versus Colorados

 The postwar period

The internal political vacuum was at first dominated by survivors of the Paraguayan Legion. This group of exiles, based in Buenos Aires, had regarded Solano López as a mad tyrant and fought for the allies during the war. The group set up a provisional government in 1869, mainly under Brazilian auspices and signed the 1870 peace accords, which guaranteed Paraguay’s independence and free river navigation. A constitution was also promulgated in the same year, but it proved ineffective because of the foreign origin of its liberal, democratic tenets.

The allied occupation of Asunción in 1869 put the victors in direct control of Paraguayan affairs. While Bolivia pressed its nebulous claim to the Chaco, Argentina and Brazil swallowed 154,000 square kilometers of Paraguayan territory.

Brazil had borne the brunt of the fighting, with perhaps 150,000 dead and 65,000 wounded. It had spent US$200 million, and its troops formed the senior army of occupation in the country; as a result Brazil temporarily overshadowed Argentina in control of the country. Sharp disagreements between the two powers prolonged the occupation until 1876. Ownership of the Paraguayan economy quickly passed to foreign speculators and adventurers who rushed to take advantage of the rampant chaos and corruption.


Allied troops entered Asunción in January 1869, but Solano López held out in the northern jungles for another fourteen months until he finally died in battle. 1870 marked the lowest point in Paraguayan history. Hundreds of thousands of Paraguayans had died. Destitute and practically destroyed, Paraguay had to endure a lengthy occupation by foreign troops and cede large patches of territory to Brazil and Argentina.

Despite several historians’ accounts of what happened between 1865 and 1870, Solano López was not wholly responsible for the war. Its causes were complex and included Argentine anger over Antonio López’s meddling in Corrientes.



Ruined by war, pestilence, famine, and unpaid foreign indemnities, Paraguay was on the verge of disintegration in 1870. Its fertile soil and the country’s overall backwardness helped it survive. After the war, Paraguay’s mostly rural populace continued to subsist as it had done for centuries, eking out a meager existence in the hinterland under difficult conditions

The 1870 constitution quickly became irrelevant. Politics degenerated into factionalism, and cronyism and intrigue prevailed. Presidents still acted like dictators, elections did not stay free, and the Legionnaires were out of power in less than a decade.

Solano López  after the last battle in 1870 and died penniless some years later in Europe




HYPOCRISY and frivolity


 Some time ago the President Kirchner renamed the Armored Artillery Group 2 site in the town of Rosario del Tala, Entre Rios, with the name “Mariscal Francisco Solano López.”


To justify such a strange decision Kirchner said it was a recognition of a leader against imperialism in the region. –






 The decision shows a serious frivolity de Kirchner to the drama that was the War of Paraguay (1864 and 1869), and a blatant hypocrisy given the current relations with Paraguay. –

Kirchner is not characterized by in-depth knowledge of what he speaks, generally limited to large and empty speeches, without meaning or content, are outbursts of vanity, no other intention than to wear a verve lacking in substance. –

If Kirchner had taken the trouble to read the modern historical research made in Paraguay, Brazil, USA and Argentina, could have overcome their ignorance, warning that the hypothesis of an English intervention in the war (imagined by Leon Pomer in 1968) was completely ruled out. –


Books like “The War of Paraguay” (2007) by Miguel Angel de Marco (Argentina), or “Damn War – new history of the war in Paraguay” (2004) Doratioto Francisco (Brazil), and the last and most revealing ” Paraguay and the Triple Alliance “(USA and Paraguay) Harris Gaylord Warren (2009). –

All these works, and many others, show that in the drama of that terrible war, mixed like a whirlwind damn, the long-standing tension between Argentina and Brazil, ambition Lopez egocentric, geopolitical tensions on the mouth of the Rio de la Silver, strategic ingenuity Mitre, the internal fratricidal in Uruguay, Brazil cruelty and contempt for Hispanic Americans, hawkish idealism of youth Buenos Aires, the bewilderment of the leaders inside the country, the patriotism of the Paraguayan people and older human misery that erupted after the end of the war. –

 The reality was enormously complex and multifaceted, to reduce it to the comfortable assumption of a war instigated by “English imperialism” against a “Mediterranean power.” But as in all cases, conspiracy theories are the source of the mentally lazy, and Kirchner are famous for their deep contempt for the readings, it is not surprising that the President has repeated that idea expire. –

The trouble is that with this frivolous decision insulted all those who died in defense of Argentina, regardless of what one thinks of Solano Lopez. Paraguay would be like that you put a regiment Mitre, that honor will be only those who defended the nation, not those who killed fellow. –

But that enormous frivolity, Kirchner adds a huge hypocrisy








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[Historical research of José María Rosa]

With that last sentence on his lips, on 1 March 1870, at










Cerro Cora,


Marshal Francisco Solano López, wounded, exhausted and bleeding, half-drowned, dying and drowned in blood the water foul the stream, sitting down, surrounded it, was shot in Manlicher that pierced his heart.


 There was dead on his back, eyes open and his hand clenched on the hilt of his dagger of gold-leaf on which read “Independence or Death” -. “Or do diavo Lopez” [“Oh, devil Lopez”], said the Brazilian Empire Recruit macaque while kicking the corpse.


Marshall’s last words were something more than a metaphor: almost nothing left of Paraguay, all the male population between 15 and 60 had died under fire. Many women and children too, if not by bullets, by the terrible epidemics of cholera and yellow fever, or simply succumbed to hunger. Of course, neither left nor blast furnaces, or industries, or foundries, and vast fields planted with grass or snuff, or city that was not looted. Only if a lot of the ghostly ruins sheltered three hundred thousand elderly, children and women survivors. He condemned the country to pay compensation for very strong “war spending.” Paraguay lost almost half its territory, which became part of Brazil and Argentina (the provinces of Misiones and Formosa).


Five years earlier, at the beginning of the war of the Triple Alliance, Paraguay of Lopez was a scandal in America. The country was rich, orderly and prosperous, self-sufficient and brought nothing in England … supplied with grass and snuff the whole region and its timber in Europe traded higher.




Twenty years had gone on the presidency of his father,


Don Carlos Antonio Lopez,


until his death in 1862, and since then the son of Francisco Solano. Paraguay had 1,250,000 inhabitants, the same number of neighboring Argentina at the time (were exterminated in the war no less than 75% of the population!).

The country was of the Paraguayans. No foreigner could acquire property, or speculate in foreign trade. And almost all land and property belonged to the state. The trade balance largely in favor pulling a balance, and had no external debt. Had the best army in South America. His blast furnaces and smelting Ibicuy manufactured guns and rifles. It worked the first Latin American railroad, a telegraph and a powerful merchant fleet. The level of popular education was also the first continent.

In addition, Paraguay was a major producer of cotton, raw materials needed by the British capitalism in its imperialist expansion stage for its textile industry, the main engine of its economy. The slave block south of the Confederation, which provided English cotton industry, produced by the American Civil War (1861-1865), was essential to British interests that the destruction of a sovereign nation.

Those interests manipulated the circle of influence of the Emperor of Brazil and the party Mitre and Buenos Aires and Montevideo oligarchy to promote creepy shameful extermination of an entire people, which included passing the Argentine guerrilla bands. Indeed, as noted above, the War of the Triple Alliance was the war of the Triple Infamy.


The truth is that the final march of seven months of the last heroes to Paraguay Cerro Cora, two hundred days in the desert under the blazing tropical sun, is one of the most sordid pages but most glorious of American history. Soldiers embraced by fever or sore and exhausted by hunger, no more clothes than a short, barefoot because shoes like the helmet and straps of the uniform, have been eaten after softening the leather with water from the streams. Everyone is sick, all emaciated by hunger, all unhealed injuries. But no one complains. We do not know where you go, but continues until death faces. Conducts spectral host the president and the war Marshal Francisco Solano. If you could give the victory to his people, future generations will offer tremendous example of heroism never equaled.

Five years later, the great Paraguay of Lopez was sunk with all his people, in streams Guarani. Since then the Foreign Office would be as absolute master of the region and would disjointed, at least for a long period still suffer, the ability to integrate into one nation to the largest country.

The great cause initiated by


Artigas in the early hours of the Revolution,


continued by San Martin and


Bolivar to materialize Independence, restored by the skill and energy of Roses in the years of “American system” and that would have on the Grand Marshal Francisco Solano López its last champion.

But one year before Cerro Cora, old and poor in his banishment from Southampton, Don Juan Manuel de Rosas, who sustain the same as Lopez had been betrayed and defeated at Caseros by those who betrayed and defeated Paraguay quarterback now , was moved, deeply moved, by the heroic American epic. The Restorer’s sword looked Chacabuco sole ornament hanging in his modest dwelling. This gun symbolizes the sovereignty of America, with San Martin had released her to Chile and Peru, after it had left to Rosas for his defense of the Confederacy against the aggressions of England and France. The old gaucho then ordered to change his will, he had found a worthy recipient of the curved saber of the Andes.
On February 17, 1869, while Francisco Solano Lopez and the heroic people Guarani discussed at the last as jaguars determined that refuse to defeat, Roses testo fate of the “sword of sovereignty”:
“His Excellency, Generalissimo, Captain General Jose de San Martin, honored me with the following commands: ‘The sword that accompanied me throughout the war of independence will be delivered by General Rosas firmaza and skill that has held the rights of the Fatherland ‘.
“I, Juan Manuel de Rosas, his example will that my executor give your Excellency the Grand Marshal, President of the Republic of Paraguay and generalissimo of their armies, diplomatic and military sword that stayed with me for I was able to defend those rights, by firmness and wisdom that has sustained and continues to support the rights of his country
. “


How the War Against Paraguay Wrecked the Only Successful Attempt at Independent Development

The man sat beside me in silence. The strong noonday light outlined his sharp-nosed, high-cheekboned profile. We had left the southern frontier bound for Asuncion in a bus for twenty persons which by some alchemy contained fifty. There was a halt after a few hours. We sat in an open patio under the shade of thick leaves. Before us stretched the blinding brilliance of the red earth, immense, unpopulated, untouched: from horizon to horizon nothing disturbed the transparency of the Paraguayan air. We smoked. My companion, a Guarani-speaking peasant, strung together a few sad words in Spanish: “We Paraguayans are poor and few.” He explained that he’d gone down to Encarnacion to look for work but had found none. He’d managed to scrape up some pesos for the fare home. Years earlier, as a child, he’d tried his fortune in Buenos Aires and southern Brazil. Now it was cotton-picking time and many Paraguayan hrace-ros were taking off, as they did every year, for Argentina. “But I’m sixty-three. All that crowd going after the jobs — my heart can’t take it.”

In the last twenty years, half a million Paraguayans have left their [207] country once and for all. Poverty drives out the inhabitants of what was, until a century ago, South America’s most advanced country. Today Paraguay’s population is barely double what it was then and, with Bolivia, it is one of the poorest and most backward countries in the hemisphere. The woes of the Paraguayans stem from a war of extermination which was the most infamous chapter in South American history: the War of the Triple Alliance, they called it. Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay joined in committing genocide. They left no stone unturned, nor male inhabitants amid the ruins. Although Britain took no direct part in the ghastly deed, it was in the pockets of British merchants, bankers, and industrialists that the loot ended up. The invasion was financed from start to finish by the Bank of London, Baring Brothers, and the Rothschild bank, in loans at exorbitant interest rates which mortgaged the fate of the victorious countries.

Until its destruction, Paraguay stood out as a Latin American exception — the only country that foreign capital had not deformed. The long, iron-fisted dictatorship of Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia (1814-1840) had incubated an autonomous, sustained development process in the womb of isolation. The all-powerful paternalist state filled the place of a nonexistent national bourgeoisie in organizing the nation and orienting its resources and its destiny. Francia had used the peasant masses to crush the Paraguayan oligarchy, and had established internal peace by erecting a cordon sanitaire between Paraguay and the other countries of the old La Plata viceroyalty. Expropriations, exilings, jails, persecutions, and fines had been used — not to consolidate the internal power of landlords and merchants, but for their destruction. Political liberties and the right of opposition neither existed nor would come into being later, but in that historical stage the lack of democracy only disturbed people who were nostalgic for lost privileges. There were no great private fortunes when Francia died, and Paraguay was the only Latin American country where begging, hunger, and stealing were unknown; [In official histories, Francia appears as a star in a chamber of horrors. The optical distortions imposed by liberalism are not a monopoly of Latin America’s ruling classes; many Left intellectuals who look at our countries’ history through alien spectacles accept certain myths, canonizations, and excommunications of the Right. Pablo Neruda’s Canto General pays moving homage to the Latin American peoples, but clearly reveals this disorientation. Neruda pays no attention to Artigas, or to Carlos Antonio or Francisco Lopez, and instead identifies with Sarmiento. He calls Francia a “leprous king” and is no more amiable with Rosas.24] travelers of the [208] period found an oasis of tranquillity amid areas convulsed by continuous wars. The U.S. agent Hopkins informed his government in 1845 that in Paraguay there was no child who could not read and write. It was also the only country that did not have its eyes riveted on the other side of the ocean. Foreign trade was not the axis of national life; liberal doctrine, the ideological expression of the global market, had no answer to the defiant attitude that Paraguay — forced by its inland isolation to grow inward — adopted from the beginning of the century. Extermination of the oligarchy enabled the state to gather its economic mainsprings into its own hands, to put this autarchic internal development policy into effect.

