Landlocked in central South America, and once a Spanish colony, Paraguay’s post-independence history has included periods of military rule. Free elections were held in 1993.
Geography: The Paraguay River divides the hilly and forested east from a flat alluvial plain, with marsh and semi-desert scrub land in the west.
Climate: Subtropical. The Gran Chaco is generally hotter and drier. All areas experience floods and droughts.
People and Society: Population mainly of mixed Spanish and native Guaraní origin. Most people are bilingual, though in rural areas Guaraní is more widely used. Cattle ranchers populate the Chaco, along with communities of the German-origin Mennonite Church. The army is politically active.
The Economy: Agriculture: soybeans are the main export. Electricity exported from massive hydroelectric dams, including Itaipú (world’s second-largest, jointly run with Brazil). Large informal economy. Corruption and smuggling.
Insight: The War of the Triple Alliance (1864–1870) killed almost 90% of Paraguay’s male population
Official Name: Republic of Paraguay
Date of Formation: 1811
Population: 6.35 million
Total Area: 157,046 sq. miles (406,750 sq. km)
Density: 41 people per sq. mile
Languages: Guaraní*, Spanish*, German
Religions: Roman Catholic 96%, Protestant (including Mennonite) 4%
Ethnic Mix: Mestizo 91%, other 7%, Amerindian 2%
Government: Presidential system
Currency: Guaraní = 100 céntimos