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The War of the Triple Alliance

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    The Triple Alliance War is one of the most controversial and less known event of Latin America History.

The War of the Triple Alliance 
 
 (1864-1870)
The War  
   
 
  
  The Triple Alliance War is one of the most controversial and less known event of Latin America History.  
 
 
The war was a conflict that pitted the Argentine Confederation, the Republic of Uruguay and The Brazilian Empire against the Republic of Paraguay. The war raged for 5 years (1864-1870) and was marked by some of the fiercest military campaigns of Latin America History. Large armies were involved during the conflict and, in Paraguay's case, the entire population was engaged in supporting the war efforts.  
 
Some have looked at the war in a world context. For them, since Paraguay was a non-British aligned country, Britain had a particular interest in the war's outcome. 

   
   Others, notwithstanding, see the war as a result of the region's historical animosity. Another version, point out the    political leaderships' lack of vision  to avoid  the conflict.
 
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Although many historians commonly trace the coming of war through the 1862s, some roots of it were present as early as the colonial period. 
 
Portugal and Spain have disputed La Plata Region (Uruguay, Northwest of actual Argentina and South Brazil) since the animosity of the two metropolis emerged in Europe in the XVII century.  
 
When the colonial countries conquered their independence in the beginning of the XIX century, they inherited the boundary conflicts from those two nations. 
 
 The struggle for hegemony involved foremost the government of Buenos Aires ( Argentina's capital) and the Brazilian Empire. After many boundary skirmishes, both went to war over the disputed Uruguay. In 1827, a combined Argentine-Uruguayan force defeated the Imperial Army on the Battle of Passo do Rosrio (the Argentinean called it Ituzaing). Nevertheless, on the sea the Imperial Navy imposed its predominance over the foes. Thanks to this dilemma, Uruguay obtained the independence in 1828. 
 
  
 
 Picture by Jean Baptiste Debret 
 Brazilian Troops on the way to Uruguay  
 
 Buenos Aires also had its own problems with the surroundings Argentinean Provinces. In fact, they have never accepted Buenos Aires' hegemony in the confederation. They waged war on each other several times. The only thing that could keep them together was their common hate for the Brazilian Empire. 
 
 Threatened by Buenos Aires pretensions of incorporating it to Argentina, Paraguay conquered its independence after the Battle of Tacuar in 1811. Nevertheless, Paraguay would not be free of concealed menaces for almost fifty years. Brazilian Empire also had contentions against Paraguay over the Apa River region. 
 
Finally, there was Uruguay, that had to play a dangerous game to keep its independence, surrounded it was by the two South America giants: Brazil and Argentina. 
 
In such web of contradictory interests, caution should be a virtue, mainly by the two smallest countries of the region. Carlos Antonio Lpez, Solano Lpez' father, was aware of it. He had decided for a non-interventionist policy, even when Brazil called for his aid to back an alliance against the Argentinean dictator Juan Manuel Rosas in 1852. 
 
 When Solano Lpez assumed power after his father's death in 1862, he came closest to Uruguay's Blanco faction. When Brazil intervened in the habitual strife between the Blanco and Colorado wings in benefit of the last one on August 1864, Lpez assumed it as a threat to Paraguay's interests. He sent an advice to Rio de Janeiro's government  not to break the tenuous balance of Uruguay's internal policy. 
 
 On October 16, 1864 the Imperial Fleet blocks Montevideo (Uruguay's capital) and 4,000 troops cross Brazil-Uruguay boundary. A casus belli for Solano Lopez.
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Neither Paraguay nor the Allies were prepared for a long-term war.  
At the beginning of the conflict Paraguay's Army could put into the battlefield 30,000 men plus an equal number of reservists and its equipment was as good as his opponents were. Until the end of the conflict, some 80.000 men fought under the Paraguayan Flag. Taking into account that Paraguay's population summed up to 800,000, we can figure the efforts of the country to sustain the hostilities.  
 
The weakness of this force, however, rested in its lack of trained leadership, of an industrial base to replace weapons and other means to war and the immense disadvantage in terms of population when compared with the combined Allies. 
 
The Allies, for their turn, faced their own problems. 
 
Uruguay was prostrated after the two-years civil war and, worst of all, occupied by a foreign army. When hostilities began was able to put into the fight less than 2,000 troops. Uruguay's population counted up 200,000. 
 
The Argentine Army was far from being a perfect force of combat. Argentina had hardly started its process of union. Many provinces were still resentful of Buenos Aires hegemony after the Battle of Pavn in 1861 and look with suspect on Brazil's intervention over the Uruguay Therefore, Argentine Army could rely only on Buenos Aires forces. In fact,many uprisings took place in the country during the war. As a result, much of the means and efforts were deviated to repress these riots.  
 
 
 It's believed that Argentina Army could line a force of 30.000 men out of a population of 1,5 million.  
 
 The Imperial Army had a well-trained team of officers. Many of them were veterans of the battles against the Argentinean Dictator Juan Manuel Rosas in 1852. Its equipment if not abundant, were suitable for a shorter conflict. Besides, Brazil's Navy was far the most powerful of the Latin America. The fleet included ironclad steamships and many other vessels. 
 Nevertheless, Brazil had its weak sides. First, in terms of size the army was far from appropriate for a country which area is comparable to the extent of Europe. It lined up less than 20,000 men, dispersed along the territory and with problems of logistic and training. To make things worst, when the war broke out, part of the army was fighting in Uruguay. The second problem had to do with the country social structure. Many of the inhabitants of the Empire were slaves: at least 2 millions out of a population of 8,5 millions. It meant that part of the army was necessary to deal with the potential revolts of the slaves. As the war progressed, it became clear that slavery was responsible for draining much of the war efforts. 
 
 However, until the end of the war Brazil mobilized some 160,000 troops (125,000 in the Volunteers or National Guard Battalions, 25,000 in the regular army, some 6,500 in the navy and some others in small  police units ).  By the end of the first year of war, the Empire could field a force  60,000 strong and by mid-1868 71,000 men were at disposal for the war. During the campaign 61 battallions were formed of volunteers, while the first line of the army was constitued of 22 others. Five cavalry regiments were formed between 1865-1870, four of which fought  in Paraguay. 
 
 The Emperor D. Pedro II - Imperial Museum  
  The conflict was marked by poor logistic and diseases. From a certain point, neither side was able to use cavalry. Horses and men were victims of famine and cholera. The Imperial Navy, for instance, lost 170 men in action, 107 by accidents and 1,470 by diseases!
 
 
 Although the problems, soldiers of both sides fought with bravery and distinction in many occasions. The Paraguayans, paticularly, showed great tenacity and stiff resistance even when became clear that the war was hopeless for their country. The commom soldier courage and devotion often wasted under the poor leadership of the officers on both sides. 
 
The number of people killed in wars is always a matter for discussions. So, the estimations vary widely in the conflict. However, the true source of so many differents figures lay on the way the casualties were calculated. The allies sources (from where many, but not all, of the figures here are taken), count the Paraguayan casualties almost always in the category of "deads" or "killeds". The allies casualties, on the other hand, are mentioned in three categories: "deads", "wounded" and "missing". In fact, due to the poor helath and care conditions on the battlefield many of the wounded and missing  faced death just after an engagement, but not always they were counted as "dead" or "killed". 
 
The more conservatives estimates reckon on 150,000 dead, half of which Paraguayans. Others count 400,000 killed, while some reach the number of 600,000.  
A more accurate estimate may be halfway of the more exaggerating and conservative ones .  
Based in some recent studies we are going to assume that by the end of the conflict  15% to 20%  of Paraguay's population were killed  by bullets or diseases. It means a toll of 120,000 to 160,000  dead among soldiers and civilians. 
 
The Allies also suffered a great toll of casualties.  
 
 Argentina lost a number estimated between 30,000 and 35,000 men (13,000 to 18,000 in combat, 12,000 by diseases and some 5,000 by  internal uprisings). Among the dead some civilian casualties ocurred. 
 
 From Uruguay's 5,000 soldiers less than half came back home. 
 
Brazil casualties mount up to 30,000 killed in the battlefield and an equal number (if not more) killed by cholera and looseness.  
 
These numbers, however, does not include the losses at Uruguay's campaign from October,1864 until February 1865.
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By November 12, 1864, Solano Lpez assessed that Brazilian intervention in Uruguay as a disdain to his country. He was also inclined to believe that neither Brazil nor Argentina took Paraguay's interests into account. As a result, he concluded that to play a more important role in the region, Paraguay would have to incur in an offensive foreign policy. With such objective, he was determined to support the Blanco government under Anatasio Aguirre. 
 
By december 12, he declared war against Brazil and on the   16th , he launched a quickly attack by invading Mato Grosso province in the west of Brazil 
 
  
The success of this operation led Solano Lopez to concluded that his forces were superior to his foes troops. He paid little attention to the fact that Paraguayan Troops were sent to a province poorly defended, far from the Uruguayan soil and with no strategic importance for the future war operations.   
 
By the end of the year Lpez decided to strike at Brazil's main force in the southern province of Rio Grande do Sul, isolating the empire forces in Uruguay from his base in Brazil. He gathered some of Paraguay's best troops under Colonel Antonio de La Cruz Estigarribia to cross the Argentine province of Corrientes in order to attack the Brazilian positions. On March 18, 1865 believing that Argentina would remain at least neutral, since many Argentine provinces were against an alliance with Brazil, the Paraguayan Army rushed into Corrientes expecting local strongmen to join them. Instead, the action set the stage for the May 1865 signing by Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay of the Treaty of the Triple Alliance.  
  
 
 
 
 
Under the treaty, these nations vowed to destroy Solano Lpez' goverment.;
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Riachuelo  
 
 
 click here 
 
By early 1865, Solano Lpez was determinate to take domain of  Paran River as a first step to control the entire La Plata Basin. If he had success in engaging by surprise the Imperial Fleet on the low waters of the river he would achieve a important victory that would enable further land operations. 
 
Surprise would be essential. In late 1864 the Paraguayan Navy consisted of 17 small vessels of varying sizes. Only two of them , the Anhambay and the Tacuar were constructed as gunboats. During the 1860s Lpez was hopeful of having new ironclads added to his fleet. He maintained contacts with some European countries to obtain these ships. This project, however, had to be abandoned for financial problems.  
 