The succeeding governments of Carlos Antonio Lopez and his son Francisco Solano continued and vitalized the task. The economy was in full growth. When the invaders appeared on the horizon in 1865, Paraguay had telegraphs, a railroad, and numerous factories manufacturing construction materials, textiles, linens, ponchos, paper and ink, crockery, and gunpowder. Two hundred foreign technicians, handsomely paid by the state, made a decisive contribution. From 1850 on, the Ibycui foundry made guns, mortars, and ammunition of all calibers; the arsenal in Asuncion produced bronze cannon, howitzers, and ammunition. The steel industry, like all other essential economic activities, belonged to the state. The country had a merchant fleet, and the Asuncion shipyard turned out many of the ships flying the Paraguayan flag on the Parana and across the Atlantic and Mediterranean. The state virtually monopolized foreign trade; it supplied yerba mate and tobacco to the southern part of the continent and exported valuable woods to Europe. The trade balance produced a big surplus. With a strong and stable currency, Paraguay was wealthy enough to carry out great public works without recourse to foreign capital. It did not owe one penny abroad, yet was able to maintain the best army in South America, hire British technicians to serve the state instead of putting the state at their service, and send some university students to finish their studies in Europe. The [209] economic surplus from agricultural production was not squandered by an oligarchy (which did not exist); nor did it pass into the pockets of middlemen and loan sharks, or swell the profits of the British Empire’s freight and insurance men. The imperialist sponge, in short, did not absorb the wealth the country produced. Ninety-eight percent of Paraguayan territory was public property: the state granted holdings to peasants in return for permanently occupying and farming them, without the right to sell them. There were also sixty-four “estancias de la patria,” haciendas directly administered by the state. Irrigation works, dams and canals, and new bridges and roads substantially helped to raise agricultural production. The native tradition of two crops a year, abandoned by the conquistadores, was revived. The lively encouragement of Jesuit traditions undoubtedly contributed to this creative process. [Fanatical monks of the Society of Jesus, “the Pope’s black guard,” had become defenders of the medieval order against the new forces bursting upon the European stage. But in Hispanic America Jesuit missions developed along progressive lines. They came to cleanse by abnegation and ascetic example a Catholic Church which had surrendered to sloth and the untrammeled exploitation of the goods the Conquest had made available to the clergy. It was the Paraguayan missions that reached the highest level; in little more than a century and a half (1603-1768), they fully justified the aims of their founders. The Jesuits used music to draw in Guarani Indians who had sought shelter in the forest, and who had stayed there rather than join in the “civilizing process” of the encomenderos and landlords. Thus 150,000 Guaranis were able to move back into their primitive community organization and revive their traditional arts and crafts. The latifundio system was unknown in the missions; the soil was cultivated partly to satisfy individual needs and partly to develop projects of common concern and to acquire the necessary work tools, which were common property. The Indians’ life was intelligently organized; musicians and artisans, farmers, weavers, actors, painters, and builders gathered in workshops and schools. Money was unknown; traders were barred from entering and had to transact any business from hotels at an appropriate distance.

The Crown finally succumbed to the criollo encomenderos’ pressure and the Jesuits were expelled from Latin America. Landlords and slave traders went in pursuit of the Indians. Corpses hung from trees in the missions; whole communities were sold in Brazilian slave markets. Many Indians took to the forest again. The Jesuits’ libraries were used to fuel ovens or to make gunpowder cartridges.25]

The state pursued a tough protectionist policy — much reenforced in 1864 — over national industry and the internal market; internal waterways were closed to the British ships which bombarded the rest [210] of Latin America with Manchester and Liverpool products. British commerce did not hide its concern, not only because this last bastion of national resistance in the heart of the continent seemed invulnerable, but also and especially because of the dangerous example set to its neighbors by Paraguayan obstinacy. Latin America’s most progressive country was building its future without foreign investment, without British bank loans, and without the blessings of free trade.

But as Paraguay progressed, so did its need to break out of its seclusion. Industrial development called for closer and more direct contacts with the international market and with sources of advanced techniques. Paraguay was effectively blockaded by Argentina on one side and Brazil on the other, and both could starve its lungs of oxygen by closing the river mouths (as did Rivadavia and Rosas) or imposing arbitrary taxes on its merchandise in transit. In any event, it was indispensable for the consolidation of the oligarchical state to cut short the scandal of this odious country, which was sufficient unto itself and objected to bowing down before British merchants.

Britain’s minister in Buenos Aires, Edward Thornton, played a substantial role in preparing for the war. When it was about to break out, he participated as a government advisor in Argentine cabinet meetings, sitting beside President Mitre. The web of provocations and deceptions, which ended with a Brazilian-Argentine agreement that sealed Paraguay’s fate, was woven under Thornton’s fatherly gaze. Venancio Flores invaded Uruguay, aided in his intervention by its two big neighbors, and after the Paysandu massacre he set up an administration in Montevideo subservient to Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. The Triple Alliance was on the road. Paraguayan President Solano Lopez had threatened war in the event of an attack on Uruguay: he knew that this would close an iron pincers around the throat of his country, corraled as it was by geography and the enemy. Nevertheless, liberal historian Efraim Cardozo stoutly maintains that Lopez stood up to Brazil merely because he was offended: the emperor had refused him the hand of one of his daughters. The conflict was inevitable, but it was Mercury’s work, not Cupid’s.

The Buenos Aires press called Lopez “the Attila of America”: “He must be killed like a reptile,” thundered the editorials. In September 1864, Thornton sent a long confidential report to London, datelined [211] Asuncion. He described Paraguay as Dante described the inferno, but put stress where it belonged: “Import duties on nearly all articles are 20 or 25 percent ad valorem; but since this value is calculated on the current price of the articles, the duty that is paid often amounts to 40 to 45 percent of the invoice price. Export duties are from 10 to 20 percent of value . . .” In April 1865 the Buenos Aires English language daily, The Standard, was already hailing Argentina’s declaration of war on Paraguay, whose president had “violated all the usages of civilized nations,” and was announcing that Argentine President Mitre’s sword “will hold high in its victorious course, in addition to the weight of past glories, the irresistible thrust of public opinion in a just cause.” The treaty with Brazil and Uruguay was signed on May 1, 1865; its draconian terms were published a year later in the London Times, which got the text from banker-creditors in Argentina and Brazil. The future victors divided up the spoils of the vanquished in advance. Argentina was to get the whole territory of Misiones and the vast Chaco; Brazil got a fat slice west of its frontiers. Uruguay, ruled by a puppet of both powers, got nothing.

Mitre announced that he would take Asuncion in three months, but the war lasted five years. It was a carnage from the beginning to end of the chain of forts defending the Rio Paraguay. The “opprobrious tyrant” Solano Lopez was a heroic embodiment of the national will to survive; at his side the Paraguayan people, who had known no war for half a century, immolated themselves. Men and women, young and old, fought like lions. Wounded prisoners tore off their bandages so that they would not be forced to fight against their brothers. In 1870 Lopez, at the head of an army of ghosts, old folk, and children who had put on false beards to make an impression from a distance, headed into the forest. The invading troops set upon the debris of Asuncion with knives between their teeth. When bullets and spears finally finished off the Paraguayan president in the thickets of Cerro Cora, he managed to say: “I die with my country!” — and it was true. Paraguay died with him. Lopez had previously ordered the shooting of his brother and a bishop who accompanied him on this caravan of death. The invaders came to redeem the Paraguayan people, and exterminated them. When the war began, Paraguay had almost as large a population as Argentina. Only 250,000, [212] less than one-sixth, survived in 1870. It was the triumph of civilization. The victors, ruined by the enormous cost of the crime, fell back into the arms of the British bankers who had financed the adventure. The slave empire of Pedro II, whose armies were filled with slaves and prisoners, nevertheless won more than twenty thousand square miles of territory — plus labor, for the Paraguayan prisoners who were marched off to work on the Sao Paulo coffee plantations were branded like slaves. The Argentina of President Mitre, who had crushed his own federal leaders, came out with thirty-six thousand square miles of Paraguayan territory, as well as other booty: “The prisoners and other war materiel we will divide in a convenient form,” he wrote. Uruguay, where the heirs of Artigas had been killed or defeated and an oligarchy ruled, participated in the war as a junior partner and without reward. Some Uruguayan soldiers sent into the Paraguayan compaign had boarded the ships with bound hands. The financial bankruptcy of the three countries deepened their dependency on Britain. The Paraguay massacre left its mark on them forever. [Solano Lopez lives on in memory. When, in September 1969, Rio de Janeiro’s Museo Historico Nacional announced it would dedicate a window to the Paraguayan president, the military was furious. General Mourao Filho, who had set off the coup d’etat in 1964, told the press: “A wind of madness is sweeping the country. … Solano Lopez is a figure who should be erased forever from our history, as a paradigm of the uniformed South American dictator. He was a butcher who destroyed Paraguay, leading it into an impossible war.”]

Brazil had performed the role the British had assigned it when they moved the Portuguese throne to Rio de Janeiro. Lord Canning’s instructions to the ambassador, Viscount Strangford, early in the nineteenth century, had been clear: make Brazil an emporium for British manufactures designed for consumption in all South America. Shortly before going to war, the Argentine president, inaugurating a new British railway line, made an impassioned speech: “What is the force driving this progress? Gentlemen, it is British capital!” In defeated Paraguay it was not only the population and great chunks of territory that disappeared, but customs tariffs, foundries, rivers closed to free trade, and economic independence. Within its shrunken frontiers, the conquerors implanted free trade and the [213] latifundio. Everything was looted and everything was sold: lands and forests, mines, yerba mate farms, school buildings. Successive puppet governments were installed in Asuncion by the occupation forces. The war was hardly over when the first foreign loan in Paraguay’s history fell upon the smoking ruins. It was, of course, British. Its nominal value was £1 million, but a good deal less than half of this reached Paraguay; in ensuing years refinancing raised the debt to more than £3 million. The Opium War had ended in 1842 with a free-trade treaty signed in Nanking, consecrating the right of British traders to introduce the drug unrestrictedly into China; now the flag of free trade flew over Paraguay too. Cotton farming was abandoned and Manchester ruined textile production; the national industry never came back to life.

The Colorado Party, which now rules Paraguay, makes breezy mileage with the heroes’ memory, but exhibits at the foot of its founding charter the signatures of twenty-two traitors to Solano Lopez, “legionnaires” who served with the Brazilian occupation troops. Dictator Alfredo Stroessner, who has spent the last fifteen years turning Paraguay into a large concentration camp, did his military training under Brazilian generals, who sent him back with high marks and warm eulogies: “He is worthy of a great future . . .” During his reign Stroessner has bestowed on Brazil and its U.S. masters- the dominant place occupied in previous decades by Anglo-Argentine interests. Brazil and Argentina, which “liberated” Paraguay in order to gobble it up, have taken turns since 1870 enjoying the fruits of the plunder. But they have their own crosses to bear from the imperialist power of the moment. Paraguay has the double burden of imperialism and subimperialism. The British Empire used to be the main link in the chain of dependencies, but today the United States, understanding only too well the geopolitical importance of this country at the center of South America, maintains countless advisors who train and advise the armed forces, cook up economic plans, refashion the university to their taste, invent a new “democratic” policy for the country, and reward the generous services of the regime with burdensome loans. [Before the 1968 elections General Stroessner visited the United States. “When I interviewed President Johnson,” he told Agence France Presse, “I showed him that I had been fulfilling the prime ministerial function for twelve years by mandate of the polls. Johnson replied that that was another reason for continuing to exercise it in the next period.”] Paraguay is also a colony [214] of other colonies. Using agrarian reform as a pretext, the Stroessner government annulled the legal ban on selling frontier lands to foreigners, and today even state lands have fallen into the hands of Brazilian coffee latifundistas. The invading wave has crossed the Rio Parana with the complicity of the president, in partnership with Portuguese-speaking landowners. When I arrived at Paraguay’s shifting northeastern frontier, I had banknotes engraved with the face of the defeated Solano Lopez, but found that only those bearing the likeness of the victorious Emperor Pedro II are valid. After the passage of a century, the outcome of the War of the Triple Alliance takes on burning actuality. Brazilian guards demand passports from Paraguayan citizens who want only to move around in their own country. The flags and the churches are Brazilian. The land piracy also takes in the Guaira falls, the greatest potential source of energy in all Latin America; it is now called — in Portuguese — Sete Quedas. There, it has been announced, Brazil will build the world’s largest hydroelectric station.

Subimperialism has a thousand faces. When President Johnson decided in 1965 to drown the Dominicans in blood, Stroessner sent along some Paraguayan soldiers to help him out. In a sinister jest, the battalion was called “Marshal Solano Lopez.” The Paraguayans were under a Brazilian general’s orders, for it was Brazil that received the Judas honors: its General Panasco Alvim headed Latin America’s uniformed accomplices in the massacre. There are other similar examples. Paraguay gave Brazil an oil concession on its territory, but the fuel distribution and petrochemical business in Brazil is in U.S. hands. The Brazilian Cultural Mission reigns over the philosophy and education departments of Paraguay’s university, but North Americans now run Brazil’s universities. The Paraguayan army’s general staff receives advice not only from Pentagon technicians but also from Brazilian generals who, in turn, are to the Pentagon as an echo to a voice. Through open contraband channels, Brazilian industrial products invade the Paraguayan market, but the Sao Paulo factories [215] that produce them have belonged to U.S. corporations since the denationalizing avalanche of recent years.

