Paraguay achieved its independence from Spain in 1811.
In the disastrous War of the Triple Alliance (1865-70)
between Paraguay and Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay,
Paraguay lost two-thirds of its adult males and much of
its territory. The country stagnated economically for
the next half century. Following the Chaco War of
1932-35 with Bolivia, Paraguay gained a large part of the
Chaco lowland region. The 35-year military dictatorship of Alfredo
STROESSNER ended in 1989. Despite a marked increase in political infighting in recent years, Paraguay has held relatively free and regular presidential elections since the country's return to democracy.
Paraguay is a landlocked country that lies between Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil with the majority of its population concentrated in the southern part of the country. It is distinct from other South American countries in that there are two official languages spoken, Spanish and Guarani. Paraguay falls below the Latin American average in several socioeconomic categories, including immunization rates, potable water, sanitation, and secondary school enrollment, and has greater rates of income inequality and child and maternal mortality. Paraguay's poverty rate has declined in recent years but remains high, especially in rural areas, with more than a third of the population below the poverty line. However, the well-being of the poor in many regions has improved in terms of housing quality and access to clean water, telephone service, and electricity.
Paraguay has a market economy distinguished by a large informal sector, featuring re-export of imported consumer goods to neighboring countries. A large percentage of the population, especially in rural areas, derives its living from agricultural activity. Paraguay is the sixth largest soy producer in the world. On a per capita basis, real income has stagnated at 1980 levels averaging $6,800 in 2013. Political uncertainty, corruption, limited progress on structural reform, and deficient infrastructure are the main obstacles to long-term growth.
Paraguay is considered a constitutional republic with a president and vice president elected on the same ticket by popular vote for a single five-year term. Elections were last held in April 2013 (next to be held in April 2018).