Higinio Morínigo
By Philip Im

Though operating under the title of “President,” Higinio Morínigo was a dictator of Paraguay, who attempted to transform Paraguay into a “new nationalist revolutionary state.” Morínigo not only led Paraguay through the WWII era, but is also considered to have been one of the most significant contributors to the development of Paraguay’s modern political system. 2

Morínigo was born on January 11, 1897 in Costa Pucú to Juan Alberto Morínigo and Pabla Martinez. In 1906, he and his family moved to Asunción, where he attended the Escuela Normal school and later the Colegio Nacional. From the Colegio Nacional, he transferred to the Escuela Militar military school in April of 1916, from which he graduated in 1919. 1 After becoming a second lieutenant in 1922, he fought in the Chaco War during which he received several promotions. 2 In 1932, he married Dolores Ferrari and went on to have three children with her. 1

A major portion of Morínigo’s political involvement began when he was appointed the War Minister in the Cabinet of the current President of the time, José Félix Estigarribia. This was followed by his appointment in the Cabinet of Dr. Paiva as Minister of the Interior on January 25, 1939. 1 When the President died in a sudden plane crash, Morínigo was chosen to finish Estigarribia’s term, taking office on September 8, 1940. After completing the term, Morínigo won unopposed in the elections of 1943 and once again assumed Presidency until the end of his term in June of 1948. 2 During his Presidency, which was more of a dictatorship, Morínigo sought to stifle the three political parties, the Colorado, the Febrerista, and the Liberal, and limited freedom of speech and press. 3

During World War II, Morínigo worried the United States by taking a neutral stance, allowing German political and economic influences to enter and leave Paraguay as they wished. The United States was already concerned with the pro-Axis Argentina and sought to keep Paraguay away from the influence. However, Morínigo permissiveness of Axis interests allowed for South America’s first Nazi Party branch to be formed in Paraguay, among other German influences. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Morínigo sided with the Allies and declared war on Germany in February of 1945. He did, however, continue to secretly take in Axis refugees. 3

The Colorado Party eventually staged a coup de’ tat and overthrew Morínigo, and he was exiled to Buenos Aires where he died in 1985. 2

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