Stroessner considers himself the heir to Lopez. How can the Paraguay of a century ago be mentioned in the same breath with the Paraguay of today, the emporium of La Plata basin smuggling and the kingdom of institutionalized corruption? Yet at a political demonstration where the government party claimed both Paraguays at once to stormy applause and cheers, a boy openly hawked contraband cigarettes from a vendor’s tray: the fervent gathering puffed nervously at Kents, Marlboros, Camels, and Benson & Hedges. The scanty middle class in Asuncion drinks Ballantine’s whiskey instead of Paraguayan aguardiente. In the streets one sees late-model luxury cars made in the United States or Europe, brought in as contraband or after payment of a trifling customs duty, moving beside ox-drawn carts slowly bringing fruit to the market: the soil is worked with wooden plows and the taxis are 1970 Impalas. Stroessner defines contraband as “the price of peace”: the generals fill their pockets and hatch no plots. Industry, of course, enters its death throes before it can grow. The state does not even implement the decree requiring preference for domestic products in public spending. In this area the only triumphs proudly displayed by the government are the Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola plants, installed at the end of 1966 as a U.S. contribution to the progress of the Paraguayan people.

The state declares that it will only intervene directly in the creation of enterprises “when the private sector shows no interest,” x and the Banco Central informs the International Monetary Fund that it “has decided to establish a regime of free exchange and abolish restrictions on trade and on currency transactions.” A booklet published by the Ministry of Industry and Trade advises investors that the country grants “special concessions to foreign capital.” Foreign concerns are exempt from taxes and customs duties so as “to create a propitious climate for investment.” The National City Bank of New York recovers all its invested capital in one year of business in Asuncion. The foreign bank appropriates the national savings and extends external credits to Paraguay, credits which further deform its economy and further mortgage its sovereignty. In the countryside, 1.5 percent of proprietors own 90 percent of the cultivated land, and [216] less than 2 percent of the total land area is under cultivation. The official colonization plan in the Caaguazu triangle offers hungry peasants more graves than gain. [Many peasants have finally opted to return to the minifundio region in the center of the country, or have joined the new exodus to Brazil, where they offer their cheap labor to Curitiba and Mato Grosso yerba mate plantations or Parana coffee plantations. Most desperate is the phght of the pioneer, who finds himself face to face with the jungle, totally without technical know-how or credit assistance, with government-“granted” lands from which he must wrest enough to eat and to meet his payments — for if he fails to pay the stipulated price he does not get the land title.] The fatherland denies its children the right to work and daily bread, and Paraguayans emigrate en masse.

The furnaces of the Ibycui foundry, where the cannon used in the defense of the invaded fatherland was forged, were constructed in a place now called Mina-cue, which means “It was mine” in Guarani. There, among the swamps and mosquitos, near a crumbling wall, you can still see the base of a chimney blown up by the invaders a century ago, and pieces of rusted steel that were part of the structure. The few ragged peasants who live in the area don’t even know which war it was that caused the destruction, but they say that sometimes at night you can hear the sounds of machinery and hammers, the roar of cannon, and the shouts of soldiers. The Triple Alliance has been a great success.

San Martin

234 years ago,

approximately in the “Guarani missions Yapeyu” birth of a child, which eventually would be Don Jose. A boy named Jose Francisco de San Martin Matorras, son of Juan de San Martin and Gregoria Matorras.

Both born in Spain who came to populate the Rio de la Plata. But recent history tells that child is not really the son of Spanish, but sufficed son of Don Diego de Alvear and India Guaru Guarani named Rosa, made even more rich history. Guarú Rosa was the little Indian girl who had a child, and San Martin family adopted him as their own, but she kept at home caring for, raising him, until he went to Buenos Aires. The child was then about three years and promised that they would come to take her, but did not appear more. Rosa Guarú the hope for life. When they attacked and burned Yapeyú, she went to the Brazilian island, there was a long time and came back. Aguapé raised by a small ranch, and held out hope to return. We had a great attachment to Jose Francisco.

In Spain, July 21, 1789,

with only eleven he entered the army, began his military career in class cadet in the Regiment of Murcia while French Revolution broke out, fought in the North African campaign fighting the Moors in Mellila and Oran .
Soon achieving great honors. It was always regarded with queer eyes for his hard features, Indian, native, his temper, his silence, his courage, his bravery.
That fact, or that events made this man with so many honors at the European army, want to return to country of birth, the land that gave life back to breathe the same air I breathe for the first time.
“Jingle clear trumpets of glory, and raise a hymn of triumph, that the light of history gigantic figure of the Great Captain. From the lands of the Plata to Mendoza from Santiago to Lima gentle, laurels planted in his path as it passes triumphant, San Martin. “
His time in the American Indian, consisted only of twelve years (1812-1824) in just that time was enough to pass the eternal history of mankind, laid the foundation for independence, just book a battle in our territory, was governor of the provinces which, harmonized an army of soldiers, who believed fervently in the word of the “great captain”, crossed the continent’s highest peak, came to Chile, release and lost to free it again Admiral without furrow the seas to get to Lima and without shedding a drop of “blood” release to that country, he wanted to give the honor of the supreme leader, went to Guayaquil: “Come on, Bernardo, no place for us here” were the words heard at the output of that secret meeting with Bolivar, perhaps the only witness, the story, maybe God, maybe the wind.
Had to be away from home, but never abandoned the cause, from England, from France, I ask for your Argentina, when the nation was at war, General Rosas was offered to help. “……. The saber that has accompanied me throughout the war of independence of South America will be delivered to the General of Argentina, Juan Manuel de Rosas, as evidence of the satisfaction as Argentina I had to see the firmness with which he has held the honor of the Republic against the unjust claims of foreigners tempted to humiliate her. “
“Father of the Argentine people august, grand hero of freedom. In the country gets bigger shadow under at work and at peace.
San Martin! San Martin!. May your name honor and glory of the people of the South, secure forever the directions of the country which shining your light. “
Just to see his thought. Of the Maxims for My Daughter

1. Humanize the character and make it sensitive even to insects that harm us. He said a fly opening the window to come out, “Go, poor beast, the world is too big for us.”
2. Inspire a love of truth and hate lies.
3. Inspire great confidence and friendship, but bound to respect.

4. Mercedes stimulate charity to the poor.
5. Respect for others’ property.
6. Accustom to keep a secret.
7. Inspire feelings of indulgence towards all religions.
8. Sweetness with the servants, poor and old.
9. Who speaks little and precise.
10. Accustom to being formally on the table.
11. Love the toilet and contempt for luxury.
12. Inspire love for the Fatherland and Freedom.

“I forbid that I make any kind of Funeral, and from where they die, I will lead directly to the cemetery without any accompaniment, but I wish, that my heart was deposited in the Buenos Aires.”
Honor and Glory to the Great St. Martin.

Simon Bolivar: Liberator of Latin America

Simon Bolivar

Simon Bolivar (SEE-mohn boh-LEE-vahr) was one of the most powerful figures in world political history, leading the independence movement for six nations (an area the size of modern Europe), with a personal story that is the stuff of dramatic fiction. Yet today outside of Latin America, where he is still practically worshipped, his name is almost unknown.

Born to wealthy Creoles in Caracas, Venezuela, on July 24, 1783, his father died when he was three and his mother six years later. Simon was reared by an uncle with a tutor who exposed him to the writers of the Enlightenment, such as Voltaire and Rousseau, who were inspirations for the French Revolution. The tutor, Simon Rodriguez, fled the country when he was suspected of conspiring to overthrow Spain’s colonial rule in 1796.1

At 16, Bolivar was sent to Spain to complete his education and on the way, his ship stopped in Vera Cruz. During an audience with the viceroy, he audaciously praised the French Revolution and American independence, both of which made Spanish officials nervous.2

In 1802, he married the daughter of a nobleman in Spain and returned to Caracas, only to have her die a year later from yellow fever. As a way of keeping his mind off of his grief, Bolivar decided to return to Europe to immerse himself in the intellectual and political world he had found so stimulating.3

While in Paris, he met Alexander von Humboldt, the great naturalist who had just returned after five years in South America. As von Humboldt spoke of the enormous natural resources and wonders of the continent, Bolivar remarked, “In truth, what a brilliant fate–that of the New World, if only its people were freed of their yoke.”

Von Humboldt responded, “I believe that your country is ready for its independence. But I can not see the man who is to achieve it.” It was a fateful comment Bolivar was to vividly recall the rest of his life.4

He also witnessed the coronation of Napoleon as emperor on December 2, 1804. Bolivar was appalled at what he felt was a betrayal of the principles of the Revolution, yet he took note of the ability of one man to change the course of history.5

Bolivar had met up with his old tutor, Rodriguez, and the two traveled to Rome, where they again crossed paths with von Humboldt. On August 15, 1805, Bolivar found himself with Rodriguez on Monte Sacro (Aventine Hill), a place associated in Roman history with freedom from oppression. The 22-year-old feel to his knees and, grasping his teacher’s hands, vowed to free his country. After returning to Paris, Bolivar sailed for America, stopping often along the east coast before arriving home in 1807.6

The following year, France invaded Spain. By 1810, the city council of Caracas had grown bold enough to depose the Spanish viceroy and sent Bolivar to London to seek protection from the British government against any attempt by France to seize Venezuela.7 No help was forthcoming, but Bolivar recruited Francisco de Miranda, who had sprearheaded a prior revolt, to return to head the new independence movement.8 While in London, Bolivar also had his most famous portrait painted. On close examination, a medallion hanging from his neck reads, “There is no fatherland without freedom.”9 When he left on September 21, he was never to return to Europe.10

As is typical of revolutions before history is rewritten to present all the natives as patriots, what followed in South America was as much civil war as an effort to throw off the colonial yoke. The see-saw power struggle between revolutionary and loyalist factions and with the royal forces was to last 14 years (followed by several years of occasional conflict between factions in the liberated territories).

In March 1811, a national congress met in Caracas. Though not a delegate, Bolivar gave his first public speech to the group, saying, “Let us lay the cornerstone of American freedom without fear. To hesitate is to perish.” The First Republic was declared July 5, Venezuela becoming the first colony anywhere in the Spanish empire to attempt to break free.11

Like many in the aristocracy, Bolivar had slaves, and in the spirit and excitement of the independence movement he was the first to set them free. 12 He was later to call for the abolition of slavery across the entire Western Hemisphere.13

Although he had no formal military training and no battlefield experience, Bolivar was made Lieutenant Colonel serving under Miranda. He participated in his first engagement on July 19, an assault on the Spanish stronghold of Valencia in which he distinguished himself, but the rebel forces were repelled. A siege forced capitulation on August 19th after heavy losses on both sides. It was a harbinger of things to come.14

Miranda and Bolivar had been having an increasing number of serious disagreements, from how to treat counterrevolutionary conspirators (Bolivar was for execution) to whether those born in Spain should be allowed to stay (Bolivar wanted them expelled). Meanwhile, on the political front the republicans were suffering from lack of governing experience. Within a few months, the captured royal treasury was spent and a Spanish blockade led to a worsening economic situation.15

On March 26, 1812, two years to the day after the Caracas city council had deposed the viceroy, a severe earthquake hit the region, killing 10,000. Areas where loyalists to Spain resided were little affected and religious hysteria followed, blaming the independence movement for defying God’s chosen monarch. The Spanish commander-in- chief, Juan Domingo de Monteverde, took advantage of the situation, marching out into the country, even finding rebel units eager to switch sides. However, Miranda, who had 5,000 men vs. Monteverde’s 3,000, could have struck a decisive blow if he had gone on the offensive instead of being overly cautious. In the few times they clashed, Miranda held back his men from pursuit which could have annihilated the Spanish.16

Bolivar was put in charge of the most important republican port, Puerto Cabello, where a large number of prisoners were kept at the main fort, as well as a large stockpile of arms and artillery (which played little role by either side in South America’s fight for freedom) . The combination proved fatal: a traitor freed the prisoners who armed themselves and began bombarding Bolivar’s position. He and his men barely escaped with their lives.17

Bolivar felt disgraced by the loss and furious that Miranda had not responded to calls for help. Shortly thereafter, he and other officers turned Miranda over to the Spaniards.18

As the Spanish completed their reconquest of the country, Bolivar escaped to Cartagena in New Granada (now Colombia), where rebels held power (though locked in civil war with a rival faction in Bogata).19

There in 1812, he wrote the first of his many eloquent political manifestos, saying, “Not the Spanish, but our own disunity led us back into slavery. A strong government could have changed everything.” He began championing a political system in which the nobility played a strong role, led by a president for life. He condemned the leniency against crime in general and against the state in particular that he felt had contributed to the fall of the First Republic. He began arguing that Venezuela should be liberated as the first step in creating an entire continent of independent states.20

The government of New Granada authorized a revolutionary force to liberate the Spanish-held bastions in their territory and in Venezuela, headed by Pierre Labatut. Against orders, Bolivar took 200 of the men and boldly attacked a Spanish garrison, capturing supplies and boats. One small victory followed another and the rebel ranks swelled.21

As a result of his actions, Bolivar was named commander-in-chief of the entire New Granadian army.22 He had to improvise tactics as he went along, finding European tactics he read about in books useless in a land of enormous mountain ranges, deep gorges, rushing rivers, vast plains, no roads, minimal ability to communicate over any distance, and sparse population.

