A History of Paraguay
By Baruja, Paiva & Pinto

Chapter 9

Badly wounded by the war, a terrible famine, a spontaneous reduction of the population (the country lost about 75 percent of its population) and the never paid debts by part of its allies, Paraguay was in the edge of disappearing from the map in 1870. But its fertile land and its global delay helped the country to survive. After the war, the eminent rural town in Paraguay continued subsiding like how it had done for the past few decades and had developed a thin existence under difficult and unimaginative circumstances. The overpopulation of women caused an informal system of polygamy that permitted these demographic pockets to heave for decades. The allied occupation in Asunción in 1869 granted the winners a part in the local affairs. Meanwhile, Bolivia started to insidiously reclaim about its dark pretensions about the whole Chaco, and Argentina and Brazil stole good pieces of Paraguayan territory (around 154,000 sq km). Thus it went to the guaranties the actual Argentinean provinces Formosa and Misiones and a good part of the actual Brazilian estate of Matto Grosso do Sul. The Iguaçu Falls, very famous worldwide, were in part, Paraguayans, now is shared with South American colossuses for their own profit (for tourists). Asunción, another city surrounded suburban national territory, now shares with Buenos Aires the curiosity of being frontier cities but at the same time capitals of its own countries.

Brazil suffered the worst part of the fight of about 150.000 deaths and 65.000 wounded, they spent about 200 million dollars in the war and its troops were the greatest occupation army in the country, it was logical the Rio de Janeiro will be Buenos Aires’ shadow in the way they managed Asunción’s affairs. The noisy differences between the two potentials prolonged their occupation until 1876. The control of the Paraguayan economy passed on to the speculating foreigners and adventurers whom precipitated to take advantage of the incontrollable chaos and corruption.

The emptiness of the national politic was filled in the beginning by survivors of the Paraguayan Legion. This group of exiles, living in Buenos Aires, considered the deceased Mariscal López as a dangerous dictator and had supported the allied countries actions’ during the war. This group formed a luck of provisional government in 1869 with the Brazilian government and signed in agreement of peace in 1870 which guaranteed Paraguayan independence and free river navigation. They also promulgated a constitution in the same year but it was inefficient due to the foreign origin from its democratic and liberal ideals. After the last allied soldier abandoned the country in 1876, a diplomatic victory that had misestimated the Argentinean pretensions about the area between the Rio Verde and Pilcomayo failed by a commission forced by Rutherford B. Hayes, the American president; the era of political parties in Paraguay definitely had commenced. But the evacuation of foreign forces didn’t signify the end of foreign influence.

Brazil and Argentina remained (and still remains) profoundly involved in Paraguay thanks to its connections with the powerful political leaders. These forces became to know as coloradism and liberalism in the near future.

Between so many vicissitudes there were margins for the country’s education issue. In 1877, Benjamín Aceval founded the main public school (Colegio Nacional de la Capital). With the first graduates graduating in 1882, the Law School was also founded. With the presence of the ex President Domingo Sarmiento, pardoned dozens of South Americans between 1887 and 1888 (years of his death in Asunción), they imposed the creation of the Common Education’s Law and various supervisions of the education. The fruit of this work was the maturity of the school Universidad Nacional de Asunción in 1890.

The Liberals and the Colorados

The long and legendary political rivalry between the liberals and the Colorados began for the first time in 1869 but the Colorado was known better during that time. The National Republican Association, the Colorado Party, dominated the Paraguayan politics from the last year of 1880 until 1904 when the liberals removed them. The liberal ascent marked Brazil’s declivity that had supported the colodarismo as Paraguay’s principal political power and thus begun the era of Argentinean influence. During the decades following the war, the principal conflict in Paraguayan politics reflected the fight of the liberal and the Colorado. The legionaries fought against the lopiztas (Mariscal Lopez’s ex followers) for power while Argentina and Brazil intrigued behind the curtains. The legionaries saw the lopiztas as reactionaries whom conveniently abjured the concluded regime to be allowed to participate in the country’s new era. The lopiztas accused the legionaries as traitor of the country and accused them of being Brazil and Argentina’s puppet. This situation defied political categories that were already defined that many people constantly changed sides. In good modern idiom, it could be said that they changed sports club with great facility. The personal opportunity, not ideological purity, ignited a spark during this era.