The Imperial Fleet, on the other side, lined up 45 vessels, 33 steamers and 12 sailing ships at the outbreak of war. The force had at disposal a total manpower of almost 2,400 officers and men. The main units was the propeller-type Niteri and the side-wheeler Amazonas. The fleet, nevertheless, had a important defect: it was projected for high-seas rather than river operations. 
On June 8 , The Paraguayan Fleet was gathered in Assuncon for departure toward the Fortress of Humait. Lpez himself was to go aboard the Tacuar. The whole capital population was present to witness the departure. At the end of the morning the ships left toward the fortress. As soon as he arrived in Humait on the morning of the following day, Lpez immediately began to prepare the attack on the enemy squadron stationed on the nearby of Corrientes. in a widening called Riachuelo, which was given support to the land forces of the Triple Alliance to expel the Paraguayans from Corrientes. He gathered the bulk of the Paraguayan Navy to strike the Brazilian ships by the dawn of June 11. The squadron consisted of eight ships, the flagship Tacuar, the newly arrived Paraguar, built in England, the captured Brazilian steamship Marqus de Olinda and the Ygure, Ybera, Ypor, Jeju, Salto Oriental and the Pirabeb. Along with the ships, six low-lying flat bottomed barges with one eight inch cannon each , known as chatas, would be towed to meet the enemy. The squadron amounted 36 guns. Commodore Pedro Incio Meza would command the assault. Besides, the Paraguayan ships would have the support of a battery of cannons under Colonel Jos Maria Bruguez placed along the shoreline of the river.  
 
Brazil's Squadron anchored near Corrientes lined the Amazonas (flagship) and the ships Jequitinhonha, Belmonte, Parnaba, Ipiranga, Mearin, Iguatemi, Araguar and the Beberib. Total fire power of the squadron amounted to 59 guns. Admiral Francisco Manuel Barroso was in command of the ships.  
 
 Meza should run down the Paran during the day-break of June 11  in order to reach the enemy by dawn. Surprise would compensate the fact that the Paraguayan ships were outgunned. At two o'clock on the morning the fleet left Humait. At five o'clock the chatas joined the ships. Notwithstanding, a problem in the engine of the Iber delayed the plan. 
 
Only at nine o'clock, at broad day light, the ships reached Riachuelo.  
 
 After placing the chatas near the shore, Meza conducted his ships directly at the enemy in order to separate the Imperial Squadron in two.  
 
 Barroso ships were anchored near the confluence of the Paran and two narrow channels. The attack, if not a entire surprise, happened when Barroso's  ships were lined towards the shore. 
 
  
 
 The Ipiranga (right) and the Salto Oriental exchanging fire - Brazilian Navy Archives  
 
 Meza squadron passed the enemy ships sending fire onto them .Each of his vessels choose one ship to engage. Soon the Amazonas was under fire of the Tacuar, while the Ipiranga was exchange fire with the Salto. 
 
  
  In the fray the two squadrons changed position. Meza was below the enemy squadron and cut from his base in Humait. Then, the Paraguayan Commander adopted the strategy of attracting the foes to thenarrow channels where they could not maneuver as good as the Paraguayans did.  
 
  The Jequitinhonha, Barroso largest ship after the Amazonas, struck on a sand-bar. She became an easy target for the merciless artillery of Bruguez. 
 
  The Belmonte was hit several times by the fire of the chatas. 
 
  The Parnaba struck on the shore and drift. Soon she was surrounded by several Paraguayan ships. The Marqus de Olinda boarded the Brazilian ship and a deadly fight took place on  Parnaba deck. Repeatedly, the Paraguayans tried to take control over the ship. Only with stiff resistance Parnaba's crew kept the ship. Finally, a final assault was expelled and the ship slipped away from the enemy. 
 
 
Exchange of fire between Marines aboard the Amazonas and a Paraguayan ship (probably the Paraguar) - Brazilian Navy Archives 
 At this point, things began to change.  
 
 
 Despite the difficulties in maneuvering, the superior fire power of Barroso's ships began to be effectiveness.The Jeju was sunk by close fire of  Brazilian ships. The Marqus de Olinda had her boilers shot and was out of action. The Paraguar was rammed by the Amazonas and laid helpless. Meza gave orders to retreat. At 1 P.M the fight was over. Of the eight Paraguayan vessels, only four returned to Humait. The others were sunk, captured or laid helpless on a sand-bar (this included the Paraguar, the Jeju, the Marqus de Olinda and the Salto Orientall) . Two chatas were sunk and the other four fell into Brazilian hands. Some days later, however, the Paraguayans were succefull in taking the Paraguar back, sending the ship to Assuncon for repair.The Paraguayan losses are not entirely known. Probably the Brazilian estimates of 1,000 casualties are exaggerated. Maybe this number lay between 300 and 400.  
 
 Meza died some days later in Humait from the wounds he received during the battle.  
 
The Imperial Squadron lost one ship, the Jequitinhonha, and two others; the Parnaba and the Belmonte, were severed damaged. The Ipiranga was lightly damaged. Barroso had 104 men killed, 123 wounded and 20 missing. 
 The Paraguayans failed in the attempt of having the entire command of the Paran River from Assuncon to Montevido. Besides, they could not replace the ships lost. While Brazil was adding new units to the fleet.
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Curupaity is the name of a defensive area in the perimeter of the Humaita Fortress. It consisted of fortified lines of trenches and moats covered with artillery. This area also protected Humaita from a land attack The importance of the fortress is derived both from its position in a strategic point on the Paraguay River and as a passage to the north. 
 
After the Battle of Tuyuty, the Allies slowly begin to manage a large movement to encircle the fortress. 
 
  
From that point Lpez launched continuous  attacks in order to keep the enemy under pressure. Many skirmishes took place between late May and August, 1866.  
 
One kilometer ahead of Curupaity stood Curuzu, the first line of trenches that protected the fortress. On this place there would happen a battle that can be understood as a foretoken struggle of a major engagement.  
 
In fact, the Allies were preparing to sent troops to land in Curuzu since July. After his return to the bulk of the army, Antonio Paranhos, Viscount of Porto Alegre, was designated by Mitre to led forces on this attack . He would command the II Corps of the Brazilian Army, which numbered 14,000, in a attempt to take the trenches of Curuzu. The Imperial Navy under Admiral Joaquim Marques Lisboa, Baron of Tamandar would support the operation both by firing on the Paraguayan trenches and making the landing.   
 
 The Allied Fleet in Curuzu - Brazilian Navy archives 
 
 
In Curuzu, General Daz, for some Lpez' most capable officer, was in command of 2,500 troops in three battalions. As reinforcement he had received just a battery of three cannons and some small detachments. Outnumbered in a proportion of almost six to one he had to hold the position with twelve cannons and mortars. 
 
 On September 2, the Allied Fleet, consisting of some twenty ships, begins to pour fire on Diaz' trenches. As soon as the transports landed the troops on the field Porto Alegre arranged for the assault on Curuzu. He deployed his troops in a frontal attack formation. The fire coming from the trenches was resolute and as the fight progressed the II Corps was obliged to managed in order to flank the position.  
 
On the river, the ships were facing opposition of artillery coming from Curupaity and Curuzu. The Paraguayans were also using torpedoes (as mines were called) to menace the fleet. On the night of the first day, the 6-gun steamship Rio de Janeiro was severed hit by artillery. Some ships that came to aid the steamship soon came under fire of Curupaity. One of these ships, the gunboat Ivahy, had it engines hit and had to withdraw. Four of its crewman were injured. The morning of next day, two torpedoes  sank the Rio de Janeiro. One officer was killed and seven sailors were wounded.  
 
Notwithstanding by the afternoon Daz could not keep the enemy out of the trenches anymore. The Allies entered Curuzu and after a hand to hand fight they took control of the trenches. The remaining Paraguayan troops moved back to Curupaity. 
 
In Curuzu both sides experienced, in a approximating, the same amount of casualties. The 2nd Corps had 159 men killed and 629 wounded, while the Paraguayans had 800 casualties.  
 
After Curuzu was taken, the Allied Command became optimistic in respect of the attack on Curupaity. 
 
 Troops were brought from Tuyuty until they performed a force of some 20,000 men. Artillery was being gathered to support the attack and the navy added new ships to pour fire onto Curupaity. 
 
 Meantime, Lpez ordered the reinforcement of the Paraguayan positions in Curupaity. A new line of trenches and a moat were been built and new artillery pieces were brought. The Allies did not notice the new fortified positions. 
 
 On September 12, however, a controversial event took place. After Curuzu, Lpez sent Mitre a message of truce. He wanted to parley. Known as Yatayti-Cor, this encounter has many different versions. For some it was Lpez' last attempt of reaching peace. For others it was just a way he planned to gain time until his positions were strong enough to face the Allied attack.  
 
 As far as we know, Lpez first asked to parley with Mitre alone. They met each other on the middle of the war zone, between the two enemy armies. As the talks progressed, Mitre called for Flores and the new Brazilian Army Commander, General Polidoro Jordo. While the former accepted to talk, Polidoro refused to take part in the encounter. We do not know if the Allies were intransigent or Lpez was not ready to make concessions. The fact is that Yataity-Cor failed and the hostilities went on.  
 The navy started the bombardment of Curupaity shortly after dawn of the  22th. Among the vessels there were four ironclad steamships. In response, 49 cannons started sending fire from the Paraguayan stronghold.  
 
 Departing from Curuzu, at 12 AM, the Allied Army launched the attack. It was deployed in five columns. On the center the Uruguayan Battalions under Flores, on the left the Imperial Army and to the right the Argentinean troops. The extreme left was led by Colonel Augusto Caldas, under whom there were many units of the National Guard. To his right, General Albino de Carvalho marched with six Infantry Battalions and some Cavalry units. On Flores' right, General Wenceslao Paunero with twelve Argentinean Battalions. Finally, on the extreme right, General Emlio Mitre (presidente Mitre's brother) led five battalions. The 16th Volunteer Battalion of the Imperial Army was deployed along the river bank to fire onto the Paraguayan stronghold. 
 