Taking 650 men, he reentered Venezuela in May 1813. Facing 4,000 Spanish soldiers, Bolivar’s expedition seemed foolhardy. Using speed and surprise, he would defeat units of the Spanish army and the population rose up to swell the ranks of the republicans. He also recruited from the enemy by offering amnesty for deserters, threatening to kill captured Spaniards. Though only occasionally carried out, he believed that only through such a drastic measure could the republicans win and avoid the slaughter and plunder of civilians that was inevitable if they lost.23

After five swift victories, Bolivar had built up an army of 2,500, which came across 1,200 of the enemy, who retreated swiftly towards Valencia. He placed two men on each of 200 horses and had them ride around the Spanish through the night. The Spanish found their way blocked in the early morning of July 31 and in the Battle of Taguanes the revolutionaries crushed the royalists. It was Bolivar’s first large-scale victory (by the small-scale standards of South American war).24

The republican army reentered Caracas on August 7, where Bolivar, now 30, was given dictatorial powers, although half of Venezuela remained under control of the crown, which had 10 times the number of troops, who were, of course, much better equipped and trained.25

Gradually, the population grew war-weary and sentiment turned against the independence movement, which was also hindered by being poorly equipped (the infantry typically had antiquated muskets which required six motions to load; often running out of ammunition, they resorted to bayonet attacks, when they had bayonets).26

The Spanish leaders also began recruiting the fierce llaneros, nomadic cattle-raising horsemen of the Amazon grasslands. They appointed Jose Tomas Boves, a former rebel embittered by having been imprisoned by his comrades, to head them. Known as the Legion of Hell, it consisted of as many as 10,000 riders using spears, knives, and bolos, easily superior to better-armed republicans, who were almost entirely infantry. They began waging an even more savage war, so the rebels responded in kind, even killing civilians who would not take up arms against the royalists. Prisoners were executed on the spot. There was no grand war strategy, no static fronts, just one pitched battle after another between a few hundred or few thousand.27

On November 10, Bolivar inflicted what seemed to be a defeat on the llaneros and Spanish soldiers at Barquisemeto, but in the midst of the pursuit by the republicans, someone in their camped issued a call to retreat, throwing the army into confusion and the roles were reversed, the Spanish turning to pursue. It was Bolivar’s first personal battlefield loss in one-and-a-half years. The first regiment to retreat was stripped of its medals, rank, and banners.28

Then on December 5, at dawn, Bolivar’s 3,000 attacked 5,000 Spanish forces under General Monteverde, who were on in the hills near Araure. The patriot’s advance unit was immediately wiped out, but while Monteverde was reinforcing his flanks where he expected the next assault, rebels armed mostly with knives and sticks overran the center. After fierce hand-to-hand combat, Bolivar himself led the charge which scattered the Spanish. He gave chase until 2 a.m. the next morning, directing his men to kill even those who surrendered.29

Over the next few months, the patriots found themselves fighting on so many fronts that they sometimes faced 7-to-1 odds. Bolivar’s forces were nearly annihilated several times.30

By February 1814, Bolivar had recruited some replacements and had dug in at San Mateo. The Spanish, who had 10 times the cavalry, made repeated attacks on his positions and nearly succeeded in overrunning them. At one point, they almost captured the supply and munitions depot, until the defenders blew themselves up to prevent its capture. The Spanish finally gave up after several months.31

On May 28, Bolivar’s 5,000 faced 1,000 entrenched royalists in hills above the Plains of Carabobo. Although his men were poorly armed, he knew that llaneros were on the way to reinforce the enemy, so he decided to risk everything again. The assault was so relentless that the Spanish fled.32

But with his men nearly naked and the rainy season turning the region into a swamp, Bolivar found it increasingly difficult to follow up, final victory always slipping from his hands. On June 15, he gathered 3,000 soldiers at La Puerta against Boves’ equal number, and this time the revolutionaries were trounced, Bolivar barely escaping from the field. As Boves marched onto Caracas with his numbers increasing by the day, 20,000 fled the city.33

At Aragua, Boves caught up with remnants of the patriot army and 4,000 men, mostly Bolivar’s, died in one of the bloodiest battles of the South American war for independence.34

Bolivar shipped 24 chests of church silver and gems to a safe point to buy arms from British colonies and in September sailed to Cartagena.35 The royalists gained control of Venezuela by the end of the year, reinforced in May 1815 by 11,000 veterans of the Napoleonic wars, the biggest expedition the Spanish had ever sent to the Americas.36

Ever the optimist, Bolivar wrote his fellow citizens, “I have been chosen by fate to break your chains…Fight and you shall win. For God grants victory to perseverance.” He exhorted his men that misfortune was the “school of heroes.”37

The government of New Granada gave him an army to go after its own Spanish garrisons and rebellious cities He sent out a public letter, pleading with the factions to unite against Spain because “our country is America.”38 But he was only partially successful in stopping the civil war and when a large Spanish army arrived from Venezuela in May, Bolivar sailed for Jamaica with most of his officers.39

There, the prolific Bolivar wrote his most famous document, Letter from Jamaica, in which he declared, “A people that love freedom will in the end be free.” He foresaw a great federation of Hispanic American republics which would deserve the same respect as European nations.40

A man of great charm who could size up the people he met instantly, the indefatigable Bolivar set out to persuade the world to back his vision yet again. He was said to speak so eloquently on the spur of the moment that his speeches could be printed without editing. He answered every letter written to him, sometimes dictating to three secretaries at once.41

Bolivar’s pleas fell on deaf ears as far as governments went, with the exception of Haiti, whose president agreed to provide money and equipment. In March 1816, the first expedition sailed with 250 men in seven ships, an absurd force to engage the 10,000-strong royal army. They came across four Spanish vessels and were able to board two. They landed the next day at San Juan Griego and were warmly welcomed by the people. Another 300 joined what was called the Liberating Army. But shortly thereafter they were driven back and returned to Haiti for reprovisioning.42

When Bolivar landed in Venezuela again in December1816, he was 33 and would remain there for the rest of his life. He had 500 men with him; a nearby fort had 1,500 of the enemy, never mind the 16,000 government soldiers in Caracas.43

Bolivar began circulating proclamations, making up stories about supposed victories in various areas of the country, building an image of himself everywhere and invincible. In actuality, he operated mostly on the plains around the Orinoco river in the interior, headquartered in remote Agostura.44

And Bolivar was actually spending much of his time quelling efforts by subordinates to usurp his command. Bolivar showed excellent political skills in maneuvering around the many internal roadblocks, but finally felt compelled to execute the leading conspirator, Manuel Piar, who was, unfortunately, was also the republicans’ best tactician.45

One man became indispensable to Bolivar’s new strategy: Antonio Jose Paez, seven years his younger (who had an enormous bodyguard called the First Negro who had an knife so large no one else could wield it). Paez had mastered the supreme difficulties of guerrilla cavalry warfare in the tropics. Some of the llaneros were so impressed by him that they changed sides. His lightning attacks achieved the first victories against the powerful army which had landed in 1815.46

By May, the 2,000 republicans had achieved some significant victories. One incident illustrated how much they thrived on boldness. With 15 of his officers on a reconnaissance, Bolivar spotted a large number of Spanish soldiers lying in wait to ambush him as he rounded a corner. He shouted for his men to form up and prepare for an assault on the enemy position–as if his own army were right behind. The Spaniards retreated.47

In January 1818, Bolivar’s 3,000 soldiers marched 350 miles through a swampy region to join Paez’s 1,000 cavalry. Armed mostly with lances and bows and arrows, they surprised one Spanish garrison after another. The commander if all Spanish forces in Venezuela and New Granada, Pablo Morillo, barely escaped.48.

But inevitably, Spanish numbers and arms turned the tide prevail. Bolivar retreated to El Semen with 2,000 men and while he was passing baggage over a ravine on March 25, royal forces attacked. The rebels were exhausted and Morillo killed half of them, capturing their materiel and papers, though Bolivar escaped. The Spanish were sure that he was finished this time.49

But Bolivar was discouraged by the lack of popular support, but he still had Paez’s 2,100 horsemen. He immediately began rebuilding the infantry by recruiting from convalescent hospitals and among teenage boys.50

Gradually, though, he realized that the only way to achieve a level of professionalism to match the enemy was to form a foreign legion. He began raising money and his agents found great interest among the 30,000 recently discharged soldiers of the British army. The weather and the inability of the rebel army to meet payroll was discouraging to the mercenaries, but they adapted to conditions and became committed to the cause. Of the nearly 6000 who joined, 220 drowned on the way over, some deserted, and most were died from disease or in battle: only a few hundred survived the war.51

In February 1819, a republican congress was convened to draw up a constitution for the Third Republic.52

Meantime, guerrilla warfare was being successfully waged by Paez’s cavalry. In one encounter, they lured the Spanish into a trap. The Venezuelans lost six, the Spanish 400. The Spanish withdrew from the region after losing half their 7,000 troops.53

Bolivar began to conceive one of the most audacious military campaigns in history. He had been operating on the eastern part of the Plains of Casanare. On the western plains up against the Andes, Francisco de Paula Santander was conducting a guerrilla campaign the Spanish found impossible to suppress. During the rainy season when the plains were a virtual swamp, the royalist troops withdrew and in April, Santander sent a message to Bolivar that the area was free of the enemy.54

Bolivar knew that the Andes were considered impassable during winter (in the southern hemisphere) and that the Spanish guarded the frontier of New Granada on the other side very lightly. He called a war council of his generals, all of them under 40, in a hut without furniture; they sat on the bleached skulls of oxen to discuss his idea on May 23.55

Hannibal had spent years preparing for his epic trek through the Alps, as had San Martin of Argentina when he made his own climb over the Andes, both with seasoned soldiers. But within a week of making plans, Venezuela’s 2,500 ragtag rebels set out to for the foot of the mountains.56 First, though, they had to cross 10 swollen rivers, as well as move through flooded plains with water often waist-deep, with the torrential rain constant. Half the cattle brought along for food drowned. Bolivar continually moved up and down his lines to exhort his men forward.57

On June 25, they began the ascent into the mountains. The army consisted mostly of men from the plains and Britain and Ireland, none of them prepared for what they were about to face.58 The higher they went, the colder it became. By the time they were at 18,000 feet, the horses and cattle had died in the frozen wasteland.59 The half-naked men who had no wood for fire most of the time, took to flogging each other to keep circulation going.60 Nearly 1,000 men died along the way.61

Those who made it to the other side of the range were half-starved and had dropped their weapons along the way, but found a population eager to resupply them.62 After Bolivar’s men had a few skirmishes with Spanish government outposts, word reach the regional commander, who prepared to meet the rebels in a well-defended position with 3,000 soldiers on July 24 at Pantano de Vargas. After the revolutionaries’ cavalry managed to charge in the steep terrain and the foreign legion seemed to cinch a victory with a bayonet assault, the Spanish pushed them back. It was a stalemate, but the commander sent a report to the viceroy: “The annihilation of the republicans appeared inevitable. But despair gave them courage. Our infantry could not resist them.”63

The Spanish retreated and the patriots pursued. At Boyaca, on August 7, the rebels prevented the royalists from crossing a bridge that would have allowed them to reach the garrison at Bogata. In a two-hour clash, they captured half of the 3,000 Spanish troops, the rest having been killed or fled the battlefield.64 It was the turning point for the independence movement in South America. The Spanish began to evacuate New Granada and word spread like wildfire that the empire was coming to an end. Desertions from the royal army increased and formerly neutral citizens began actively supporting Bolivar.65

In December, the underground legislature of Venezuela assembled and declared its country and New Granada united as the Republic of Colombia (which included what is now Ecuador). Bolivar was made president and military dictator.66

Political events in Spain provided impetus for negotiations with the republicans throughout 1820, but skirmishes continued.67 Bolivar and Morillo, the Spanish commander, met in November and signed an armistice.68 In the following months, the patriots built up their army and made plans for a campaign in the event a final agreement should not be worked out. The conflict resumed in April 1821.69

On June 24, the Spanish general La Torre brought 5,000 troops to Carabobo to block both passes that could allow the rebels to move towards Caracas. He made some decisive mistakes in position: a weak right flank, no sharpshooters at the edges, and cavalry too far to the rear to be brought up in a timely manner.

Bolivar, with a total of 6,500 men, sent Paez with cavalry and infantry, including the British battalion, around to the enemy’s right rear, but while cutting through the heavy bushes, that they were spotted. The Spanish reinforced their right and concentrated fire on Paez’s troops, repelling the initial attack, which required the patriots to climb across steep ravines. But when the overconfident Spanish broke out and chased them, the royalists ran smack into the British veterans of the Napoleonic wars who cut them to pieces with disciplined heavy fire at close range. Running out of ammunition, the British charged with bayonets and the Spanish right collapsed.

