When hunters and collectors from surrounding regions
first immigrated is unclear. In southern Paraguay, hunting
for guanaco dominated from about 3500 BC. until after the
arrival of the Europeans in the early 16th century;
settlements before that were usually semi-permanent. Ceramic
manufacturing was introduced about 500 BC. through contacts
with eastern Brazil.
The first Spanish expeditions arrived in Paraguay in the
1520s, and the conquest of the country began in the latter
part of the 1530s based on Asunción, founded in 1537.
Paraguay was a relatively poor and distant colony. The only
important export product was the so-called Paraguayte which
is consumed almost everywhere in South America. Paraguay was
characterized by extensive mastering, and the Indian Guarani
language gained a prominent position as the area's second
language alongside the Spanish. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Paraguay. The Jesuits started
missionary activities among the Guarani Indians in 1609,
which over time developed into a large network of village
communities, which included tens of thousands of Indians.
This activity was constantly attacked by Brazilian Indian
hunters, so-called gangirantes, and also gave rise
to growing tensions within Paraguay. A major uprising
against the Jesuits and the Spanish crown ravaged Paraguay
in 1721–35. Missionary activities ended in 1767 in
connection with the expulsion of the Jesuits from America.
In 1811, Paraguay broke with Spain and at the same time
freed itself from Buenos Aires, the old colonial capital of
the La Plata area. José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia, an
ascetic intellectual who ran an extremely isolationist
policy, ruled the country unequivocally in 1814–40. Carlos
Antonio López, who was Paraguay's president in 1844–62, set
in motion major development plans and built up a strong
armed force. His son and successor, General Francisco Solano
López, operated an aggressive foreign policy, which led
Paraguay to collision course with Brazil and Argentina. At
the end of 1864, wars between Paraguay and Brazil erupted,
1865 extended to the so-called Triple Alliance war, where
Paraguay was crushed by Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. The
country's population decreased by about 70 percent, and by
the end of the war in 1870, the adult male population
remained no more than 10 percent.
After the war, Paraguay was ruled until 1904 by the
conservative Colorado Party with support in Brazil and then
until 1936 by the liberal PLRA with support from Argentine
interests. An old border dispute with Bolivia over the Chaco
area led to the Chaco War (1932–35), which ended with a
devastating Paraguayan victory. An unstable period followed
the war. In 1940 General Higinio Morínigo (1897–1983) seized
power and ruled the country hard until 1948. A civil war in
1947 and a series of coups following Morínigo's fall led the
country into a new period of instability, ending with
General Alfredo Stroessners. power takeover in 1954.
Stroessner then ruled Paraguay dictatorially until 1989,
supported by the Colorado Party and the Armed Forces. Under
his long power holdings, Paraguay's economic modernization
began, strongly linked to the world's largest water energy
project at Itaipú and a massive inflow of Brazilian capital.
Economic growth in 1970–81 was almost 9 percent per year,
but growth also gave rise to strong social tensions.
Dissatisfaction grew during the 1980s, and in 1989
Stroessner was deposed by one of his own, General Andrés
Rodríguez (1923–97), who, with the support of the Colorado
Party, was elected president. A period of slow
democratization began, but without any significant changes
in the country's social and economic structure.
The Colorado Party and the military continued to share
their long-established power monopoly even during the 1990s.
However, democratization also led to corruption in the state
authorities as well as deep cracks in both the military and
the Colorado Party in the open. During the 1990s, the battle
for the land in Paraguay also intensified with the actions
of several militant peasant movements. In 1996, for example,
retired General Lino Oviedo (1943–2013) conducted a coup
attempt against President Juan Carlos Wasmosy, and in 1999
Vice President Luís María Argaña (1932–99) was murdered on
the open street, which led to the then President Raúl Cubas
(born 1943) departed and together with Oviedo fled abroad.
All involved belonged to the Colorado Party. Oviedo later
returned and was charged with numerous crimes against the
Only in 2008 was the Colorado Party's long dominance of
the country broken when Fernando Lugo, candidate for the
left alliance Alianza Patriótica para el Cambio(APC),
won the presidential election. Initially, the expectations
of the former Bishop Lugo were very high and he promised
basic reforms of the state, including the introduction of
personal income tax, the fight against poverty and
corruption. Lugo, however, found it difficult to fulfill his
promises, his alliance lacked his own majority in parliament
and many reforms were halted by the Supreme Court, which was
ruled by members appointed by the Colorado Party under
previous government holdings. The lack of progress combined
with personal problems caused dissatisfaction with his rule.
In June 2012, the opposition won a vote of no confidence
against the President of Parliament, which forced Lugo to
The sale of Fernando Lugo created a political crisis in
Paraguay and the region. The neighboring countries called
the coup d'état and Paraguay was suspended from the Mercosur
regional cooperation organization until the democratic order
was restored. In April 2013, the Colorado Party returned to
power when their candidate Horacio Cartes was elected
president. Cartes is one of the richest people in the
country and runs a number of companies but gave up all
leading positions in their companies after the election. He
won with 46 percent of the vote against 37 percent for the
closest challenger Efraín Alegre (born 1963), candidate for
the Liberal Party PLRA. At the same time, the Colorado Party
strengthened its position in the National Congress and
gained its own majority in the Chamber of Deputies.
The power of the Colorado Party was consolidated in the
2018 presidential election when the party's candidate Mario
Abdo Benítez won by about 46 percent of the vote.