Paraguay is a republic in South America, inland without coastline, with borders to Bolivia in the north, Brazil in the east and Argentina in the west and south. Due to its geographical location on the continent, the country is known as “South America’s heart”. The population is just over 6.7 million per 2016, and the majority of the population live in the southern part of the country.
The name Paraguay does not have a known origin, but is probably derived from compound words from Guarní; para, ‘big river’, and quay, ‘which belongs to the sea’.
Originally, Paraguay was the bus of the Guarani people, until the country became a Spanish colony in the 16th century. Paraguay became an independent republic in 1811. In its history as a nation-state, the country has been characterized by authoritarian rule and periods of high political instability and unrest. A democratization process was initiated in 1989, but the democratic institutions are still fragile. Although Paraguay has been one of the countries in South America with the strongest economic growth in recent years, the new prosperity has not benefited the populations. The country struggled with corruption, poverty and high unemployment. Nevertheless, the Paraguayan Arabs became the world’s happiest population in a survey conducted by the UN in 2015.
Geography and environment
Paraguay has a land area that is somewhat larger than Norway. The north-south Paraguay River a naturally divides the land into two main geographical regions with different topography and geology. The Oriental region of the east (also called the Paraneña region) consists of hilly terrain with fertile agricultural land and forest. In the western Occidental region (also called Gran Chaco) lies the sparsely populated area of El Chaco, which is an inhospitable plains landscape with a mixture of swampy area, scrub jungle and semi-desert. Climate in Paraguay goes from subtropical to tropical, and has a wet and dry season. The rainfall varies widely in different cities in the country, with most rainfall in the eastern Oriental region. Over the past decade, Paraguay has noticed climate change in the world, with an increase in periods of heavy rainfall and large and devastating floods.
Plant life in Paraguay varies widely between the two main regions of the country. Wildlife in Paraguay is rich. The country has around 650 bird species, various reptiles and a rich fish fauna in the rivers.
People and society
95 percent of the population of Paraguay are of mixed Spanish and Guarani descent. Both Spanish and Guarani are official languages. The dominant religion in Paraguay is the Roman Catholic.
In 2016, the population was just over 6.7 million. The country has a young population with an average age of 25.4 years. Life expectancy at birth is 79 years for women and 73 years for men according to figures from 2011.
The population density is low, and the bus-feeding pattern is particularly uneven. Most cages in the Oriental region of the country, near the capital Asuncion. The Occidental region, which accounts for 60 percent of the territory, is home to less than 2 percent of the population. In a historical perspective, Paraguay has had the lowest degree of urbanization among the Latin American countries. Paraguay is one of the poorest countries in South America.
State and politics
Paraguay is a constitutional republic. The country was given a new constitution in 1992 which was to ensure democratic power distribution and civil rights. The president is both the head of state and the head of government with the executive power. The president is elected for five years at a time and cannot be re-elected. Paraguay has a multi-party system, and the traditionally largest political parties in the country are the Colorado Party (ANR) and the Dei Liberals (PLRA).
At the presidential election on April 21, 2013, the Colorado Party candidate Horacio Cartes became the new president.
The Paraguayan defense consists of the army, navy and air force. Paraguay’s international relations have historically been closely linked to the United States.
Originally, Guarani-speaking people were spread over a large area of downtown Paraná with bees in Paraguay. The area became a Spanish colony in 1537, when the capital Asuncion was established. Paraguay declared itself a sovereign nation state in 1811. Throughout the 19th century, the country was ruled by authoritarian tenants. The first was José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia, who transformed Paraguay into a self-sufficient nation isolated from the outside world.
However, the Triple Alliance War (1865-1870) resulted in disastrous economic and social consequences for the country. The first half of the 20th century was characterized by political unrest with frequent shifts of power and the Chaco War (1932-1935).
General Alfredo Stroessner took power at the coup in 1954, and ruled the country by iron until he was deposed in 1989. Hendinga marked a transition from what was then Latin America’s oldest military dictatorship to the introduction of democratic reforms. Decades after, we have been characterized by high political instability in a still fragile democracy.
Economy and business
Paraguay is a developing country with a market economy characterized by a large informal sector. Agriculture, small-scale industry and trade are the main industry routes, while core services as of 2012 constituted the largest sector with approx. 65.5 per cent of GDP. Agricultural products account for about 90 percent of the country’s export revenues, mainly soy and meat, maize, grain and cotton, and the economy is particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in agricultural production and prices in the international market.
In 2010, Paraguay experienced economic growth of over 13 percent, the largest growth among Latin American countries and the third largest in the world, mainly due to high prices of agricultural exports. GDP growth was 3.1 per cent in 2015.
Paraguay has joined the Latin American free trade cooperation – abbreviated for MERCOSUR by ABBREVIATIONFINDER.
Knowledge and culture
Paraguay’s cultural history has elements of both Spanish and Guarani culture and tradition, expressed through crafts, art, literature, music, food traditions and various local customs.
Paraguay received its own literature late due to unruly political practice, and storytelling in the country can only be said to have reached a higher level with Gabriel Casaccia and Nobel Prize nominee Augusto Roa Bastos after World War II. Paraguay has long traditions for theater.
Under the Stroessner regime, Paraguayan mass media was subject to strict censorship. From 1989, the country has enjoyed press freedom, although in practice this right is not always respected. All the press is Spanish-speaking, there are no newspapers in Guarani. Broadcasting takes place in both Spanish and Guaraní. In recent years, independent political Internet newspapers and blogs have become important alternatives to the traditional paper press.
Historically, the educational system in Paraguay has been neglected, but has undergone major changes after the democratization process.