The main forces of both sides had not yet engaged, but when Bolivar saw the outcome on the right, he ordered a full attack. One-third of the Spanish troops were captured and as many were killed or wounded.70

The region between Cali (Colombia) and Guayaquil (Ecuador) remained a Spanish stronghold after the victory at Carabobo. Bolivar had sent General Antonio Jose Sucre south to aid the local revolutionaries and he had achieved some success. In March 1822, Bolivar set out with 3,000 soldiers, but one third of them perished from exposure or harassment from loyalist guerrillas.71

On April 7, he came up against 1,800 Spanish troops in a seemingly impregnable position in thick woods at Bombana. Bolivar ordered an attack on the right at night under a full moon, losing a third of his 2,000 men under withering fire.72

But over the next six weeks while the Spanish were concentrating on resisting Bolivar, his right-hand, Antonio Jose Sucre, had gone around them, defeated royalist troops positioned near Quito, the capital of Ecuador, and taken it. From that base, he was able to mop of Spanish forces and Bolivar went on to Guayaquil.73

Forces under the generalship of Jose de San Martin, a 20-year veteran of service to the crown, and Bernardo O’Higgins, son of an Irishman who had become viceroy of Peru, had ended colonialism in Chile and Argentina. Between their armies and Bolivar’s troops lay Peru, with 19,000 Spanish troops, the last of the empire. San Martin was well-provisioned and well-armed when he marched over the Andes with 4,500 veterans to take Lima in June 1821. However, had not been able to push further inland.74

On July 26, 1822, San Martin and Bolivar met in Guayaquil to see how they could work together. There is no record of the meeting, but they didn’t seem to get along well personally and had different visions for the continent. San Martin was so discouraged by Bolivar’s impassioned insistence that his views would prevail that he retired immediately to France. Peru was left in Bolivar’s hands.75

Meeting between Bolivar and San Martin

In June 1824, Bolivar assembled an army of 9,000 in Peru to move 600 miles over the Andes to the high plateau. Inadequately clothed, suffering from sun-blindness, lack of oxygen, and the hazards of the dizzying precipces, they climbed to 12,000 feet. One English general, a long-time veteran in Europe, described it as the most difficult military operation he had ever undertaken.76

At the top, Bolivar reviewed his troops and told them, “Soldiers, you are about to finish the greatest undertaking Heaven has confided to men–that of saving an entire world from salvery!”77

On August 6, Bolivar reached the heights above the Plains of Junin. Below, he spotted part of the Spanish army moving across the plains. Bolivar sent 900 of his horsemen to attack the 2,000 royal cavalry at their rear. The engagement lasted 45 minutes, no shot was fired during the clash of lances and swords. The patriots lost 120 men, the Spanish, who retreated in wild disorder, 400. It was to be the last battle Bolivar would personally lead against the king’s men.78

Bolivar stepped down to attend to political matters and put nearly 5,780 soldiers under the command of Sucre. The Peruvian viceroy, La Serna, took 9,300 troops and began to pursue Sucre’s forces. A cat and mouse game ensued through country crossed by steep ravines and deep rivers. Bolivar wrote Sucre that, “The axiom of Marshal of Saxony is being fulfilled. Feet spared Peru; feet saved Peru; and feet will again cause Peru to be lost. Fixed ideas always avenge themselves.”79

The Spanish finally trapped Sucre’s army in the valley of Ayacucho on December 9. The republicans had only one 4-pounder gun, opposed to the crown force’s 24 artillery pieces. As the Spanish marched down on the republicans, Sucre rode along his lines, shouting, “Upon your efforts depend the fate of South America.” Knowing that some of La Serna’s subordinates perpetuated massacres of surrendered troops, the rebels knew it was a fight to the finish. One of Sucre’s lieutenants killed his horse, explaining to his soldiers, “I have now no means of escape, so we must fight it out together.” The Spanish were startled by the fierceness of the republican resistance and when the latter charged with bayonets, the Spanish lost 2,000 men and 15 guns. La Serna was taken prisoner and the commanding general surrendered.80

Sucre’s report to Bolivar announced, “The war is ended, and the liberation of Peru completed.”81

Mop-up operations occupied 1825 and in the same year the people of upper Peru deciding to form a separate nation, which they named Bolivia in Bolivar’s honor. He wrote its constitution and accepted the position of lifetime president.82

The fight for the independence of Venezuela, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Panama (a department of Colombia) had involved 696 battles, with an average of 1,400 soldiers per engagement, counting both sides together.83

Bolivar received a letter from the then-old Marquis de Lafayette on behalf of the family of George Washington, along with a gold medallion coined after the capitulation at Yorktown. It read, “The second Washington of the New World.” Bolivar was deeply moved.84

Simon Bolivar began vigorously rebuilding and administering the devastated new states. He was at the height of his power when he convened a congress of Latin American republics in Panama in 1826. He envisioned a league of the fledgling Central and South American nations, but he was far ahead of his time.85

Soon thereafter, fighting between the states, personality conflicts, and resentment of his authoritarian ways caused his influence to wane. After an assassination attempt and with failing health, Bolivar resigned all his positions and died shortly thereafter on December 10, 1830.86

But to Latin Americans, Bolivar remains immortal, one of the greatest military leaders in the history of the entire world.



1870 1r bright rose, large margins all around, tied by Asuncion double ring pmk pmk on FL used in 1874 (23 Sep) to Buenos Aires, endorsed “por Vapor Goya” (river steamer), filing fold away from the stamp, fine and attractive number one on cover, with arrival docketing, 2002 Moorhouse cert.,
Val. $ 2,000[ 1][

Price: $1000.00Sold For: $1900.00



1870 2r dark blue, rare shade unused, with original gum, v.f., signed Nissen, Roig etc., with Moorhouse cert.
Val.[ 2a][

Price: $250.00Sold For: $250.00


1870 3r black, the largest recorded multiple of this stamp, irregular block of nine, marginal from left of the sheet (positions 71/81-84/91-94), unused with some creases, pos.82 with nick at top, other minor imperfections of no importance, with 2001 Dr.Mario Kurchan certificate, ex-Dale-Lichtenstein and “Crown Point” collections
Val.[ 3][(
)b ]

Price: $2500.00Sold For: $3500.00



After the last foreign troops had gone in 1876 and an international commission headed by Rutherford B. Hayes awarded Paraguay the area between the Río Verde and Río Pilcomayo, the era of party politics in Paraguay was free to begin in earnest. Nonetheless, the evacuation of foreign forces did not mean the end of foreign influence. Both Brazil and Argentina remained deeply involved in Paraguay as a result of their connections with Paraguay’s rival political forces. These forces eventually came to be known as the “Colorado”s and the “Liberals”.

The political rivalry between Liberals and Colorados was presaged as early as 1869 when the terms Azules (Blues) and Colorados (Reds) first appeared




1878 5c on 2c blue, surcharged in black, unused, also in blue (used), plus 5h on 3c black, unused, minute thin spots, otherwise fine-v.f., rare, each with Moorhouse cert.,
Val. $ 1,575[ 5,5H,9][(
)O ]




1878 black surcharge “5” (cents) on 3c black, two imperf. singles, each with margins all around, tied by oval of dots in blue green, also unframed “Da Buenos Aires col Postali Italiani” transit on small cover to Potenza Italy, charged “20” (decimes), with the additional of 1L postage due (based on the markings, another 1L stamp was removed and a presumably similar 1L hinged at top for aesthetic purposes), Buenos Aires transit, part Genova and Potenza arrival pmks on back. The two Paraguay stamps with minor faults, filing folds and part of backflap of cover torn away, the 1L postage due corner missing, otherwise fine, accompanied by 2001 Dr.Mario Kurchan and 2006 Brian Moorhouse certificates (“this cover is now the earliest known usage of a surcharged “5” on or off cover and it is the only known contemporary multiple franking of any of the “5” centavos surcharged stamps. This cover is also one of just three recorded covers franked with the small “5” in black on 3r stamp”). A remarkable rarity of Paraguayan philately
Val.[ 5E][

Price: $7500.00Sold For: $8000.00




The National Republican Association-Colorado Party (Asociación Nacional Republicana-Partido Colorado) dominated Paraguayan political life from the late 1880s until Liberals overthrew it in 1904. The Liberal Party ascent marked the decline of Brazil, which had supported the Colorados as the principal political force in Paraguay, and the rise of Argentine influence.

In the decade following the war, the principal political conflicts within Paraguay reflected the Liberal-Colorado split, with Legionnaires battling Lopiztas (ex-followers of Solano López) for power, while Brazil and Argentina maneuvered in the background. The Legionnaires saw the Lopiztas as reactionaries. The Lopiztas accused the Legionnaires of being traitors and foreign puppets. The situation defied neat categories, since many people constantly changed sides. Opportunism characterized this era, not ideological purity.

The Legionnaires were a motley collection of refugees and exiles who dated from Francia’s day. Their opposition to tyranny was sincere, and they gravitated toward democratic ideologies. Coming home to backward, poor, xenophobic Paraguay from cosmopolitan, prosperous Buenos Aires was a big shock for the Legionnaires. Believing that more freedom would cure Paraguay’s ills, they abolished slavery and founded a constitutional government as soon as they came to power. They based the new government on the standard classical liberal prescriptions of free enterprise, free elections, and free trade.

The Legionnaires, however, had no more experience in democracy than other Paraguayans.




1881 1c blue, horizontal sheet bottom sheet margin part imprint pair imperf. between, with Moorhouse cert. (“the 1c imperforate between pair is by far, the rarest of 1881 perforation varieties”), also 2c rose red and brown, vertical or horizontal pairs imperf. Between
Val.[ 14b,15b,c,16b,c][







1884 two covers used in 1886 to Rosario Santa Fe or Montevideo, one with diagonal half of 2c and two entire stamps paying 5c local rate; the other with bisected 5c with the entire stamp paying 7 1/c to Uruguay, both with arrival pmks, fine
Val.[ 21,22][

Price: $250.00Sold For: $475.00





1886 four-frame exhibit (64 pages) with proofs and essays, originals (these have been in used for only 10 days), die proofs, composite and trial colors, official reprints, much archival material including complete sheets (with and without overprint), covers (8), errors and varieties, plus additional items, interesting and seldom offered erudite study of this rather obscure subject
Val.[ O1-14][
O ]

Price: $2500.00Sold For: $3750.00


Free elections were a startling, and not altogether welcome, innovation for ordinary Paraguayans, who had always allied themselves with a patrón (benefactor) for security and protection. At the same time, Argentina and Brazil were not content to leave Paraguay with a truly free political system. Pro-Argentine militia chief Benigno Ferreira emerged as de facto dictator until his overthrow with Brazilian help in 1874. Ferreira later returned to lead the 1904 Liberal uprising, which ousted the Colorados. Ferreira served as president between 1906 and 1908.

[edit] The first Colorado era



Paraguay 1890 anniversary stamp

Cándido Bareiro, López’s ex-commercial agent in Europe, returned to Paraguay in 1869 and formed a major Lopizta faction. He also recruited General Bernadino Caballero, a war hero with close ties to López. After President Juan Bautista Gil was assassinated in 1877, Caballero used his power as army commander to guarantee Bareiro’s election as president in 1878. When Bareiro died in 1880, Caballero seized power in a coup and dominated Paraguayan politics for most of the next two decades, either as president or through his power in the militia. His accession to power is notable because he brought political stability, founded a ruling party – the Colorados – to regulate the choice of presidents and the distribution of spoils, and began a process of economic reconstruction.

Despite their professed admiration for Francia, the Colorados dismantled Francia’s unique system of state socialism. Desperate for cash because of heavy debts incurred in London in the early postwar period, the Colorados lacked a source of funds except through the sale of the state’s vast holdings, which comprised more than 95 percent of Paraguay’s total land. Caballero’s government sold much of this land to foreigners in huge lots. While Colorado politicians raked in the profits and themselves became large landowners, peasant squatters who had farmed the land for generations were forced to vacate and, in many cases, to emigrate. By 1900, seventy-nine people owned half of the country’s land.

Although the Liberals had advocated the same land-sale policy, the unpopularity of the sales and evidence of pervasive government corruption produced a tremendous outcry from the opposition. Liberals became bitter foes of selling land, especially after Caballero rigged the 1886 election to ensure a victory for General Patricio Escobar. Ex-Legionnaires, idealistic reformers, and former Lopiztas joined in July 1887 to form the Centro Democrático (Democratic Center), a precursor of the Liberal party, to demand free elections, an end to land sales, civilian control over the military, and clean government. Caballero responded, along with his principal adviser, José Segundo Decoud, and Escobar, by forming the Colorado Party one month later, thus formalizing the political cleavage.

Both groups were deeply factionalized, however, and very little ideology separated them, allowing. Colorado and Liberal partisans to change sides whenever it proved advantageous. While the Colorados reinforced their monopoly on power and spoils, Liberals called for reform. Frustration provoked an aborted Liberal revolt in 1891 that produced changes in 1893, when war minister General Juan B. Egusquiza overthrew Caballero’s chosen president, Juan G. González. Egusquiza startled Colorado stalwarts by sharing power with the Liberals, a move that split both parties. Ex-Legionnaire Ferreira, along with the cívico (civic) wing of the Liberals, joined the government of Egusquiza, who left office in 1898, to allow a civilian, Emilio Aceval, to become president. Liberal radicales (radicals) who opposed compromising with their Colorado enemies boycotted the new arrangement. Caballero, also boycotting the alliance, plotted to overthrow civilian rule and succeeded when Colonel Juan Antonio Ezcurra seized power in 1902. This victory was Caballero’s last, however. In 1904, General Ferreira, with the support of cívicos, radicales, and egusquistas, invaded from Argentina. After four months of fighting, Ezcurra signed the Pact of Pilcomayo aboard an Argentine gunboat on December 12, 1904, and handed power to the Liberals.

