The Republic of Paraguay is a landlocked republic in South America. Lying on both banks of the Paraguay River[?], it borders Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the northeast and Bolivia to the northwest.
|National motto: None|
|Official languages||Spanish and Guarani|
|President||Luis Gonzalez Macchi[?]|
- % water
|Ranked 58th |
- Total (2002)
May 14, 1811
|Time zone||UTC -4|
|National anthem||Paraguayos, Républica o muerte[?]|
Europeans first arrived in the area in the early 16th century and the settlement of Asuncion was founded in 1537. The city eventually became the centre of a Spanish colonial province, as well as a primary site of the Jesuit missions and settlements in South America in the 18th century. Paraguay declared its independence by overthrowing the local Spanish authorities on May 14, 1811.
In the disastrous War of the Triple Alliance[?] (1865-1870), 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 1932-1935, 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.
Paraguay's highly centralised and often dictatorial government was fundamentally changed by the 1992 constitution, which provides for a division of powers. The president and vice president are elected on the same ticket by popular vote for five-year terms, after which the president appoints a cabinet. The president functions as both head of state and head of government.
The bicameral parliament, the Congress or Congreso, consists of an 80-member Chamber of Deputies (Cámara de Diputados) and a 45-member Senate (Cámara de Senadores), elected concurrently with the president through a proportional representation system. Deputies are elected by department and senators nationwide, both for five-year terms. Each of Paraguay's 17 departments is headed by a popularly elected governor.
Paraguay's highest court is the Supreme Court. The Senate and the president select its nine members on the basis of recommendations from a constitutionally created Magistrates Council. A Paraguayan peculiarity is its flag[?], which features a slightly different design on the reverse side.
Paraguay consists of 17 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento) and 1 capital city, marked by a *:
The Paraguayan landscape consists of grassy plains and wooded hills in the region east of Paraguay River[?] that divides the country in two; the region west of the river, the (Gran) Chaco[?] features mostly low, marshy plains near the river and dry forest and thorny scrub further west. The highest point is the Cerro Pero[?] at 842 m. The southeastern border is formed by the Parana River[?], containing the impressive Itaipu dam it shares with Brazil. It is currently the largest hydroelectric power plant in the world, generating nearly all of Paraguay's electricity.
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 microenterprises 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 1995-1997, 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.
Ethnically, culturally, and socially, Paraguay has one of the most homogeneous populations in Latin America. About 95% of the people are mestizos of mixed Spanish and Guarani Indian descent. Little trace is left of the original Guarani culture except the language, which is understood by 90% of the population. About 75% of all Paraguayans speak Spanish. Guarani and Spanish are official languages. Germans, Japanese, Koreans, ethnic Chinese, Arabs, Brazilians, and Argentines are among those who have settled in Paraguay and they have to an extent retained their respective languages.
Paraguay's population is distributed unevenly throughout the country. The vast majority of the people live in the eastern region, most within 160 kilometers of Asuncion, the capital and largest city. The Chaco, which accounts for about 60% of the territory, is home to less than 2% of the population. The country is predominantly Roman Catholic, with some Mennonite and other Protestant minorities.