  
 
 Admiral Joaquim Marques Lisboa, Baron of Tamandar - Brazilian Navy archives  
 
Lpez'  5,000 strong in Curupaity were positioned in two lines of trenches with a moat ahead of each of them. They set the artillery pieces at their disposal in two lines of defense. Daz would command the troops under attack.  
 
The second line of trench was built on a hill so that from the Allies position it could not be seen. Thus, they presumed that they would deal with only one line of defense.   
 
 As the mass of the enemy army came, the Paraguayans on the first trench shot a barrage of volleys on them. The moat retarded the advance and many soldiers could not pass this first obstacle.   
 
Meanwhile, the fleet tried to back the advance, but at the same time the ships had to keep some distance from the powerful guns of Humait. That meant a weak support for the operation.  
 
 Antonio Paranhos, Viscount of Porto Alegre, Commander of the II Corps of the Imperial Army - Brazilian Army Archives 
 
 
Even with little support, the Allies reached the first line of the defensive perimeter. Only then they knew that the enemy had constructed a second line of defense. They stunned for a moment trying to wonder what to do. When Mitre received the news he ordered his troops not to stop the advance. To make things less worthy, before the Allies took the trench Diaz' men had positioned the cannons on the second line. Until 4 PM the Triple Alliance Forces tried to take control over Curupaity, but the moat and the Paraguayan fire proved to be too much for them. Then came the retreat. 
 
The Allies failed to dislodge the Paraguayan position. Besides, the losses were immense. 
 
The Paraguayan sources claimed a total of 9,000 casualties on the Allied Forces. Nowadays this number is considered exaggerated. Notwithstanding, even the Allies considered the operation a disaster. The casualties counted in some 4,193 according to Brazilian sources, but this number does not include the Uruguayan losses.  The casualties may have totaled 5,000 men.   
 The Imperial Army in Curupaity had 408 killed; 1,543 wounded and 10 missing. The Navy had 1 killed and 34 wounded. The 16th Volunteer, which saw little action in the assault, suffered 3 dead and 12 wounded.   
 
The Argentinean, for their turn, sustained 587 dead; 1,439 wounded and 156 missing.  
 
During the action 13 commanders of battalion were killed (5 Argentineans and 8 Brazilians).  
 
 More than 20% of the initial force was lost.   
 
The Paraguayan Army suffered 54 casualties. Only two officers were killed (a Major and a Lieutenant).   
 
The defeat on Curupaity undermined the Allied High Command. Tamandar was accused of not giving the proper support to the operation. The Brazilian officers were even more doubtful of Mitre's capability of command. Flores was resentful of the lack of prestige he believe he deserved.   
 
 Flores, Mitre and Lpez in Yatayti-Cor   
 
 
In some weeks Mitre would leave the theater of operations in order to take care of internal problems in the Argentinean Provinces. From this point the Argentinean Army on Paraguay would rest on a force of some 4,000 troops. 
 
Flores returned to Montevideo. He would never return to the battlefield again. The Uruguayan troops left counted no more than 200 soldiers. 
 
The war became a business between Brazil and Paraguay.
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Estero Bellaco   
 
 
 click here 
 
After two weeks on Paraguayan soil, the Allies haven't seen much action. Lpez troops moved inland, waiting for a chance to drive Mitre's men out of the Paraguayan territory.The Allied Forces moved carefully northward to a place called Estero Bellaco, a swamp mud terrain covered with palms. Since that time the problems of relationship between Mitre and the Brazilian commanders were present.  
 
Many officers of the Imperial Army were discontent that the command of the Allied Army was given to an Argentinean. Brazilian troops fulfilled two-thirds of the combined army. Particularly, the Brazilian officers found themselves better trained than his Allies counterpart. Now, they were displeased by Mitre's conduct of operations. They felt that the Allied Force should be more offensive. The two weeks of caution and slow advance was intolerable for them. The major problem of the two opponents was how to estimate the enemy's forces. Mitre, however, had another one. He had no idea of the kind of terrain ahead of his troops. Therefore, he preferred to be cautious. 
  
 
Nevertheless, he will not have to wait long for action.  
 
On May 2, 1866, 3.500 Paraguayan Troops, under Colonel Jos Daz, launched an attack on the Allie's vanguard under General Venncio Flores, leader of the Colorado Party and now president of Uruguay. He  was in command of three Uruguayan Battalions on the head of the Allied position. The attack was a complete surprise for him and his men. Besides, the attacking force outnumbered them. Flore's soldiers fought with great tenacity against Daz' men, but they could not avoid the loss of a battery of four La Hitte cannons. Soon Flores had to undertake a retreat. This maneuver was embarrassed by a pool and the flooded terrain that lay between their position and the army under Mitre. Daz pursued the Uruguayan troops, maybe trying to capture a great number of prisoners. Unfortunately, for him, the shots and the fight put the Allied Army aware of the situation. In a glance, the situation had changed. Now Diaz was fighting the bulk of the enemy army. Only with fierce determination he and his men escaped back to the Paraguayan encampment.   
 
The losses in this episode vary from source to source.   
 
The Allies suffered 1.600 casualties. The 38th Infantry Battalion of the Brazilian Army, that came in Flores aid, had 94 dead and 188 wounded. The casualties of the 1st Cavalry Regiment of the Argentinean Army summed up to one hundred men. Flores Florida Battalion lost 19 of its 27 officers.  
 
 Colonel Diaz Paraguayan Army archives 
 
 
The Paraguayan' losses mounted up to a number between 2.000 and 2.300, but they had captured a battery of cannons.  
 
 While Diaz and the Allies where fighting in Estero Bellaco, Lopez was waiting for news about the battle. He was planning to defeated the enemy with a quick blow on Tuyuty, where he believed his army would be able to achieve a great victory.
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From Corrientes to Passo de La Ptria  
 
 
 click here 
 
 By late May and early June, 1865, Estigarribia's army captured some villages and small towns in Rio Grande. So Borja, a city of some importance, fell to his troops with little fight. It seemed that Lpez' plan would be achieved with success again.  
 
 Nevertheless, things had changed since Lpez'decision of invading Rio Grande.  
On February 22, Montevideo, Uruguay's capital, fell to the combined forces of the Brazilian Army and Colorado forces under General Venncio Flores. This fact alone should be enough to show the lack of foresight of Lpez' plan. El Supremo, however, was enraptured by his objectives. He would not give up. 
 
 On June 11, the Brazilian Navy succeeded in engaging Paraguayan ships in the Battle of Riachuelo on  Paran River. Estigarribia was now trapped between Brazilian troops stationed in  Rio Grande,  
 
  
 the Allies on Uruguay and Paran River now under control of the enemy. A retreat would be advisable. Nonetheless, the Paraguayan did not move back. Instead, they went on and captured Uruguaiana on August 5.  
 
 By Mid-September, when he was almost encircled and supplies were quickly diminishing, Estigarribia surrendered to the Allies. A  5,200 strong military force ceased to exist. Dom Pedro II, the emperor himself, attended to the surrender of the Paraguayans. Lpez best troops yielded for almost nothing. From this point the war became a desperate struggle for Paraguay's survival.   
 
 The Allies, notwithstanding, were not prepared to cross Paran River into the Paraguayan soil at once. It took months before they tried to irrupt into Paraguay coming from Corrientes.  
 
 The major problem was the terrain around Corrientes and Passo de La Ptria (on the Paraguayan side of Paran River). It was flooded. Besides, the Brazilian Navy, although powerful, was not suitable to back a landing from the Paran waters. The vessels were projected for sea operations; their navigation was not free of problems on Paran waters.  
 
  Riachuelo 
 
 
 There was another problem. Before the Allies stood the Fort of Itapir, a stronghold artillery position, located at a strategic point of the riverbank on the Paraguayan side of the river. It had to be taken for a safe cross. 
 
 While sundry skirmishes between the Paraguayan and the Triple Alliance Army took place in Corrientes and the nearby area, between September, 1865 and March, 1866, the Allies Commanders under General Bartolom Mitre, Argentina's president, were evaluating those problems and preparing a plan of waging war on the Paraguay soil.  
 
Only on March, 1866, after months of discussion, they decided to sent troops to disembark  northward of Itapir in order to take it from the rear while ships would fire on the Paraguayan positions. After it had been taken, more troops would cross the river. 
A large fleet was gathered on the Paran waters nearby Corrientes. It consisted of a diversity of ships, four of which were ironclads. 
 
On April 16, 1866 General Manuel Lus Osrio stepped on Passo de La Ptria with 15.000 men. He immediately marched towards Itapir. His troops found some opposition from the Paraguayan, but it was faint at most. 
 
Meanwhile, Itapir was under fire of the Allied Fleet. The Paraguayan managed to attack the ships by using everything they had at disposal (boats, captured steamships).  
Taking advantage from the limited maneuver of the Allied vessels, they inflicted some damage to the ships and losses to the Allies; but they could not overcome the Allies superiority in equipment and number and soon they withdrew. 
 
Along the river the Allies aimed at some strategic positions that would enable them to send fire on Itapir. One of these points was a small bank just in the middle of the crossing and almost in front of the Paraguayan cannons. Lieutenant- Colonel Antonio Cabritas detachment of the Imperial Army headed to land on the bank. As soon as he reached the place he and his men found themselves under fire of the Paraguayan positions. They also had to bear assaults from the enemy that was trying to expel them from there. After a fierce and lasting fight, and thanks to the ships that came in his aid, Cabritas men held the position. 
 
Both sides experienced great losses. Only in the fight for the bank the Allies suffered 57 dead, 102 wounded and 3 missing. The Paraguayans, according to a Brazilian source, had 600 casualties.  
 
 On April 18, Mitre's 60.000 army landed on Paraguay. They would leave the Paraguayan soil only one decade later.  
 
The next day the Paraguayans evacuated Itapir. 
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The Battle of Tuyuty was far the largest encounter of the war. Almost 60,000 troops took part in the fight. It is named for a vast foldable camp northward of Estero Bellaco the Allied Forces reached by late April.  
 
