One of two landlocked nations in South America, the Republic of Paraguay is one of the poorest countries on the continent. Paraguay has a large rural population (about 37 percent) and a strong agricultural sector. Income and standard of living are unequally divided between urban and rural populations. The legacy of authoritarian rule, residual effects of tragic wars, and political corruption are often blamed for the persistence of Paraguayan poverty.

Prior to the Spanish conquest of South America, Paraguay was populated by seminomadic peoples and now has both Spanish and Guaraní as its official languages. Paraguay gained independence from Spain in 1811. Its postindependence history is characterized by a series of authoritarian rulers and wars. This trend began with Paraguay’s first dictator, José Gaspar Rodríguez de ...

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