[edit] Liberal decades

The revolution of August 1904 began as a popular movement, but Liberal rule quickly degenerated into factional feuding, military coups, and civil war. Political instability was extreme in the Liberal era, which saw twenty-one governments in thirty-six years. During the period 1904 to 1922, Paraguay had fifteen presidents. By 1908, the radicales had overthrown General Ferreira and the cívicos. The Liberals had disbanded Caballero’s army when they came to power and organized a completely new one. Nevertheless, by 1910 army commander Colonel Albino Jara felt strong enough to stage a coup against President Manuel Gondra. Jara’s coup backfired as it touched off an anarchic two-year period in which every major political group seized power at least once. The radicales again invaded from Argentina, and when the charismatic Eduardo Schaerer became president, Gondra returned as minister of war to reorganize the army once more. Schaerer became the first president since Egusquiza to finish his four-year term.

The new political calm was shattered, however, when the radicales split into Schaerer and Gondra factions. Gondra won the presidential election in 1920, but the schaereristas undermined his power and forced him to resign. Full-scale fighting between the factions broke out in May 1922 and lasted for fourteen months. The gondristas beat the schaereristas decisively and held on to power until 1936.

Laissez-faire Liberal policies had permitted a handful of hacendados to exercise almost feudal control over the countryside, while peasants had no land and foreign interests manipulated Paraguay’s economic fortunes. The Liberals, like the Colorados, were a deeply factionalized political oligarchy. Social conditions – always marginal in Paraguay – deteriorated during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The country clearly needed reforms in working conditions, public services, and education. The stage was set for an anti-Liberal nationalist reaction that would change the direction of Paraguayan history.

Paraguay’s dispute with Bolivia over the Chaco, a struggle that had been brewing for decades, finally derailed the Liberals. Wars and poor diplomacy had prevented the settling of boundaries between the two countries during the century following independence. Although Paraguay had held the Chaco for as long as anyone could remember, the country did little to develop the area. Aside from scattered Mennonite colonies and nomadic Indian tribes, few people lived there. Bolivia’s claim to the Chaco became more urgent after it lost its sea coast (the Atacama region) to Chile during the 1879-84 War of the Pacific. Left without any outlet to the sea, Bolivia wanted to absorb the Chaco and expand its territory up to the Río Paraguay in order to gain a river port. In addition, the Chaco’s economic potential intrigued the Bolivians. Oil had been discovered there by Standard Oil Company in the 1920s, and people wondered whether an immense pool of oil was lying beneath the entire area. Ironically, South America’s two greatest victims of war and annexation in the previous century were ready to face each other in another bout of bloody combat, this time over a piece of apparently worthless, desolate wilderness.

While Paraguayans were busy fighting among themselves during the 1920s, Bolivians established a series of forts in the Paraguayan Chaco. In addition, they bought armaments from Germany and hired German military officers to train and lead their forces. Frustration in Paraguay with Liberal inaction boiled over in 1928 when the Bolivian army established a fort on the Río Paraguay called Fortín Vanguardia. In December of that year, Paraguayan major (later colonel) Rafael Franco took matters into his own hands, led a surprise attack on the fort, and succeeded in destroying it. The routed Bolivians responded quickly by seizing two Paraguayan forts. Both sides mobilized but the Liberal government felt unprepared for war so it agreed to the humiliating condition of rebuilding Fortín Vanguardia for the Bolivians. The Liberal government also provoked criticism when it forced Franco, by then a national hero, to retire from the army.

As diplomats from Argentina, the United States, and the League of Nations conducted fruitless “reconciliation” talks, Colonel José Félix Estigarribia, Paraguay’s deputy army commander, ordered his troops into action against Bolivian positions early in 1931. Meanwhile, nationalist agitation led by the National Independent League (Liga Nacional Independiente) increased. Formed in 1928 by a group of intellectuals, the League sought a new era in national life that would witness a great political and social rebirth. Its adherents advocated a “new democracy” that, they hoped, would sweep the country free of petty partisan interests and foreign encroachments. An amalgam of diverse ideologies and interests, the League reflected a genuine popular wish for social change. When government troops fired on a mob of League students demonstrating in front of the Government Palace in October 1931, the Liberal administration of President José Guggiari lost what little legitimacy it retained. The students and soldiers of the rising “New Paraguay” movement (which wanted to sweep away corrupt party politics and introduce nationalist and socialist reforms) would thereafter always see the Liberals as morally bankrupt.

[edit] The Chaco War and the February Revolution

Main article: Chaco War

When war finally broke out officially in July 1932, the Bolivians were confident of a rapid victory. Their country was richer and more populous than Paraguay, and their armed forces were larger, had a superior officer corps, and were well-trained and well-equipped. These advantages quickly proved irrelevant in the face of the Paraguayans’ zeal to defend their homeland. The highly motivated Paraguayans knew the geography of the Chaco better than the Bolivians and easily infiltrated Bolivian lines, surrounded outposts, and captured supplies. In contrast, Indians from the Bolivian high plateau area, known as the Altiplano, were forced into the Bolivian army, had no real interest in the war, and failed to adapt to the hot Chaco climate. In addition, long supply lines, poor roads, and weak logistics hindered the Bolivian campaign. The Paraguayans proved more united than the Bolivians, at least initially, as President Eusebio Ayala and Colonel (later Marshal) Estigarribia worked well together.

After the December 1933 Paraguayan victory at Campo Via, Bolivia seemed on the verge of surrender. At that moment, however, President Ayala agreed to a truce. His decision was greeted with derision in Asunción. Instead of ending the war with a swift victory that might have boosted their political prospects, the Liberals signed a truce that seemed to allow the Bolivians to regroup. The war continued until July 1935. Although the Liberals had successfully led Paraguay’s occupation of nearly all the disputed territory and had won the war when the last truce went into effect, they were finished politically.

In many ways, the Chaco War acted as a catalyst to unite the political opposition with workers and peasants, who furnished the raw materials for a social revolution. After the 1935 truce, thousands of soldiers were sent home, leaving the regular army to patrol the front lines. The soldiers who had shared the dangers and trials of the battlefield deeply resented the ineptitude and incompetence they believed the Liberals had shown in failing to prepare the country for war. These soldiers had witnessed the miserable state of the Paraguayan army and were forced in many cases to face the enemy armed only with machetes. After what they had been through, partisan political differences seemed irrelevant. The government offended the army rank-and-file by refusing to fund pensions for disabled war veterans in 1936 while awarding 1,500 gold pesos a year to Estigarribia. Colonel Franco, back on active duty since 1932, became the focus of the nationalist rebels inside and outside the army. The final spark to rebellion came when Franco was exiled for criticizing Ayala. On February 17, 1936, units of the army descended on the Presidential Palace and forced Ayala to resign, ending thirty-two years of Liberal rule.

Outside Paraguay, the February revolt seemed to be a paradox because it overthrew the politicians who had won the war. The soldiers, veterans, students, and others who revolted felt, however, that victory had come despite the Liberal government. Promising a national and social revolution, the Revolutionary Febrerista Party (Partido Revolucionario Febrerista, PRF), more commonly known as the Febreristas, brought Colonel Franco back from exile in Argentina to be president. The Franco government showed it was serious about social justice by expropriating more than 200,000 hectares of land and distributing it to 10,000 peasant families. In addition, the new government guaranteed workers the right to strike and established an eight-hour work day. Perhaps the government’s most lasting contribution affected national consciousness. In a gesture calculated to rewrite history and erase seven decades of national shame, Franco declared Solano López a national hero “sin ejemplar” (without precedent) because he had stood up to foreign threats, and sent a team to Cerro Corá to find his unmarked grave. The government buried his remains along with those of his father in a chapel designated the National Pantheon of Heroes, and later erected a monument to him on Asunción’s highest hill.

Despite the popular enthusiasm that greeted the February revolution, the new government lacked a clear program. In a sign of the times, Franco practiced his Mussolini-style, spellbinding oratory from a balcony. But when he published his distinctly fascist-sounding Decree Law No. 152 promising a “totalitarian transformation” similar to those in Europe, protests erupted. The youthful, idealistic elements that had come together to produce the Febrerista movement were actually a hodgepodge of conflicting political tendencies and social opposites, and Franco was soon in deep political trouble. Franco’s cabinet reflected almost every conceivable shade of dissident political opinion, and included socialists, fascist sympathizers, nationalists, Colorados, and Liberal cívicos. A new party of regime supporters, the Revolutionary National Union (Unión Nacional Revolucionaria), was founded in November 1936. Although the new party called for representative democracy, rights for peasants and workers, and socialization of key industries, it failed to broaden Franco’s political base. In the end, Franco forfeited his popular support because he failed to keep his promises to the poor. He dared not expropriate the properties of foreign landowners, who were mostly Argentines. In addition, the Liberals, who still had influential support in the army, agitated constantly for Franco’s overthrow. When Franco ordered Paraguayan troops to abandon the advanced positions in the Chaco that they had held since the 1935 truce, the army revolted in August 1937 and returned the Liberals to power.

The army, however, did not hold a unified opinion about the Febreristas. Several attempted coups served to remind President Félix Pavia (the former dean of law at the National University) that although the February Revolution was out of power, it was far from dead. People who suspected that the Liberals had learned nothing from their term out of office soon had proof: a peace treaty signed with Bolivia on July 21, 1938, fixed the final boundaries behind the Paraguayan battle lines. In 1939 the Liberals, recognizing that they would have to choose someone with national stature to be president if they wanted to hold onto power, picked General Estigarribia, the hero of the Chaco War who had since served as special envoy to the United States. Estigarribia quickly realized that he would have to adopt many Febrerista ideas to avoid anarchy. Circumventing the die-hard Liberals in the National Assembly who opposed him, Estigarribia assumed “temporary” dictatorial powers in February 1940, but promised the dictatorship would end as soon as a workable constitution was written.

Estigarribia vigorously pursued his goals. He began a land reform program that promised a small plot to every Paraguayan family. He reopened the university, balanced the budget, financed the public debt, increased the capital of the Central Bank of Paraguay, implemented monetary and municipal reforms, and drew up plans to build highways and public works. An August 1940 plebiscite endorsed Estigarribia’s constitution, which remained in force until 1967. The constitution of 1940 promised a “strong, but not despotic” president and a new state empowered to deal directly with social and economic problems. But by greatly expanding the power of the executive branch, the constitution served to legitimize open dictatorship.

[edit] Morínigo and World War II

The era of the New Liberals, as Estigarribia’s supporters were called, came to a sudden end in September 1940, when the president died in an airplane crash. Hoping to control the government through a more malleable military man, the “Old Liberal” cabinet named War Minister Higinio Moríñigo president. Moríñigo had gained fame in Paraguay by heading the 1936 expedition to Cerro Corá to retrieve López’s remains. The apparently genial Moríñigo soon proved himself a shrewd politician with a mind of his own, and the Liberals resigned within a few weeks when they realized that they would not be able to impose their will on him. Having inherited Estigarribia’s dictatorial powers, Moríñigo quickly banned both Febreristas and Liberals and clamped down drastically on free speech and individual liberties. A nonparty dictator without a large body of supporters, Morínigo survived politically – despite the numerous plots against him – because of his astute handling of an influential group of young military officers who held key positions of power.

The outbreak of World War II eased Moríñigo’s task of ruling Paraguay while keeping the army happy because it stimulated demand for Paraguayan export products, such as meat, hides, and cotton, and boosted the country’s export earnings. More important, United States policy toward Latin America at this time made Paraguay eligible for major economic assistance. A surge of German influence in the region and Argentina’s pro-Axis leanings alarmed the United States, which sought to wean Paraguay away from German and Argentine solicitation. At the same time, the United States sought to enhance its presence in the region and pursued close cooperation with Brazil, Argentina’s traditional rival. To this end, the United States provided to Paraguay sizable amounts of funds and supplies under the Lend-Lease Agreement, provided loans for public works, and gave technical assistance in agriculture and health care. The United States Department of State approved of closer ties between Brazil and Paraguay and especially supported Brazil’s offer to finance a road project designed to reduce Paraguay’s dependence on Argentina.

Much to the displeasure of the United States and Britain, Moríñigo refused to act against German economic and diplomatic interests until the end of the war. German agents had successfully converted many Paraguayans to the Axis cause. South America’s first Nazi Party branch had been founded in Paraguay in 1931. German immigrant schools, churches, hospitals, farmers’ cooperatives, youth groups, and charitable societies became active Axis backers. All of those organizations prominently displayed swastikas and portraits of Adolf Hitler.

It is no exaggeration to say that Moríñigo headed a pro-Axis regime. Large numbers of Paraguayan military officers and government officials were openly sympathetic to the Axis. Among these officials was the national police chief, who named his son Adolfo Hirohito after the best-known Axis leaders. By 1941, the official newspaper, El País, had adopted an overtly pro-German stance. At the same time, the government strictly controlled pro-Allied labor unions. Police cadets wore swastikas and Italian insignia on their uniforms. The December 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and Germany’s declaration of war against the United States gave the United States the leverage it needed, however, to force Moríñigo to commit himself publicly to the Allied cause. Moríñigo officially severed diplomatic relations with the Axis countries in 1942, although he did not declare war against Germany until February 1945. Nonetheless, Moríñigo continued to maintain close relations with the heavily German-influenced Argentine military throughout the war and provided a haven for Axis spies and agents.

United States protests over German and Argentine activities in Paraguay fell on deaf ears. While the United States defined its interests in terms of resisting the fascist threat, Paraguayan officials believed their interests lay in economic expediency and were reluctant to antagonize Germany until the outcome of the war was no longer in doubt. Many Paraguayans believed Germany was no more of a threat to Paraguay’s sovereignty than the United States.

