A republic in south central South America.
Landlocked country in South America, bounded NE by Brazil, S by Argentina, and NW by Bolivia.
The 1992 constitution provides for a president and a two-chamber legislature, the National Congress, consisting of a Senate and Chamber of Deputies, both elected by universal suffrage for a five-year term. The president, elected for a nonrenewable five-year term, appoints and leads the cabinet, which is called the Council of Ministers.
The Senate has 45 members and the Chamber 80, and the party winning the largest number of votes in the congressional elections is allocated two-thirds of the seats in each chamber.
For early history, see Native American. The Guaraní Indians had a settled agricultural civilization before the arrival of Europeans: Sebastian Cabot 1526–30, followed by Spanish colonists, who founded the city of Asunción 1537. From about 1600 until 1767, when they were expelled, Jesuit missionaries administered much of the country. It became a province subordinate to the Spanish viceroyalty of Peru, then from 1776 part of the viceroyalty of Buenos Aires.
In 1811 Paraguay declared its independence. The first president was J G R Francia (ruled 1816–40), a despot; he was followed by his nephew C A López and in 1862 by his son F S López, who involved Paraguay in a war with Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. Paraguay was invaded and López killed at Aquidabán 1870. When the war was finally over, the population consisted mainly of women and children. Recovery was slow, with many revolutions. Continuing disputes with Bolivia over the frontier in the torrid Chaco zone of the north flared up into war 1932–35; arbitration by the US and five South American republics reached a peace settlement 1938.
Since 1940 Paraguay has been mostly under the control of military governments led by strong, autocratic leaders. General Morínigo was president 1940–48 and General Alfredo Stroessner 1954–89. During the US presidency of Jimmy Carter the Stroessner regime came under strong criticism for its violation of human rights, resulting in a tempering of the general's iron rule. He maintained his supremacy by ensuring that the armed forces and business community shared in the spoils of office and by preventing opposition groups from coalescing into a credible challenge. In the 1983 Congress elections the National Republican Party (Colorado Party), led by Stroessner, with the largest number of votes, automatically secured 20 Senate and 40 Chamber seats. The Radical Liberal Party was placed second, with six Senate and 13 Chamber seats.
Stroessner sought and won an eighth consecutive term only to be ousted, in Feb 1989, by General Andrés Rodríguez who, in May 1989, was elected president. The Colorado Party was successful in the congressional elections. During 1989–90, Rodríguez made progress on economic growth and political democracy. A new constitution came into force 1992. The Colorado Party won the first multiparty elections May 1993, and in Aug 1993 Juan Carlos Wasmosy became the country's first freely elected president. Alleging official corruption and demanding direct talks with the government, the two national labor union federations called a one-day strike May 1994, the first in 35 years.