 After the encounter of May 2 , a 18,000 strong force, led by the General Antonio Paranhos, Viscount of Porto Alegre, marched bordering Paran River, while the major part of the Allied Army, some 35,000 troops, followed to North Estero Bellaco and camped there. The Brazilian Army, commanded by General Osrio, occupied part of the terrain on the nearby of Estero Bellaco and the Argentinean were located to the right. The Uruguayan Battalions, with the 41st Infantry Battalion of the Imperial Army, were ahead of the Allied Army, southwards of Tuyuty. The Allied commander, General Bartolom Mitre, was still worried with what to expect from the enemy. The action of beginning May and the constant skirmishes, were evidence that the Paraguayan would not give way easily. There were also rumors of a large enemy army waiting for a favorable occasion to confront him. To make things worst, looseness was decimating his ranks. Diseases caused more casualties than bullets did.  
Lpez, for his turn, called his officers to discuss the situation. He was confident of moving the Allies back, towards Paran waters. In Tuyuty, reinforcements from other points of the country swelled his ranks to more than 23,350 men. He planned a direct assault on the Triple Alliance positions. This attack was to have in addition the support of heavy guns. The 9.000 strong left wing of his troops would keep the Argentinean forces engaged. They would be led by General Francisco Isidoro Resquin, who would have at his disposal the bulk of the Paraguayan cavalry. On the right, General Vicente Barrios, with an equal number of troops, would launch a direct assault on the Brazilian Army. On the center, Daz, now promoted to General, had the objective of destroying the Allies vanguard. At the same time he would help Barrios to smash the Allied left wing. He would command 5.000 men. A small reserve would back the attack, if necessary.  
 
For some officers, it was clear that the attack was a blunder. They would have to cross an uneven land, against an entrenched enemy with little support of their own cannons. George Thompson, an English engineer that fought in Lpez' army as Lieutenant-Colonel , noted later that if El Supremo had decided for a defensive strategy, the Paraguayan would have inflicted a great defeated on the Allies, since the terrain was proper for the defenders. Notwithstanding, Lpez was determined. The attack would take place on the 24th.  
 
 Meantime, the Allies spent their time digging trenches. On the left wing of the Allied camp the artillery was under command of Captain Emlio Mallet, a French middle-aged man that joined the Imperial Army. He was worried about his pieces since his position was to close of Estero Bellaco. An attack from that point or a flank maneuver would put the cannons in serious danger. Near his position the 1st and the 3rd Infantry Divisions formed the extreme left of the wing.  
   
 
  Daz opened the attack about 11:30 AM. He broke up on the vanguard of the Allied Army. Once again Flores' men were the firsts to experience the Paraguayan onrush. He began to be pushed back by the pressure of the assailants. 
  On the left of the Allied camp the units of the Imperial Army were under attack of Barrios' infantrymen. Here, the terrain made the battle a melee right from the start. The Paraguayan were moving ahead under close fire of the enemy lines. Soon, it became clear that the assailants were moving to flank the Allies. Mallet's artillery was in danger. The 3rd Division disposed some battalions to protect Mallet's position. For that reason, they would suffer the major part of the attack. 
 
 General Osorio  
 
 
  
On the right, things did not come so well to the attacking force. First, the terrain was full of obstacles for a cavalry assault. It was marshy and the assailants had to deviate from pools and thickets. Another reason for the difficulties the Paraguayans were facing had to do with the fact that the Argentineans quickly deployed his troops in lines of battalion. Even so, the assailants head for the artillery and held it for some time,but they were soon ejected by a counterattack of the Argentinean Cavalry under Lt. General Wenceslao Paunero.  
 
 Meanwhile, Daz had joined Barrios in his attempt to break the Brazilian formation and reach the rear of the Allied camp.   
 
 
 General Resquin 
 
 The extreme left of the Allies was engaged in a desperate fight not to be involved. Both, Paraguayan and Brazilian infantrymen were addressing steady volleys on each other at a short distance. When the Paraguayans were about to achieve their aim, some units brought from the center came in the 1st and 3rd Divisions help. Thus, the defenders were able to repulse the assault. By 4 PM the Paraguayans retreated. They did not achieved their goals. 
 
 Tuyuty represented a immense disaster for the Paraguayan Army: almost half of the attacking force was lost. According to some sources, the Paraguayans had 6,000 dead and 6,000 wounded or captured. 
 
Some battalions were annihilated. For the rest of the conflict, Lpez could not field an army of the seize he had in Tuyuty. 
 
  
 
 Dead soldiers await burial in Tuyuty - National Library archives (Brazil)  
 
The Allies also had a great toll of losses. The casualties totaled some 4,000, 11% of the combined  army. For the Imperial Army the losses were: 719 killed and 2,292 wounded. Brigadier General Antnio Sampaio, commander of the 3rd was among the dead. The Argentineans sustained 126 dead and 480 wounded. For the Uruguayans, the losses counted up to 429, of this number, about 133 were killed. 
 
Lpez marched northward to the fortified area of Humaita. It would proved to be a serious obstacle for the Allied Force. Nevertheless, after Tuyuty the Allies were firmly settled on the enemy territory. The tide of war had shifted in favor of the Triple Alliance forces
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Dezembrada is the usual name given to three battles occurred in the vicinity of Lomas Valentinas hills (also known as It-Ibaty by the Paraguayans) on December, 1868. These battles marked the last phase of the Allied advance and Paraguayan last effort to oppose it.  
 
After the fall of Humait, the Allies started a continuous pursuit of Lpez remaining forces. He fled northward, deciding for a new stand about 140 miles north of Humait on the port of Villeta. There he had a riverside battery of guns constructed at Angostura and a line of trench to defend the passage through a small stream called Pykysyry. According to Colonel George Thompson, this new position was guarded by a hundred cannons, eight of which were positioned in Angostura. Inside the fortified area 2,000 men were entrenched.  
Meanwhile, by late October the Allies had a road constructed in the Chaco in order to bring reinforcement and supplies from Humait and Palmas (Caxias headquarter) to the invader forcer. Caxias was moving along this road with an army 27,000 strong and despite the terrain and constant skirmishes he was preparing a cross to the other side of Paraguay River.  
 
 By early December Lpez became aware of this menace. He dispatched some troops to built a trench around Villeta to prevent a landing operation north of his position. 
  
 
 When Caxias' 17,000 troops disembarked on Santo Antonio, few miles north of Villeta on December 5, Lpez knew he would need more time to face an attack coming from north. He sent 5,000 men under Colonel Bernardino Caballero to meet the enemy in combat. 
 
 On the morning of the 6th, Caxias moved with 13,000 men in two columns to take Villeta. 
 
 Taking advantage from the Allies slow march, Caballero planned to stop the enemy on a narrow passage over a stream called Ytoror. He deployed his troops so that Caxias would have to cross the only passage at disposal under heavy fire. Since the enemy would have to cross a bridge to reach Villeta, Caballero disposed his men to sent fire on the flank of any enemy troop that dare to move toward the bridge. On each side of his arrangement he located four guns. Other battery of four guns was put on the top of a nearby low-lying hill. 
 
 
The 1st and 13th battalions of the Imperial Army that marched ahead of the first column reached Ytoror by late morning. When these two units moved as if to take control of the bridge they found themselves under severe fire. Soon they pulled back with many casualties. From this time on, the battle became a desperate fight for the control over the bridge. The Allies launched recurrent assaults. Caxias ordered his men to ignore the Paraguayan fire pouring down on them and charge up. Nonetheless, whenever Caxias' men managed to cross the bridge the Paraguayans drove them back. General Osrio was ordered to flank the enemy by any possible way he could find. Unfortunately, for the Allies, Osrio would reach his aim only when the fight was over. 
 
 Meantime, the struggle went on. Each time Caxias' men headed to the bridge, the Paraguayans expel them with steady volleys. At one point, however, Brazilian troops achieved in crossing the bridge and managed to the batteries on the left flank of the enemy. Caballero's cavalry made them withdrew. But soon the Paraguayans abandoned their defensive action and undertook a massive counterassault. Seeing a chance to take control of the bridge, Caxias himself led the 46th and 51st Volunteers Battalions on a attack. A fierce hand to hand fight follows. Only by 1 P.M. the battle was over. The Allies had accomplished their aim. The losses, however, were high. Brazilian casualties were estimated at about 3,000 killed and wounded. General Antunes Gurjo, commander of the 1st Infantry Division was severe wounded. He would die on Assuncon on January 17, 1869 from the wounds he received. The Paraguayans sustained 1,200 losses. They also had six guns captured by the enemy.  
 
On the 11th, the Allies marched south toward Villeta. 
 
Caballero was given order to hold the small town with 4,000 soldiers, mere boys of thirteen and fourteen side by side with old men. He decided again for a stand near a stream called Avahy. 
 
While the Allies ranks grew to some 17,000 troops after Ytoror, thanks to some units brought from the Chaco, Caballero's reinforcements were almost none. 
 
The 3rd Corps led by Osrio would open the attack. The battle lasted four hours and was fight under steady rain. As one noted: 
 
  
 ";(...)Avahy was a vicious struggle in which quarter was neither asked nor given by the two armies" (KOLINSKI)  
 
Osrio first led his infantry to cross the stream in order to reach the enemy lines. Notwithstanding, he had to retreat under heavy fire. Caballero tried to repeat the arrangement he adopted in Ytoror, which caused the Allies many casualties. Caxias' cavalry, however, succeeded in reaching Caballero's flank. Despite  stiff resistance, the Paraguayan force was almost annihilated. Only a few hundred escaped toward It-Ibaty and Angostura.eee.e 
According to Brazilian sources Paraguayan losses totaled 3,000 men among dead, wounded and captured. The Allies losses are reported to be some 800. General Osrio was shot twice in the fight. He would have to leave the battlefield for recover. 
 