The legionaries were a motley collection of refugees and exiles that dated from the Supreme’s old times. Their opposition to tyranny was sincere and they professed democratic policies. As they returned to their poor country and xenophobe from the cosmopolitan and prosperous Argentina was a big shock for the legionaries. Believing that with more freedom they could cure Paraguay’s problems, they abolished slavery and soon founded a constitutional government and obtained power. They based the new government on liberal rules normal from the company, liberal elections and commerce.

However, the legionaries did not have more experience in democracy than the other Paraguayans. The 1870 constitution demonstrated to be not applicable for the situation. The government degenerated in parties. Fascism and various intrigues maliciously prevailed. The succeeding presidents acted like dictators and the elections were never correctly voted and the legionaries lost power in less then a decade.

The free elections were a surprise and not very welcomed innovation for the commoners who always wanted and expected a master (owner) to provide security and protection. At the same time, Argentina and Brazil were not very sure of leaving Paraguay with a free and liberal political system. The pro Argentine military chief Benigno Ferreira arose as dictator de facto with Brazilian support until he was overthrown in 1874. Ferreiro came back in order to carry out the liberal blow in 1904. Ferreira was the Republic president from 1906 until 1908.
Colorados Rise

Candidate Bareiro, Lopez’s ex commercial agent in Europe, returned to Paraguay in 1869 and formed a great Lopizta faction. He recruited General Bernardino Caballero, a war hero with antique intimidation with Mariscal López. After Juan Bautista Gil’s assassination in 1877, Caballero used his power as the army commander to guarantee Bareiro’s election as President in 1878. But when Bareiro died in 1880, Caballero fled to gain power. This veteran of war with a long beard dominated Paraguayan politics for the next two decades as President with his military power. His ascent in power was noticeable because he brought certain stability in the government. He founded a governor’s party, the Colorado, to regulate President’s elections and to distribute political favors and started a slow process of economic reconstruction. In weight of his ineluctable idolatry towards the Supreme, the colorados dismantled socialism’s original system based on Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia. The colorados, desperate for money put for sale the States’s immense possessions that included more than 95 percent of Paraguay’s land. Caballero’s government sold most of this land to foreigners in big slices. Meanwhile the Colorado politicians took the profits and transformed in big landowners and forced the farmers, already considered as intruders, to cultivate the land for several generations until they abandoned the land. Until 1900, 79 people possessed more than half of the country’s land.

Although liberalism had defended the selling of land, the unpopularity of the sales and the evident government’s corruption produced a tremendous indigenous opposition. The liberals transformed in bitter enemies of land sales when Caballero fixed the election in 1886 to assure General Patricio Escobar’s victory. The ex legionaries, reformed idealists united in July 1887 to form the Democratic Center, the direct antecedent of the Liberal Party to be allowed to ignite free elections, the immediate end of land sales, civil control of the military army and a decent government. Caballero responded with his principal advisor, José Segundo Decoud and the General Escobar and a month later, formed the Colorado party, formalizing the rapture of national political scenery.

Both groups were profoundly sectionalized even though little differentiated them. The liberal and Colorado parties changed sides whenever it was convenient to. While the colorados reinforced their monopoly, the liberals claimed reformed. Frustrated, the blues provoked a failed revolt in 1891 which produced changes in 1893 when the war minister, General Juan B. Egusquiza (Colorado) overthrew the President who was maintained by Caballero, Juan G. González. Egusquiza surprised the colorados with the decision to share power with the “blues” (liberals), a movement that provoked internal divisions in both parties. The ex legionary Ferreira, together with the civic wing of liberalism, united the government with Egusquiza, who left the Presidency in 1898, to permit a civil, Emilio Aceval, to be President of the Republic. The radical liberals who opposed the compromises to their enemies (the colorados) boycotted the new rule. The old Bernardino Caballero also boycotted that alliance and conspired to overthrow the civil government in success when the Coronel Juan Antonio Ezcurra took power in 1902. This putsch was Caballero’s last political victory. In 1904, with the civil support, Ferreira, radicals and “egusquistas”, they invaded the country from Argentina.

After four months of civil war, Ezcurra signed the Pilcomayo Pact on the Argentinean canon on December 12, 1904 and abandoned power in liberal hands.

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