Map Courtesy CIA World Factbook
The Republic of Paraguay is a landlocked republic in South America. Lying on both banks of the Paraguay River, it borders Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the northeast and Bolivia to the northwest. The name "Paraguay" is derived from the Guarani words "pará", meaning "this side" and "guay", meaning "river". The expression in Guarani is thought to refer solely to Asunción, but in Spanish refers to the entire country.
Europeans first arrived in the area in the early 16th century and the settlement of Asunción was founded in 1537. The city eventually became the centre of a Spanish colonial province, as well as a primary site of the Jesuit missions and settlements in South America in the 18th century. Paraguay declared its independence by overthrowing the local Spanish authorities on May 15, 1811.
In the disastrous War of the Triple Alliance (1865-1870), Paraguay lost two-thirds of all adult males and much of its territory. It stagnated economically for the next half century. In the Chaco War of 1932-1935 invading Bolivian troops, trying to gain a port on the Paraguay river for their landlocked country, were expelled by the Paraguayan Armed Forces from most of the Chaco region. The Chaco had been claimed by both countries, but the settlements in the region were mostly Paraguayan. The 35-year military dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner was overthrown in 1989, and, despite a marked increase in political infighting in recent years, relatively free and regular presidential elections have been held since then. However, the democracy that exists in the country, while a great improvement on the 'stronato' is very limited. It is hampered by the widespread corruption and lack of any democratic political culture.