  
 Battle of Avahy (detail) by Pedro Americo -Fine Arts Museum (Brazil) 
After Avahy Caxias opted for making a rally. He took Villeta as his headquarter and brought more troops to fill his ranks. Newly arrived troops from Brazil was incorporated to the 1st and 3rd Corps. Meantime, some 4,000 Argentinean troops under General Gelly y Obes came from Palmas along with 600 Uruguayans to prepare an assault from the south against the Paraguayan positions. The navy was positioned to support the attack. It had  passed Angostura in October with hardly any damage and now Caxias planned to  use it to bring supplies and men from Humait. On December 14, he dispatched the Monitors Silvado and Lima e Barros to bring supplies. They succeeded again in forcing Angostura with only a sailor killed and four wounded. 
He planned to attack the Paraguayan trenches along Pikisiri stream from north and south. Once he expelled the enemy from that position, Angostura would lay  isolated since Lopez' forces inside the inner circle of trenches would not be able to give it any help. 
 
 The assault was planned to occur on the 19th. Due to the bad weather it had to be delayed for two days and only on the 21st , the Imperial Army started to march from the north with a force of 19,500 soldiers.  
 
The Triple Alliance  troops first attacked  on It-Ibat hills where the enemy resistance prove to be strong.  
Meantime, General Joo Manuel Mena Barreto launched his cavalry attack on the rear of Pikisiri trenches. He would find the fiercest combat of the day. His men would have to fight inch by inch since the beginning. 
As soon as the first shots were given at Pikisiri, Gelly y Obes and the Uruguayan General Enrique Castro begin to attack it from the south. As the Paraguayans concentrated their forces to deal with Mena Barreto, Gelly y Obes and Castro's advance was made easier.  
 
When the day was over, the Allies had not conquered all trenches, but  Angostura laid isolated . The cost was high. The casualties on the Brazilian side totaled 3,500. Only the 3rd Infantry Division of the Imperial Army sustained 1,846 losses among dead and wounded. According to Lieutenant Dionsio Cerqueira, who took part in the combat and was wounded in the head, his 16th Volunteers Battalion lost 22 of its 28 officers. Paraguayan losses are not known. 
 
The following days the two opponents spent the time preparing for the next action. 
 
 While Lpez had no reinforcement, Allies' ranks grew day by day.  
 
On the 24th the Allies' commanders sent Lpez an ultimatum. He refused it.  
 
By the morning of the 25th , the Allied artillery begin the bombardment of the last Paraguayan defenses. 
 
 On the 26th Caxias had  rallied some 25,000 soldiers and officers. 
 
The Paraguayans had 6,000 to 6,500 men to face the attack. 
 
Caxias divided his forces in three columns. On the center he would lead 6,000 men in a frontal assault, while Gelly y Obes would command a combined Argentinean-Brazilian force on the left. General Vasco Alves with his cavalry would attack the remainder positions along the Pikisiri and take the enemy position by the rear. 
 
On the morning of the 27th, Caxias gave orders to begin the attack. At first, the Paraguayans held their trenches against the overwhelming enemy. 
 
 The vanguard of Gelly y Obes column was severed attacked and only with the help of the 1st Buenos Aires Division the advance proceeded. 
  
 
 On the center, however, Lpez men could not bear the pressure over them. Caxias troops took the Paraguayan trenches, making the enemy withdraw.  
 On the right, the cavalry moved with difficulties. But with Caxias success on the center, Vasco Alves ordered his troops to explore the gaps on the enemy line.  
 
 
Lpez defenses began to melt down under the enemy pressure. He fled the battlefield before the total collapse of his troops, leaving to the north with some officers. The Paraguayan Army was finally destroyed. 
On the 30th Angostura garrison surrendered to the enemy. Colonel George Thompson along with 1,350 men and almost 400 women gave himself to the Allies. 
 
The casualties on the last day of battle is not known. The Allies estimates are suspicious low. The Brazilian sources reckon 6 dead and 32 wounded for the Imperial Army and some 340 losses for the Argentineans. Nothing is said about Uruguayan losses.
Nevertheless, losses were high for the entire campaign. The Imperial army alone suffered  more than 7,000 killed and wounded from Ytororo to Lomas Valentinas.
On  the battle of the 27th, Lpez' remaining  forces were all dead or captured. A toll of some 6,000 soldiers and officers. 
 
 On January 5, 1869 Caxias entered Assuncon. He assumed that war was over. Lpez could not gather an army anymore and he would not pursuit the Paraguayan leader, a job he found not suitable for the Imperial Army. On the 24th he left Assuncon towards Rio de Janeiro.  
 
In the empire, however, the political opinion was not so optimistic. The war had to continue until Lopez was captured or killed
===================================================================
The Last Stages 
 
By beginning 1869, the Paraguayan Army had been largely eclipsed by the overwhelming Triple Alliance forces. Lopez tried to assemble a new force to confound the enemy, but he could merely have at disposal some 13,000 men, women and children to march in that somber time. In fact only one-third of Lopez units, at best, were actually fighting force. Knowing that the Triple Alliance forces were closing in on him from all sides and that he could not stand a frontal battle against them, he decided to seek a secure refugee in the countryside on the Azcurra heights while his men would launch guerrillas attacks to fustigate the enemy supplies and small detachments. In many occasions this tatic were succesfull in adding new names to the long  list of war casualties. At the same time, Peribibuy, a small village at the heights,  was chosen as Paraguay's new capital.  
 
Meantime, Gasto de Orleans, known as Count D'Eu (husband of the Imperial Princess), was appointed as new commander of the Brazilian forces at the age of 26 on March 22, 1869. He assumed command on April 14. His first initiative was to strength the army to keep a ocupation force in Paraguay and to give chase of Lopez vanquished army. By ending May, D'Eu had completed the reorganization of the Imperial Army with a mix of battle-hardened veterans and new units brought from the empire, making a 27,000 strong force ready for combat. The Argentineans had some 4,000 men at disposal while the Uruguayans mounted up to some 200. The grand total of the Triple Alliance Army were some 32,000 soldiers and officers. 
 
During 1869, Assuncion witnessed the return of many Paraguayans politicians, who where Lopez antagonists in political affairs. Among them were Cirilo Rivarola, Carlos Loizaga and Jos Diaz de Bedoya who formed a provisional government. These persons were in the uncorfortable position of dealing with the occupation army and the needs of Assuncions's residents. 
 
By June, D'Eu received intelligent of Lopez attempt of gathering a new army. He assembled a council of war on July 7 to dsiscuss strategy. Confident that one single battle would settle the fate of the Paraguayan forces, he expected to envelop the Lopez army in the heights of Azcurra with a strong flanking maneuver on his left led by the 1st Cavalry Division of General Joo Manuel Mena Barreto. The 1st and 2nd Corps would be stationed in foward positions to bring the Paraguayan attention upon them. On August 1 the envelopment began. Paraguayan small forces were dispersed by the 1st Division and on the 11th the division reached the vicinity of Peribibuy. Meantime, the 1st and 2nd Corps advanced with little oppositin as if Lopez planned to make a full-resistance around Peribibuy. In fact, he ordered the fortification of that small town with stronghold artillery positions and trenches. Nevertheless, when the Allied Army surrounded the town, only part of the trenches was ready. 
 
Just before daylight of the 12th the incoming salvos of Brazilian artillery announced the beggining of the offensive. The I and II Corps had together 47 guns skillfully brought from the rear on the previous day and put in conditions of backing the attack. D'Eu deployed his force in three columns with a manpower of 20,000. They woul attack as soon as the artillery fire was lifted. The I Corps, making the left wing of the army, would be commanded by General Osrio, now recovered from the wound he received in the Battle of Avahy. On the right, D'Eu would have the 1st and 4th brigades along with some Argentinean units under General Carlos Resin. On the center, the II Corps led by Field- Marshall Vitorino Jos Carneiro Monteiro.  
 
The Paraguayans could oppose only 1,900 ill-equipped men and children to that force. They also had 18 light-guns and scarce ammunition. Major Pablo Caballero was in command of this pitted force with no hope of reinforcement.  
 
At 8 o'clock the Allied force marched toward Peribibuy. What happened next can hardly be described as a battle between two armies. The determined Caballero's men stand along Peribibuy entered into the mythology as a sterling example of Paraguayan fortitude. They resisted for four hours against the enemy. When ammunition ran over, they began lobbing stones onto the heads of the assailants, causing many casualties among them. Nevertheless, the overwhelming attack sealed the Paraguayans doom. When Peribibuy was finally held by D'Eu, some 700 Paraguayans were dead, including Major Caballero. The Allied force had 53 killed and 446 wounded. Brigadier General Mena Barreto, commander of Brazilian 1st Cavalry Division was killed in action. 
 
In Peribibuy the sense of tragedy that had befallen Paraguay touched the Allies for the first time: many of the dead and wounded on the Paraguayan side were children who hardly had age enough to know what was going on. Those children, however, bought Lopez time enough to evacuate his Azcurra camps, moving northeastward toward Campo Grande. 
 
Knowing that Lopez was fleeing to the Bolivian-Paraguayan boundaries, D'Eu ordered an immediate, full-scale pursuit of Lopez vanquished forces. On the 16th, the Triple Alliance Army surrounded the rear of the Paraguayan forces under General Bernardino Caballero at Campo Grande.  
 
The II Corps took the vanguard of the assault. At first they found stiff resistance of the Paraguayan infantry. When the I Corps joined the action, however, Caballero's men were subdued by  Brazilian Cavalry. At the end, Lopez rear force suffered 2,000 dead and the same amount were captured. The Allies had 46 dead as well as  431 wounded. The poorly-equipped Paraguayans were no match for an overwhelming enemy.  
 
From this point, Lopez started fleeing from the enemy until the final blow at Cerro-Cor on March 1, 1870, when he was killed in the last action of the war. His eldest son, Colonel of the Paraguayan Army was also killed. Only then, the Imperial authorities claimed the end of the conflict. 
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Francisco Solano Lpez
 
 
Born in 1826, Francisco Solano Lpez was the first son of Carlos Antonio Lpez, a member of a prestige family of Assuncon.In 1844 his father became Paraguay's President and Lpez was raised to inherit the government of his country.
 
 
 At the age of eighteen he became Brigadier General of the Paraguayan Army. From this point his father made him responsible for the modernization of the Paraguayan Forces.
 
 
 Observers noted that one of most important experience of his life was his stay in Paris in the year of 1853, during his trip to Europe to buy arms.
 