The Allied victory convinced Moríñigo to liberalize his regime. Paraguay experienced a brief period of openness as Moríñigo relaxed restrictions on free speech, allowed political exiles to return, and formed a coalition government. Moríñigo’s intentions about stepping down were murky, however, and his de facto alliance with Colorado Party hardliners and their thuggish Guión Rojo (red script) paramilitary group antagonized the opposition. The result was a failed coup d’état in December 1946 and full-scale civil war in March 1947.

Led by Colonel Rafael Franco, the revolutionaries were an unlikely coalition of Febreristas, Liberals, and communists, united only in their desire to overthrow Moríñigo. The Colorados helped Moríñigo crush the insurgency, but the man who saved Moríñigo’s government during crucial battles was the commander of the General Brúgez Artillery Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Alfredo Stroessner Matiauda. When a revolt at the Asunción Navy Yard put a strategic working-class neighborhood in rebel hands, Stroessner’s regiment quickly reduced the area to rubble. When rebel gunboats threatened to dash upriver from Argentina to bombard the capital into submission, Stroessner’s forces battled furiously and knocked them out of commission.

By the end of the rebellion in August, a single party, which had been out of power since 1904, had almost total control in Paraguay. The fighting had simplified politics by eliminating all parties except the Colorados and by reducing the size of the army. As nearly four-fifths of the officer corps had joined the rebels, fewer individuals were now in a position to compete for power. As had often happened in the past, however, the Colorados split into rival factions. The hardline guionistas, headed by the fiery left-leaning nationalist writer and publisher Juan Natalicio González, opposed democratic practices. The moderate democráticos, led by Federico Chaves, favored free elections and a power-sharing arrangement with the other parties. With Moríñigo’s backing, González used the Guión Rojo to cow the moderates and gain his party’s presidential nomination. In the Paraguayan tradition, he ran unopposed in the long-promised 1948 elections. Suspecting that Moríñigo would not relinquish power to González, a group of Colorado military officers, including Stroessner, removed Morínigo from office. González joined Moríñigo in exile early in 1949, and Chaves became president in 1950 as the military finally allowed power to pass to the democráticos.

Paraguayan politics had come full-circle in a certain sense. The Chaco War had sparked the February revolution, which, in turn, sounded the death knell of the Liberal state and ushered in a revival of Paraguayan nationalism along with a reverence for the dictatorial past. The result was the constitution of 1940, which returned to the executive the power that the Liberals had stripped away. When a brief flirtation with democracy became a civil war after World War II, the Colorados, the party of the Lopiztas, were again running Paraguay. In the interim, the influence of the armed forces had increased dramatically. Since the end of the Chaco War, no Paraguayan government has held power without the consent of the army. Moríñigo maintained order by severely restricting individual liberties but as a result created a political vacuum. When he tried to fill it with the Colorado Party, he split the party in two, and neither faction could establish itself in power without help from the military. The institution of one-party rule, the establishment of order at the expense of political liberty, and the acceptance of the army’s role of final political arbiter created the conditions that encouraged the emergence of the Stroessner regime.

[edit] The Stronato

[edit] The 1954 Coup

Despite his reputation as a democrat, Chaves imposed a state of siege three weeks after he took office, using his emergency powers to attack the supporters of González and ex-President Felipe Molas López. Mounting economic problems immediately confronted the new government. Two decades of extreme political and social unrest, including depression, war, and civil conflicts, had shattered Paraguay’s economy. National and per capita income had fallen sharply, the Central Bank’s practice of handing out soft loans to regime cronies was spurring inflation and a black market, and Argentina’s economic woes were making themselves felt in Paraguay. Still, Chaves stayed in office without mishap; the country simply needed a rest.

By 1953, however, the 73-year-old president’s political support began to erode markedly. His decision to run for reelection disappointed younger men who nursed political ambitions, and rumors that Chaves would strengthen the police at the army’s expense disappointed the military. Early in 1954, recently fired Central Bank Director Epifanio Méndez Fleitas joined forces with Stroessner, at that time a general and commander in chief of the armed forces, to oust Chaves. Méndez Fleitas was unpopular with Colorado Party stalwarts and the army, who feared that he was trying to build a following as did his hero, Juan Domingo Perón, Argentina’s president from 1946 to 1955. In May 1954, Stroessner ordered his troops into action against the government after Chaves had tried to dismiss one of his subordinates. Fierce resistance by police left almost fifty dead.

As the military “strongman” who made the coup, Stroessner was able to provide many of his supporters with positions in the provisional government. About two months later, a divided Colorado Party nominated Stroessner for president. For many party members, he represented an “interim” choice, as Morínigo had been for the Liberals in 1940. When Stroessner took office on August 15, 1954, few people imagined that this circumspect, unassuming forty-one- year-old commander in chief would be a master politician capable of outmaneuvering and outlasting them all. Nor was it apparent that his period of rule, known as the Stronato, would be longer than that of any other ruler in Paraguayan history.

[edit] Consolidation of the Stroessner Regime

The son of an immigrant German brewer and a Paraguayan woman, Stroessner was born in Encarnación in 1912. He joined the army when he was sixteen and entered the Francisco López Military College, a military academy for the three services of the Paraguayan military. Like Franco and Estigarribia, Stroessner was a hero of the Chaco War. He had gained a reputation for his bravery and his abilities to learn quickly and to command and inspire loyalty in troops. He was also known to be thorough and to have an unusual capacity for hard work. His accurate political sense failed him only once, when he found himself in 1948 on the wrong side of a failed coup attempt and had to be driven to the Brazilian embassy in the trunk of a car, earning him the nickname “Colonel Trunk”. Career considerations and an antipathy for communists possibly caused Stroessner to decide against joining the rebels in 1947. Morínigo found his talents indispensable during the civil war and promoted him rapidly. As one of the few officers who had remained loyal to Morínigo, Stroessner became a formidable player once he entered the higher echelons of the armed forces.

Repression was a key factor in Stroessner’s longevity. Stroessner took a hard line from the beginning in his declaration of a state of siege, which he renewed carefully at intervals prescribed by the constitution. Except for a brief period in 1959, Stroessner renewed the state of siege every three months for the interior of the country until 1970 and for Asunción until 1987. He was lucky from the outset; the retirement of González and the death of Molas López had removed two of his most formidable opponents. Another helpful coincidence was the September 1955 Argentine coup that deposed Perón, thus depriving Méndez Fleitas of his main potential source of support. After the coup, Perón fled to Asunción, where his meddling in Paraguayan politics complicated Méndez Fleitas’ position further and intensified the political struggle going on behind the scenes. Forced to play his hand after the Argentine junta compelled Perón to depart Asunción for Panama in November, Méndez Fleitas prepared to stage a coup in late December. However, Stroessner purged the military of Méndez Fleitas’ supporters and made him go into exile in 1956.

To observers, Stroessner did not seem to be in a particularly strong position. He was barely in control of the Colorado Party, which was split by competing factions and ambitious politicians, and the army was not a dependable supporter. The economy was in bad shape and deteriorating further. Stroessner’s adoption of economic austerity measures proved unpopular with military officers, who had grown used to getting soft loans from the Central Bank; with businessmen, who disliked the severe tightening of credit; and with workers, who went out on strike when they no longer received pay raises. In addition, the new Argentine government, displeased with Stroessner’s cordial relations with Perón, canceled a trade agreement.

A 1958 national plebiscite elected Stroessner to a second term, but dissatisfaction with the regime blossomed into a guerrilla insurgency soon afterward. Sponsored by exiled Liberals and Febreristas, small bands of armed men began to slip across the border from Argentina. Venezuela sent large amounts of aid to these groups starting in 1958. The following year, the new Cuban government under Fidel Castro also provided assistance.

Stroessner’s response was to employ the state’s virtually unlimited power by giving a free hand to the military and to Minister of Interior Edgar Ynsfrán, who began to harass, terrorize, and occasionally murder family members of the regime’s foes. A cycle of terror and counter-terror began to make life in Paraguay precarious.

The guerrillas received little support from Paraguay’s conservative peasantry. The Colorado Party’s peasant py nandí irregulars (“barefoot ones” in Guaraní), who had a well-deserved reputation for ferocity, often tortured and executed their prisoners. Growing numbers of people were interned in jungle concentration camps. Army troops and police smashed striking labor unions by taking over their organizations and arresting their leaders.

In April 1959, however, Stroessner grudgingly decided to heed the growing call for reform within the army and the Colorado Party. He lifted the state of siege, allowed opposition exiles to return, ended press censorship, freed political prisoners, and promised to rewrite the 1940 constitution. After two months of this democratic “spring”, the country was on the verge of chaos. In late May, nearly 100 people were injured when a student riot erupted in downtown Asunción over a bus fare increase. The disturbance inspired the legislature to call for Ynsfrán’s resignation. Stroessner responded swiftly by reimposing the state of siege and dissolving the legislature.

An upsurge in guerrilla violence followed, but Stroessner once again parried the blow. Several factors strengthened Stroessner’s hand. First, United States military aid was helping enhance the army’s skills in counterinsurgency warfare. Second, the many purges of the Colorado Party had removed all opposition factions. In addition, Stroessner’s economic policies had boosted exports and investment and reduced inflation, and the military coups in Brazil in 1964 and Argentina in 1966 also improved the international climate for nondemocratic rule in Paraguay.

Another major factor in Stroessner’s favor was a change in attitude among his domestic opposition. Demoralized by years of fruitless struggle and exile, the major opposition groups began to sue for peace. A Liberal Party faction, the Renovation Movement, returned to Paraguay to become the “official” opposition, leaving the remainder of the Liberal Party, which renamed itself the Radical Liberal Party (Partido Liberal Radical – PLR), in exile. In return for Renovationist participation in the elections of 1963, Stroessner allotted the new party twenty of Congress’s sixty seats. Four years later, PLR members also returned to Paraguay and began participating in the electoral process. By this time, the Febreristas, a sad remnant of the once powerful but never terribly coherent revolutionary coalition, posed no threat to Stroessner and were legalized in 1964. The new Christian Democratic Party (Partido Demócrata Cristiano – PDC) also renounced violence as a means of gaining power. The exhaustion of most opposition forces enabled Stroessner to crush the Paraguayan Communist Party (Partido Communista Paraguayo – PCP) by mercilessly persecuting its members and their spouses and to isolate the exiled Colorado epifanistas (followers of Epifanio Méndez Fleitas) and democráticos, who had reorganized themselves as the Popular Colorado Movement (Movimiento Popular Colorado – Mopoco).

Under “liberalization”, Ynsfrán, the master of the machinery of terror, began to outlive his usefulness to Stroessner. Ynsfrán opposed political decompression and was unhappy about Stroessner’s increasingly clear intention to stay president for life. A May 1966 police corruption scandal gave Stroessner a convenient way to dismiss Ynsfrán in November. In August 1967, a new Constitution created the two-house Paraguayan legislature and formally allowed Stroessner to serve for two more five-year presidential terms.

International factors and the economy

During the 1960s and 1970s, the main foreign influences on Paraguay were Brazil and the United States. Both countries aided Paraguay’s economic development in ways that enhanced its political stability. A 1956 agreement with Brazil to improve the transport link between the two countries by building roads and a bridge over the Río Paraná broke Paraguay’s traditional dependence on Argentine goodwill for the smooth flow of Paraguayan international trade. Brazil’s grant of duty-free port facilities on the Atlantic Coast was particularly valuable to Paraguay.

Brazil’s financing of the US$19 billion Itaipú Dam on the Río Paraná between Paraguay and Brazil had far-reaching consequences for Paraguay; it had no means of contributing financially to the construction, but its cooperation, including controversial concessions regarding ownership of the construction site and the rates for which Paraguay agreed to sell its share of the electricity, was essential. Itaipú gave Paraguay’s economy a new source of wealth. The construction produced a tremendous economic boom, as thousands of Paraguayans who had never before held a regular job went to work on the enormous dam. From 1973 (when construction began) until 1982 (when it ended), gross domestic product grew more than 8 percent annually, double the rate for the previous decade and higher than growth rates in most other Latin American countries. Foreign exchange earnings from electricity sales to Brazil soared, and the newly employed Paraguayan workforce stimulated domestic demand, bringing about a rapid expansion in the agricultural sector.

There were, however, several drawbacks to the construction at Itaipú. The prosperity associated with the major boom raised expectations for long-term growth. An economic downturn in the early 1980s caused discontent, which in turn led to demands for reform. Many Paraguayans, no longer content to eke out a living on a few hectares, had to leave the country to look for work. In the early 1980s, some observers estimated that up to 60 percent of Paraguayans were living outside the country. Even those people who were willing to farm a small patch of ground faced a new threat. Itaipú had prompted a tidal wave of Brazilian migration in the eastern border region of Paraguay. By the mid-1980s, observers estimated there were between 300,000 and 350,000 Brazilians in the eastern border region. With Portuguese the dominant language in the areas of heavy Brazilian migration and Brazilian currency circulating as legal tender, the area became closely integrated with Brazil. Further, most of Paraguay’s increased wealth wound up in the hands of wealthy supporters of the regime. Landowners faced no meaningful land reform, the regime’s control of labor organizers aided businessmen, foreign investors benefited from tax exemptions, and foreign creditors experienced a bonanza from heavy Paraguayan borrowing. Although the poorest Paraguayans were somewhat better off in 1982 than they were in the 1960s, they were worse off relative to other sectors of the population.

