|General background: In the disastrous War of
the Triple Alliance (1865-70), Paraguay lost two-thirds
of all adult males and much of its territory. It stagnated
economically for the next half century. In the Chaco
War of 1932-35, large, economically important areas
were won from Bolivia. The 35-year military dictatorship
of Alfredo STROESSNER was overthrown in 1989, and, despite
a marked increase in political infighting in recent
years, relatively free and regular presidential elections
have been held since then.
Slightly smaller than California.
Subtropical to temperate; substantial rainfall in the
eastern portions, becoming semiarid in the far west.
Terrain: Grassy plains and wooded hills
east of Rio Paraguay; Gran Chaco region west of Rio
Paraguay mostly low, marshy plain near the river, and
dry forest and thorny scrub elsewhere.
Population: 5,884,491 (July 2002 est.)
Ethnic groups: Mestizo (mixed Spanish and
Religions: Roman Catholic 90%, Mennonite,
and other Protestant
Language: Spanish (official), Guarani (official)
Government type: Constitutional republic
Legal system: Based on Argentine codes, Roman
law, and French codes; judicial review of legislative
acts in Supreme Court of Justice.
Economic overview: Paraguay has a market economy
marked by a large informal sector. The informal sector
features both re-export of imported consumer goods
to neighbouring countries as well as the activities
of thousands of micro-enterprises and urban street
vendors. Because of the importance of the informal
sector, accurate economic measures are difficult to
obtain. A large percentage of the population derives
their living from agricultural activity, often on
a subsistence basis. The formal economy grew by an
average of about 3% annually in 1995-97, but GDP declined
slightly in 1998, 1999, and 2000. On a per capita
basis, real income has stagnated at 1980 levels. Most
observers attribute Paraguay's poor economic performance
to political uncertainty, corruption, lack of progress
on structural reform, substantial internal and external
debt, and deficient infrastructure.
Communication/Telephone system: Meager telephone
service; principal switching center is Asuncion.
Places of interest: The country has a relaxed
riverside capital, impressive Jesuit missions, several
national parks and the vast, arid Chaco - one of South
America's great wilderness areas.