 
 There Solano Lpez observed the intrigues, trappings and pretensions of Europe's countries foreign policy. In particular he became very impressed by Napoleon III, Emperor of France.
 
 
When he returned to Paraguay he was not alone. Elisa Alicia Lynch, an Irish woman he met in Paris, was with him. After Lpez father's death in 1862 and the consolidation of power, she became a person of enormous influence in Paraguay. She bore Lpez five sons.
 
 
Immediately after Solano Lpez achieved power, the relations with the neighbors countries begin to deteriorate. The main problem was the disputed lands with Brazil and the influence he reputed excessive of the Empire on La Plata Region.
 
 
It does not mean that Solano Lpez was responsible for the war. Its causes were complex and have to do with the historical animosity between the new countries inherited from Portugal and Spain. The fac, however, t is that at the end of his policy maneuvers, two traditional enemies joined together in order to put an end to  his government.
 
 
  
 
 Solano Lpez, El Supremo, President of the Paraguayan Republic (1862-1870)
 
 
Still today, Solano Lpez is a controversial person. For some, his foreign policy was a complete disaster. He undertook a war he could not win. His anxiety for recognition led to miscalculations and errors, which resulted in Paraguay's submersion as a free country for at least a decade.
 
 
For others, he was a hero, a patriot who resisted to  Argentina and Brazil aggressive plans of isolating Paraguay. A man who mobilized the nation for a five years war against powerful enemies.
 
 
Despite the different opinions, one fact is true: he fought until the last breath. On March 1, 1870, he was killed in the last action of the war.
 
 
 Elisa Lynch buried Solano Lpez with her own hands.
 
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Statistics
 
 
Population     
Argentina 1,500,000  
Brazil 8,500,000  
Paraguay 800,000  
Uruguay  200,000
 
Forces (army and navy)
Allies    195,000  
Paraguay  80,000  
 
Losses  
 
 
Allies   90,000 to 100,000 dead
(including civilians)  
Paraguay    120,000 to160,000 dead
(including civilians)  
 
 
Main Battles
 []
 
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Humait  
 
 
 click here 
 
The Allied failure in Curupaity led to ten months of restless peace between the two opponents. Nonetheless, skirmishing, sniping and daily bombardment kept the armies on alert. 
Located on the Passo de La Ptria side of Paraguay River, Humait Fortress successfully prevented the Allied Fleet from reaching Assuncon. The fortified system of defense, which Humait was the strongest point, lay from the shoreline of Paraguay River to the openings and passages near the swamps of Estero Bellaco. It consisted of lines of trenches, strongholds and a moat on Curupaity side of the river. Near the shore great boxes of stones were sank to prevail land operations. A British diplomat who visited Humait in 1867 noted: 
 
"The riverside batteries of Humait at present mount only 46 guns, namely one 80-pounder, four 68-pounders, eight 32-pounders;the rest are of different calibers. The battery of Curupaity towards the river mounts thirty 32-pounders. The center is defended by about a hundred guns. On the left are 117 guns, including four 68-pounders, one 40-pounder rifled Whitworth(...), one 13-inch mortar, fourteen 32-pounders and many rifled 12-pounders. Humait on the land  side is protected by three lines of earthworks, on the innermost of which 87 guns are mounted. Total on the left, 204 guns. The grand total is, therefore, 380 guns" 
Only by frontal assault or by the fleet's passage of the fortress the Allies could take the system of trenches, referred by them as the Quadriltero. By November, 1866, the Allied Fleet began incessantly bombarding of the Quadriltero. The major problem of the navy was the shallow waters around Humait and Curupaity. This kept the ships at some distance making difficult an effective fire support. Thus, the cannonballs themselves made little harm to the Paraguayan defenses. They were, however, good to maintain the morale of the Allies after Curupaity. In January, 1867, however, a shell struck General Daz' canoe in a reconnaissance duty. He died almost a month later on February 7.  
  
 
With Paran River blocked since June, 1865, the Paraguayan Army was in great need of supplies and ammunition. Lpez gave orders no to fire a single shot unless a worthy target came into range of  cannons. After Curupaity, the army relied at most on re-used shells launched by the enemy fleet or captured weapons.   
 
 Along the Quadriltero perimeter, Lpez had at disposal 20,000 men; some 15,000 infantry, 3,500 cavalry and 1,500 artillerymen. This army, nevertheless, represented the last manpower resources available. Most of the best units had vanished. In their place there were only young boys and old men.  
 
The only advantage his troops had was the terrain. It was crossed by innumerable streams and covered by  broad swamps and thicket. The enemies would have to pay a high price for each meter they gain.  
 
 
 Marquis of Caxias, commander-in-chief of the Allies since November 1866 
Meantime, the Allies were facing  their own problems.  
 
 
The new commander-in-chief, General Lus Alves de Lima e Silva, Marquis of Caxias, encountered the Alliance Forces in chaotically circumstances. By the time he arrived in Passo de La Ptria in November, 1866, the Imperial Army alone had suffered 10,000 casualties caused by cholera and looseness since April, 1866. Others 7,000 to 8,000 were killed or wounded in combat. Besides, the Argentinean and Uruguayan armies were reduced in the war zone. Finally, the navy was in need of new units in order to face Humait fire power. 
Caxias decided for a continuous reinforcement of the army by a steady flow of recruits and acquisition of new rifles and artillery pieces. His plan was simple: he would keep the bombardment of Humait as the forces at his disposal grew day after day. Then, he would launch a slow but enduring movement to strangle Lpez' position. The Allies would concentrate on defeating the lines of trenches one by one. Once Humait was encircled and weakened it would be attacked. It would take months before the army ranks grew and the navy received new armored monitors, but Caxias was a patient commander. He knew that a frontal assault would result in defeat. 
By mid-July, 1867 the force reached its climax. The Triple Alliance Force grew to almost 45,000 troops, of which 40,000 were Brazilians, some 4,000 were Argentineans and a few hundreds were Uruguayans. 
 
 Caxias first planned a flank maneuver to encircle the Quadriltero. The I Corps of the Imperial Army would joined the newly formed III Corps to head to San Solano, northward of Humait. The march involved the passage though difficult terrain, where sometime a man could barely walk with water around the chest. Lieutenant-General Osrio was given command of the the III Corps and would lead the march. Meanwhile, the II Corps would remain at Tuyuty as reserve force and also to protect the lines along Estero Bellaco. 
 
At day break of July 22, Osrio began moving. By nightfall he reached San Solano from where the tower of Humait Church could be seen. A battery of guns was positioned there. He left some men on San Solano and moved to join the I Corps again to assault the Upper Paran, cleaning the area from any Paraguayan presence. 
 
 On August 18, the fleet succeeded in forcing the passage at Curupaity. The Paraguayans withdrew to inner positions inside the Quadriltero. 
 
 On November 2, the siege by land is completed with the fall of Tay, a small fortified position. 
 
 The gradual encirclement forced the cut of communication between Humait and Assuncon. The pressure on the Paraguayan lines led Lpez to plan a swift assault on Tuyuty. He believed that this maneuver at the most improbable point of the front could succeed in breaking the siege, bringing some relief to his troops. 
 
 General Barrios was chosen to command the attack. He also had orders to bring as many prisoners he could along with supplies and weapons. On the morning of November 3, he led 8,000 troops in the assault. By this time, the action took the Allies in amazing surprise. The first units Barrios' men met offered little resistance. They took possession of whatever they could and soon the attack became a looting. At this time the II Corps, under Porto Alegre, recovered from surprise. In the fray he gathered five battalions to give combat to the assailants. Leading from ahead, Porto Alegre had two horses killed from under him. He stopped just when the wounds he received unable him to continue. 
When the Paraguayans withdrew they brought with them 14 cannons and 250 prisoners. 
 
 The attack although inconclusive, showed the Allies that the Paraguayans were still capable to make offensive movements. They also had a moral victory by making prisoners and bringing supply and weapons to their lines. Notwithstanding, the attack did not achieve its strategic aim: the siege was not lifted. On the contrary, after the Second Tuyuty, Caxias' determination to tight the siege increased. The bombardment of Humait proceeded while small movements gained more terrain. 
 
With some units of the I Corps he steered ahead to La Cierva redoubt only two miles north of Humait, on February 18, 1868. After a fierce resistance, the Paraguayans, much outnumbered, retreated and by nightfall the place was under firm control of Caxias' men. In this fight, the Paraguayan losses amounted to 150 casualties while the I Corps losses totaled almost 600. 
 
At that same time, the fleet forced the passage over Humait. despite the heavy fire the armored ships Barroso, Tamandar and Brasil were successful in reaching a position above the fortress. The way to Assuncon lay open. The ships steamed north and by the morning of the 24th Assuncon was briefly bombarded. This fact had a immense impact over Paraguay's leadership. Some of them became conscious that the war was lost. 
 
 On the night of March 1, Lpez launched a desperate attack on the Brazilian warships anchored above Humaita. He gathered a fleet of canoes and sent it against the armored monitors Herval, Barroso and Brasil. The failure costed the Paraguayan many lives while the Brazilians sustained only a dead and some wounded. Thus, Lpez decided for the evacuation of Humait. During two days, the 2nd and 3rd, mainly by night, he led the bulk of his forces to the Chaco. According to some sources, he fled Humait with a force of 10,000 to 12,000 strong, leaving a garrison of some 3,000 under Colonel Paulino Aln to meet the enemy. Aln was ordered to resist until the last man. 
 
 Nevertheless, on the 21th, the last defensible stronghold around Humait fell to the II Corps. The next day, the remaining Paraguayan forces inside the Quadriltero sought shelter in the fortress. 
 
 Despite the growing pressure, the defenders of Humait continued to fight. A road opened in the Chaco from where they received some aid, fell to the enemy. Colonel Francisco Martinez, the second-in-command in Humait were facing growing difficulties. After Colonel Aln's attempt of suicide he assumed command of Humait with little food, scarce ammunition, sickness decimating his troops and no hope of reinforcements. Notwithstanding, on July 16, he resisted an assault by the Brazilian troops. From the wall ,the defenders shot deadly volleys on the assailants. The 3rd Corps units pulled back. The Paraguayans suffered in the attack 261 casualties while the enemy sustained 1,031.The Paraguayans still persisted.  
 