Closer relations with Brazil paralleled a decline in relations with Argentina. After Perón’s expulsion, Paraguay slipped from the orbit of Buenos Aires as Argentina declined politically and economically. Argentina, alarmed by Itaipú and close cooperation between Brazil and Paraguay, pressed Stroessner to agree to participate in hydroelectric projects at Yacyretá and Corpus. By pitting Argentina against Brazil, Stroessner improved Paraguay’s diplomatic and economic autonomy and its economic prospects.

Stroessner also benefited from the 1950s and 1960s Cold War ideology in the United States, which favored authoritarian, anticommunist regimes. Upon reaching Asunción during his 1958 tour of Latin America, Vice President Richard Nixon praised Stroessner’s Paraguay for opposing communism more strongly than any other nation in the world. The main strategic concern of the United States at that time was to avoid the emergence a left-wing regime in Paraguay, which would be ideally situated at the heart of the South American continent to provide a haven for radicals and a base for revolutionary activities around the hemisphere. From 1947 until 1977, the United States supplied about US$750,000 worth of military hardware each year and trained more than 2,000 Paraguayan military officers in counter-intelligence and counterinsurgency. In 1977 the United States Congress sharply cut military assistance to Paraguay.

Paraguay regularly voted in favor of United States policies in the United Nations and the Organization of American States. Stroessner, probably the United States’ most dependable ally in Latin America, once remarked that the United States ambassador was like an extra member of his cabinet. Relations faltered somewhat during the administration of President John F. Kennedy, as United States officials began calling for democracy and land reform and threatened to withhold Alliance for Progress funds (an amount equal to about 40 percent of Paraguay’s budget) unless Paraguay made progress. Although pressure of this sort no doubt encouraged Stroessner to legalize some internal opposition parties, it failed to make the Paraguayan ruler become any less a personalist dictator. Regime opponents who agreed to play Stroessner’s electoral charade received rewards of privileges and official recognition. Other opponents, however, faced detention and exile. Influenced by Paraguay’s support for the United States intervention in the Dominican Republic in 1965, the United States became friendlier to Stroessner in the mid-1960s under President Lyndon B. Johnson. New United States supported military governments in Brazil and Argentina also improved United States-Paraguay ties.

Relations between Paraguay and the United States changed substantially after the election of President Jimmy Carter in 1976. The appointment of Robert White as United States ambassador in 1977 and the congressional cut-off of military hardware deliveries in the same year reflected increasing concern about the absence of democracy and the presence of human rights violations in Paraguay.

Late 1970s

After a period of inactivity, the political opposition became increasingly visible in the late 1970s. In 1977, Domingo Laíno, a PLR congressman during the previous ten years, broke away to form the Authentic Radical Liberal Party (Partido Liberal Radical Auténtico – PLRA). Laíno’s charges of government corruption, involvement in narcotics trafficking, human rights violations, and inadequate financial compensation from Brazil under the terms of the Treaty of Itaipú earned him Stroessner’s wrath. In 1979 Laíno helped lead the PLRA, the PDC, Mopoco, and the legally recognized Febreristas, the latter angered by the constitutional amendment allowing Stroessner to seek yet another presidential term in 1978, into the National Accord (Acuerdo Nacional). The National Accord served to coordinate the opposition’s political strategy. The victim of countless detentions, torture, and persecution, Laíno was forced into exile in 1982 following the publication of a critical book about ex-Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle, who was assassinated in Asunción in 1980.

Beginning in the late 1960s, the Roman Catholic Church persistently criticized Stroessner’s successive extensions of his stay in office and his treatment of political prisoners. The regime responded by closing Roman Catholic publications and newspapers, expelling non-Paraguayan priests, and harassing the church’s attempts to organize the rural poor.

The regime also increasingly came under international fire in the 1970s for human rights abuses, including allegations of torture and murder. In 1978 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights convinced an annual meeting of foreign ministers at the OAS to pass a resolution calling on Paraguay to improve its human rights situation. In 1980 the Ninth Organization of American States General Assembly, meeting in La Paz, Bolivia, condemned human rights violations in Paraguay, describing torture and disappearances as “an affront to the hemisphere’s conscience”. International groups also charged that the military had killed 30 peasants and arrested 300 others after the peasants had protested against encroachments on their land by government officials.

Paraguay entered the 1980s less isolated, rural, and backward than it had traditionally been. Political and social structures remained inflexible, but Paraguayans had changed their world views and their perceptions of themselves.

By skillfully balancing the military and the Colorado Party, Stroessner remained very much in control. Still, he was increasingly being challenged in ways that showed that his control was not complete. For example, in November 1974, police units captured seven guerrillas in a farmhouse outside of Asunción. When the prisoners were interrogated, it became clear that the information possessed by the guerrillas, who had planned to assassinate Stroessner, could have come only from a high Colorado official. With the party hierarchy suddenly under suspicion, Stroessner ordered the arrest and interrogation of over 1,000 senior officials and party members. He also dispatched agents to Argentina and Brazil to kidnap suspects among the exiled Colorados. A massive purge of the party followed. Although the system survived, it was shaken.

Perhaps the clearest example of cracks in Stroessner’s regime was the assassination of Somoza. From Stroessner’s standpoint, there were ominous similarities between Somoza and himself. Like Stroessner, Somoza had run a regime based on the military and a political party that had been noted for its stability and its apparent imperviousness to change. Somoza also had brought economic progress to the country and had skillfully kept his internal opposition divided for years. Ultimately, however, the carefully controlled changes he had introduced began subtly to undermine the traditional, authoritarian order. As traditional society broke down in Paraguay, observers saw increasing challenges ahead for the Stroessner regime.

On February 3, 1989, Stroessner was overthrown in a military coup headed by General Andrés Rodríguez. In 2006, Stroessner died in Brazil where he went into exile. At the time of his death he had several human rights cases against him in Paraguay. Using Stroessner’s National Constitution, Rodríguez orchestrated a political campaign with the Colorado Party and won the presidency in an election held on May 1989 in which the Colorado Party dominated the Congress. In the newly created municipal elections of 1991, however, opposition candidates won several major urban centers, including Asunción. As president, Rodríguez instituted political, legal, and economic reforms and initiated a rapprochement with the international community.

Modern Paraguay

The June 1992 constitution established a democratic system of government and dramatically improved protection of fundamental rights. In May 1993, Colorado Party candidate Juan Carlos Wasmosy was elected as Paraguay’s first civilian president in almost 40 years in what international observers deemed fair and free elections. The newly elected majority-opposition Congress quickly demonstrated its independence from the executive by rescinding legislation passed by the previous Colorado-dominated Congress. With support from the United States, the Organization of American States, and other countries in the region, the Paraguayan people rejected an April 1996 attempt by then Army Chief General Lino Oviedo to oust President Wasmosy, taking an important step to strengthen democracy.[citation needed]

Oviedo became the Colorado candidate for president in the 1998 election, but when the Supreme Court of Paraguay upheld in April his conviction on charges related to the 1996 coup attempt, he was not allowed to run and remained in confinement. His former running mate, Raúl Cubas, became the Colorado Party’s candidate and was elected in May in elections deemed by international observers to be free and fair. One of Cubas’ first acts after taking office in August was to commute Oviedo’s sentence and release him from confinement. In December 1998, Paraguay’s Supreme Court declared these actions unconstitutional. After delaying for two months, Cubas openly defied the Supreme Court in February 1999, refusing to return Oviedo to jail. In this tense atmosphere, the murder of Vice President and long-time Oviedo rival Luis María Argaña on March 23, 1999, led the Chamber of Deputies to impeach Cubas the next day.[citation needed] The March 26 murder of eight student anti-government demonstrators, widely believed to have been carried out by Oviedo supporters, made it clear that the Senate would vote to remove Cubas on March 29, and Cubas resigned on March 28.[citation needed] Despite fears that the military would not allow the change of government, Senate President Luis González Macchi, a Cubas opponent, was sworn in as president that day. Cubas left for Brazil the next day and has since received asylum. Oviedo fled the same day, first to Argentina, then to Brazil. In December 2001, Brazil rejected Paraguay’s petition to extradite Oviedo to stand trial for the March 1999 assassination and “Marzo Paraguayo” incident.

González Macchi offered cabinet positions in his government to senior representatives of all three political parties in an attempt to create a coalition government. While the Liberal Party pulled out of the government in February 2000, the Gonzalez Macchi government has achieved a consensus among the parties on many controversial issues, including economic reform.[citation needed] Liberal Julio César Franco won the August 2000 election to fill the vacant vice presidential position. In August 2001, the lower house of Congress considered but did not pass a motion to impeach González Macchi for alleged corruption and inefficient governance. In 2003, Nicanor Duarte Frutos was elected and sworn in as president.

On August 1, 2004 a supermarket in Asunción burned, killing nearly 400 people and injuring hundreds more.[6]

On July 1, 2005, the United States reportedly deployed troops and aircraft to the large military airfield of Mariscal Estigarribia as part of a bid to extend control of strategic interests in the Latin American sphere, particularly in Bolivia. A military training agreement with Asunción, giving immunity to US soldiers, caused some concern after media reports initially reported that a base housing 20,000 US soldiers was being built at Mariscal Estigarribia within 200 km of Argentina and Bolivia, and 300 km of Brazil, near an airport which could receive large planes (B-52, C-130 Hercules, etc.) which the Paraguayan Air Forces do not have. At present,[when?] no more than 400 U.S. troops are expected.[7][8]

The governments of Paraguay and the United States subsequently declared that the use of an airport (Dr Luís María Argaña International)[9] was one point of transfer for few soldiers in Paraguay at the same time. According to the Clarín Argentinian newspaper, the US military base] is strategic because of its location near the Triple Frontera between Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina; its proximity towards the Guarani aquifer; and, finally, its closeness toward Bolivia (less than 200 km) at the same “moment that Washington’s magnifying glass goes on the Altiplano and points toward Venezuelan Hugo Chávez as the instigator of the instability in the region” (El Clarín[8]), making a clear reference to the Bolivian Gas War.

For the 2008 general elections, the Colorado Party was once again a favorite. However, this time the candidate was not an internal opponent to the President and self-proclaimed reformer, as in the two previous elections, but Minister of Education Blanca Ovelar, the first woman to appear as a candidate for a major party in Paraguayan history. After sixty years of one-party-rule by the Colorados, the voters this time chose a non-politician, former Roman Catholic Bishop Fernando Lugo, a long time follower of the controversial Liberation Theology but backed by the center-right Liberal Party, the Colorados’ traditional opponents.

Outgoing President Nicanor Duarte Frutos reflected on the defeat and hailed the moment as the first time in the history of his nation that a government handed power to opposition forces in an orderly and peaceful fashion.

Lugo was sworn in on August 15, 2008.



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Sacks, Richard S. “Early explorers and conquistadors”. In Hanratty & Meditz.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Sacks, Richard S. “The young colony”. In Hanratty & Meditz.
  3. ^ At the tomb of the inflatable pig page 122
  4. ^ a b c Sacks, Richard S. “The sword of the word”. In Hanratty & Meditz.
  5. ^ Durant, Will (1961). “The Age of Reason Begins”. Simon & Schuster. Retrieved 2006-04-22.  the preceding paragraph is based on pages 249–50
  6. ^
  7. ^ “U.S. Military Moves in Paraguay Rattle Regional Relations”. International Relations Center. December 14, 2005. Retrieved April 2006. 
  8. ^ a b US Marines put a foot in Paraguay, El Clarín, September 9, 2005 (Spanish)
  9. ^

Works cited




1892 (14 Oct) registered AR cover from Asuncion, sent to Frederico Alonso, the Paraguayan Consul in Buenos Aires, franked with six copies of the reissued “5” on 1r rose pink, three in blue and three in black, neatly arranged in alternating fashion, including inverted of each, fine-v.f., with arrival pmk (18 Oct), rare, with 2002 Moorhouse cert. (Scott’s note: “remainders of Nos 4 and 5F were placed on sale at post offices during 1892. Covers dated 1892 are worth about $7,500”)
Val.[ ]

Price: $2500.00Sold For: $2400.00



1911 50c orange & black, center inverted, perforated and gummed trial color proof, also imperf. block of four, fine-v.f.
Val.[ 206P][ ]




1939 University, 50c and 1p, each with center vignettes inverted, fine-v.f.
Val.[ 351,352var][ ]

Price: $200.00Sold For: $190.00




Inverted Centre Stamp Paraguay Scott 570v 1960 MNH i75Price: £280.00



On 24 April 1979, Paraguay issued a set of 9 stamps and one souvenir sheet related to 75th anniversary of civil aviation and the 35th anniversary of ICAO.

The designer of those stamps included the ICAO emblem, surrounded by 75o Aniversario de OACI. Paraguay inadvertently confused the 75th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ triumph, who made the first successful flight of a manned heavier-than-air vehicle on 17 December 1903, with ICAO which, even today, has not yet reached such a mileston

 the end @ copyright 2012


2 responses to “The Paraguay History Collections Part One

  1. Pingback: Paraguayans clothing | Insidercoachin

    • paraguayan clothing,
      thanks for visit my web blog, I need postal used cover from your country durimng the revolutionary era,can you upload some posatl used cover to add in web blog
      thanks very much,you can upload via comment
      Dr Iwan suwandy,MHA

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