Caxias was convinced that the Paraguayans could not maintain the position for much time and decided to keep the pressure. On the night of the 24th, Martinez fled the fortress crossing to the Chaco. The allies entered Humait the following day. 
 
 This did not mean the end of the fight in the outskirts of the fortress. Caxias ordered a final assault on Anda, the last position guarded by Martinez in the Chaco. On the 28th three battalions were sent to expel the Paraguayans from that position, forcing them to surrender. Martinez, however, held the position. 
On August 5, however,  convinced of the hopelessness of his situation Martinez decided to surrender. The remaining 1,300 officers and men on his command were imprisoned. The struggle for Humait was finally over. Both sides were mauled terribly. 
 
The Allies estimates of  casualties are suspicious low for the entire campaign. Brazilian sources put the amount of Allies casualties in 8,065 since September, 1866. A more reliable figure, however, can be put in some 10,000 since July , 1867. The Paraguayans, as far as we know, suffered 4,100 casualties among dead, wounded and captured. 
 
The fall of Humait removed all obstacles from the path of Allied occupation of Assuncon. from this point the war became disastrous to Paraguay. Pushing the fight to the inner villages of Paraguay, the Allies and the Paraguayan Army brought not only war but also cholera to the countryside  inhabitants.
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Paraguay

The Sword of the Word

During the next 200 years, the Roman Catholic Church--especially the ascetic, single-minded members of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits)--had much more influence on the colony's social and economic life than the feckless governors who succeeded Irala. Three Jesuits--an Irishman, a Catalan, and a Portuguese--arrived in 1588 from Brazil. They promptly moved from Asunción to proselytize among the Indians along the upper Río Paraná. Because they already believed in an impersonal, supreme being, the Guaraní proved to be good pupils of the Jesuits.

In 1610 Philip III (1598-1621) proclaimed that only the "sword of the word" should be used to subdue the Paraguayan Indians, thus making them happy subjects. The church granted extensive powers to Jesuit Father Diego de Torres to implement a new plan, with royal blessings, that foresaw an end to the encomienda system. This plan angered the settlers, whose lifestyle depended on a continuing supply of Indian labor and concubines. The settlers' resistance helped convince the Jesuits to move their base of operations farther afield to the province of Guayrá in the distant northeast. After unsuccessful attempts to "civilize" the recalcitrant Guaycurú, the Jesuits eventually put all their efforts into working with the Guaraní. Organizing the Guaraní in reducciones (reductions or townships), the hard-working fathers began a system that would last more than a century. In one of history's greatest experiments in communal living, the Jesuits had soon organized about 100,000 Guaraní in about 20 reducciones, and they dreamed of a Jesuit empire that would stretch from the Paraguay-Paraná confluence to the coast and back to the Paraná headwaters.

The new Jesuit reducciones were unfortunately within striking distance of the mamelucos, the slave-raiding, mixed-race descendants of Portuguese and Dutch adventurers. The mamelucos were based in Sâo Paulo, Brazil, which had become a haven for freebooters and pirates by the early 1600s because it was beyond the control of the Portuguese colonial governor. The mamelucos survived mostly by capturing Indians and selling them as slaves to Brazilian planters. Having depleted the Indian population near Sâo Paulo, they ventured farther afield until they discovered the richly populated reducciones. The Spanish authorities chose not to defend the settlements.

Spain and Portugal were united from 1580 to 1640. Although their colonial subjects were at war, the governor of Rio de la Plata Province had little incentive to send scarce troops and supplies against an enemy who was nominally of the same nationality. In addition, the Jesuits were not popular in Asunción, where the settlers had the governor's ear. The Jesuits and their thousands of neophytes thus had little means to protect themselves from the depredations of the "Paulistas," as the mamelucos also were called (because they came from Sâo Paulo). In one such raid in 1629, about 3,000 Paulistas destroyed the reducciones in their path by burning churches, killing old people and infants (who were worthless as slaves), and carrying off to the coast entire human populations, as well as cattle. Their first raids on the reducciones netted them at least 15,000 captives.

Faced with the awesome challenge of a virtual holocaust that was frightening away their neophytes and encouraging them to revert to paganism, the Jesuits took drastic measures. Under the leadership of Father Antonio Ruíz de Montoya, as many as 30,000 Indians (2,500 families) retreated by canoe and traveled hundreds of kilometers south to another large concentration of Jesuit reducciones near the lower Paraná. About 12,000 people survived. But the retreat failed to deter the Paulistas, who continued to raid and carry off slaves until even the reducciones far to the south faced extinction. The Paulista threat ended only after 1639, when the viceroy in Peru agreed to allow Indians to bear arms. Welltrained and highly motivated Indian units, serving under Jesuit officers, bloodied the raiders and drove them off.

Victory over the Paulistas set the stage for the golden age of the Jesuits in Paraguay. The Guaraní were unaccustomed to the discipline and the sedentary life prevalent in the reducciones, but adapted to it readily because it offered them higher living standards, protection from settlers, and physical security. By 1700 the Jesuits could again count 100,000 neophytes in about 30 reducciones. The reducciones exported goods, including cotton and linen cloth, hides, tobacco, lumber, and above all, yerba maté, a plant used to produce a bitter tea that is popular in Paraguay and Argentina. The Jesuits also raised food crops and taught arts and crafts. In addition, they were able to render considerable service to the crown by supplying Indian armies for use against attacks by the Portuguese, English, and French. At the time of the expulsion of the Jesuits from the Spanish Empire in 1767, the reducciones were enormously wealthy and comprised more than 21,000 families. Their vast herds included approximately 725,000 head of cattle, 47,000 oxen, 99,000 horses, 230,000 sheep, 14,000 mules, and 8,000 donkeys.

Because of their success, the 14,000 Jesuits who had volunteered over the years to serve in Paraguay gained many enemies. They were a continual goad to the settlers, who viewed them with envy and resentment and spread rumors of hidden gold mines and the threat to the crown from an independent Jesuit republic. To the crown, the reducciones seemed like an increasingly ripe plum, ready for picking.

The reducciones fell prey to changing times. During the 1720s and 1730s, Paraguayan settlers rebelled against Jesuit privileges and the government that protected them. Although this revolt failed, it was one of the earliest and most serious risings against Spanish authority in the New World and caused the crown to question its continued support for the Jesuits. The Jesuit-inspired War of the Seven Reductions (1750-61), which was fought to prevent the transfer to Portugal of seven missions south of the Río Uruguay, increased sentiment in Madrid for suppressing this "empire within an empire."

In a move to gain the reducciones' wealth to help finance a planned reform of Spanish administration in the New World, the Spanish king, Charles III (1759-88), expelled the Jesuits in 1767. Within a few decades of the expulsion, most of what the Jesuits had accomplished was lost. The missions lost their valuables, became mismanaged, and were abandoned by the Guaraní. The Jesuits vanished almost without a trace. Today, a few weed-choked ruins are all that remain of this 160-year period in Paraguayan history.

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Paraguay

INDEPENDENCE AND DICTATORSHIP

[PDF]

Figure 2. Southern Viceroyalties, 1776

Source: Based on information from A. Curtis Wilgus, Historical Atlas of Latin America: Political, Geographical, Economic, Cultural, New York, 1967, 112.

Struggle with the Porteños

The Viceroyalty of Peru and the Audiencia of Charcas had nominal authority over Paraguay, while Madrid largely neglected the colony. Madrid preferred to avoid the intricacies and the expense of governing and defending a remote colony that had shown early promise but ultimately proved to have dubious value. Thus, governors of Paraguay had no royal troops at their disposal and were instead dependent on a militia composed of colonists. Paraguayans took advantage of this situation and claimed that the 1537 cédula gave them the right to choose and depose their governors. The colony, and in particular the Asunción municipal council (cabildo), earned the reputation of being in continual revolt against the crown.

Tensions between royal authorities and settlers came to a head in 1720 over the status of the Jesuits, whose efforts to organize the Indians had denied the settlers easy access to Indian labor. A full-scale rebellion, known as the Comuñero Revolt, broke out when the viceroy in Lima reinstated a pro-Jesuit governor whom the settlers had deposed. The revolt was in many ways a rehearsal for the radical events that began with independence in 1811. The most prosperous families of Asunción (whose yerba maté and tobacco plantations competed directly with the Jesuits) initially led this revolt. But as the movement attracted support from poor farmers in the interior, the rich abandoned it and soon asked the royal authorities to restore order. In response, subsistence farmers began to seize the estates of the upper class and drive them out of the countryside. A radical army nearly captured Asunción and was repulsed, ironically, only with the help of Indian troops from the Jesuit reducciones.

The revolt was symptomatic of decline. Since the refounding of Buenos Aires in 1580, the steady deterioration in the importance of Asunción contributed to growing political instability within the province. In 1617 the Río de la Plata Province was divided into two smaller provinces: Paraguay, with Asunción as its capital, and Río de la Plata, with headquarters in Buenos Aires. With this action, Asunción lost control of the Río de la Plata Estuary and became dependent on Buenos Aires for maritime shipping. In 1776 the crown created the Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata; Paraguay, which had been subordinate to Lima, now became an outpost of Buenos Aires (see fig. 2). Located at the periphery of the empire, Paraguay served as a buffer state. The Portuguese blocked Paraguayan territorial expansion in the north, Indians blocked it--until their expulsion--in the south, and the Jesuits blocked it in the east. Paraguayans were forced into the colonial militia to serve extended tours of duty away from their homes, contributing to a severe labor shortage.

Because Paraguay was located far from colonial centers, it had little control over important decisions that affected its economy. Spain appropriated much of Paraguay's wealth through burdensome taxes and regulations. Yerba maté, for instance, was priced practically out of the regional market. At the same time, Spain was using most of its wealth from the New World to import manufactured goods from the more industrialized countries of Europe, notably Britain. Spanish merchants borrowed from British merchants to finance their purchases; merchants in Buenos Aires borrowed from Spain; those in Asunción borrowed from the porteños (as residents of Buenos Aires were called); and Paraguayan peones (landless peasants in debt to landlords) bought goods on credit. The result was dire poverty in Paraguay and an increasingly impoverished empire.

The French Revolution, the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the subsequent war in Europe inevitably weakened Spain's ability to maintain contact with and defend and control its colonies. When British troops attempted to seize Buenos Aires in 1806, the attack was repulsed by the city's residents, not by Spain. Napoleon's invasion of Spain in 1808, the capture of the Spanish king, Ferdinand VII (ruled 1808, 1814-33), and Napoleon's attempt to put his brother, Joseph Bonaparte, on the Spanish throne, severed the major remaining links between metropolis and satellite. Joseph had no constituency in Spanish America. Without a king, the entire colonial system lost its legitimacy, and the colonists revolted. Buoyed by their recent victory over British troops, the Buenos Aires cabildo deposed the Spanish viceroy on May 25, 1810, vowing to rule in the name of Ferdinand VII.

The porteño action had unforseen consequences for the histories of Argentina and Paraguay. News of the events in Buenos Aires at first stunned the citizens of Asunción, who had largely supported the royalist position. But no matter how grave the offenses of the ancien régime may have been, they were far less rankling to the proud Paraguayans than the indignity of being told to take orders from the porteños. After all, Paraguay had been a thriving, established colony when Buenos Aires was only a squalid settlement on the edge of the empty pampas.

The porteños bungled their effort to extend control over Paraguay by choosing José Espínola y Peña as their spokesman in Asunción. Espínola was "perhaps the most hated Paraguayan of his era," in the words of historian John Hoyt Williams. Espínola's reception in Asunción was less than cordial, partly because he was closely linked to rapacious policies of the ex-governor, Lázaro de Rivera, who had arbitrarily shot hundreds of his citizens until he was forced from office in 1805. Barely escaping a term of exile in Paraguay's far north, Espínola fled back to Buenos Aires and lied about the extent of porteño support in Paraguay, causing the Buenos Aires cabildo to make an equally disastrous move. In a bid to settle the issue by force, the cabildo sent 1,100 troops under General Manuel Belgrano to subdue Asunción. Paraguayan troops soundly thrashed the porteños at Paraguarí and Tacuarí. Officers from both armies, however, fraternized openly during the campaign. From these contacts the Paraguayans came to realize that Spanish dominance in South America was coming to an end, and that they, and not the Spaniards, held the real power.

If the Espínola and Belgrano affairs served to whet nationalist passions in Paraguay, the Paraguayan royalists' ill-conceived actions that followed inflamed them. Believing that the Paraguayan officers who had whipped the porteños posed a direct threat to his rule, Governor Bernardo de Velasco dispersed and disarmed the forces under his command and sent most of the soldiers home without paying them for their eight months of service. Velasco previously had lost face when he fled the battlefield at Paraguarí, thinking Belgrano would win. Discontent spread, and the last straw was the request by the Asunción cabildo for Portuguese military support against Belgrano's forces, who were encamped just over the border in present-day Argentina. Far from bolstering the cabildo's position, this move instantly ignited an uprising and the overthrow of Spanish authority in Paraguay on May 14 and 15, 1811. Independence was declared on May 17.

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Paraguay

The Rise of José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia

José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia was one of the greatest figures in Paraguayan history. Ruling from 1814 until his death in 1840, Francia succeeded almost single-handedly in building a strong, prosperous, secure, and independent nation at a time when Paraguay's continued existence as a distinct country seemed unlikely. He left Paraguay at peace, with government coffers full and many infant industries flourishing. Frugal, honest, competent, and diligent, Francia was tremendously popular with the lower classes. But despite his popularity, Francia trampled on human rights, imposing an authoritarian police state based on espionage and coercion. Under Francia, Paraguay underwent a social upheaval that destroyed the old elites.

Paraguay at independence was a relatively undeveloped area. Most residents of Asunción and virtually all rural settlers were illiterate. Urban elites did have access to private schools and tutoring. University education was, however, restricted to the few who could afford studies at the University of Córdoba, in presentday Argentina. Practically no one had any experience in government, finance, or administration. The settlers treated the Indians as little better than slaves, and the paternalistic clergy treated them like children. The country was surrounded by hostile neighbors, including the warlike Chaco tribes. Strong measures were needed to save the country from disintegration.

Francia, born in 1766, spent his student days studying theology at the College of Monserrat at the University of Córdoba. Although he was dogged by suggestions that his father--a Brazilian tobacco expert--was a mulatto, Francia was awarded a coveted chair of theology at the Seminary of San Carlos in Asunción in 1790. His radical views made his position as a teacher there untenable, and he soon gave up theology to study law. A devotee of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, a keen reader of Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and the French Encyclopedists, Francia had the largest library in Asunción. His interest in astronomy, combined with his knowledge of French and other subjects considered arcane in Asunción, caused some superstitious Paraguayans to regard him as a wizard capable of predicting the future. As a lawyer, he became a social activist and defended the less fortunate against the affluent. He demonstrated an early interest in politics and attained with difficulty the position of alcalde del primer voto, or head of the Asunción cabildo, by 1809, the highest position he could aspire to as a criollo.

After the cuartelazo (coup d'état) of May 14-15, which brought independence, Francia became a member of the ruling junta. Although real power rested with the military, Francia's many talents attracted support from the nation's farmers. Probably the only man in Paraguay with diplomatic, financial, and administrative skills, Francia built his power base on his organizational abilities and his forceful personality. By outwitting porteño diplomats in the negotiations that produced the Treaty of October 11, 1811 (in which Argentina implicitly recognized Paraguayan independence in return for vague promises of a military alliance), Francia proved that he possessed skills crucial to the future of the country.

Francia consolidated his power by convincing the insecure Paraguayan elite that he was indispensable. But at the end of 1811, dissatisfied with the political role that military officers were beginning to play, he resigned from the junta. From his retirement in his modest chacra (cottage or hut) at Ibaray, near Asunción, he told countless ordinary citizens who came to visit him that their revolution had been betrayed, that the change in government had only traded a Spanish-born elite for a criollo one, and that the present government was incompetent and mismanaged. In fact, the country was rapidly heading for a crisis. Not only were the Portuguese threatening to overrun the northern frontiers, but Argentina had also practically closed the Río de la Plata to Paraguayan commerce by levying taxes and seizing ships. To make matters worse, the porteño government agitated for Paraguayan military assistance against the Spanish in Uruguay and, disregarding the Treaty of October 11, for unification of Paraguay with Argentina. The porteño government also informed the junta it wanted to reopen talks.

When the junta learned that a porteño diplomat was on his way to Asunción, it panicked because it realized it was not competent to negotiate without Francia. In November 1812, the junta members invited Francia to take charge of foreign policy, an offer Francia accepted. In return, the junta agreed to place one-half of the army and half the available munitions under Francia's command. In the absence of anyone equal to him on the junta, Francia now controlled the government. When the Argentine envoy, Nicolás de Herrera, arrived in May 1813, he learned to his dismay that all decisions had to await the meeting of a Paraguayan congress in late September. Meanwhile, Paraguay again declared itself independent of Argentina and expelled two junta members known to be sympathetic to union with Argentina. Under virtual house arrest, Herrera had little scope to build support for unification, even though he resorted to bribery.

The congress, which met on September 30, 1813, was certainly the first of its kind in Latin America. There were more than 1,100 delegates chosen by universal male suffrage, and many of these delegates represented the poor, rural Paraguayan majority. Ironically, the decisions of this democratically elected body would set the stage for a long dictatorship. Herrera was neither allowed to attend the sessions, nor to present his declaration; instead the congress gave overwhelming support to Francia's anti-imperialist foreign policy. The delegates rejected a proposal for Paraguayan attendance at a constitutional congress at Buenos Aires and established a Paraguayan republic--the first in Spanish America-- with Francia as first consul. Francia was supposed to trade places every four months with the second consul, Fulgencio Yegros, but Francia's consulship marked the beginning of his direct rule because Yegros was little more than a figurehead. Yegros, a man without political ambitions, represented the nationalist criollo military elite, but Francia was the more powerful because he derived his strength from the nationalist masses.

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Paraguay

El Supremo Dictador

Francia, described by a historian as "the frail man in the black frock coat," admired and emulated the most radical elements of the French Revolution. Although he has been compared to the Jacobin leader Maximilien de Robespierre (1758-94), Francia's policies and ideals perhaps most closely resembled those of François-Noël Babeuf, a French utopian who wanted to abolish private property and communalize land as a prelude to founding a "republic of equals." Francia detested the political culture of the old regime and considered himself a "revolutionary."

In essence, the government of Caraí Guazú ("Great Señor," as Francia was called by the poor) was a dictatorship that destroyed the power of the elite and advanced the interests of common Paraguayans. A system of internal espionage destroyed free speech. People were arrested without charge and disappeared without trial. Torture in the so-called Chamber of Truth was applied to those suspected of plotting to overthrow Francia. Francia sent political prisoners--numbering approximately 400 in any given year--to a detention camp where they were shackled in dungeons and denied medical care and even the use of sanitary facilities. In an indirect act of revenge against people who had discriminated against him because of his supposed "impure blood," Francia forbade Europeans from marrying other Europeans, thus forcing the elite to choose spouses from among the local population. Francia tightly sealed Paraguay's borders to the outside world and executed anyone who attempted to leave the country. Foreigners who managed to enter Paraguay had to remain there for the rest of their lives. Paraguayan commerce declined practically to nil. The decline ruined exporters of yerba maté and tobacco. These measures fell most harshly on the members of the former ruling class of Spanish or Spanish-descended church officials, military officers, merchants, and hacendados (large landowners).

In 1820, four years after a Paraguayan congress had named Francia dictator for life with the title El Supremo Dictador (supreme dictator), Francia's security system uncovered and quickly crushed a plot by the elite to assassinate El Supremo. Francia arrested almost 200 prominent Paraguayans and eventually executed most of them. In 1821 Francia struck again, summoning all of Paraguay's 300 or so peninsulares (people born in Spain) to Asunción's main square, where he accused them of treason, had them arrested, and led them off to jail for 18 months. Francia released them only after they agreed to pay an enormous collective indemnity of 150,000 pesos (about 75 percent of the annual state budget), an amount so large that it broke their predominance in the Paraguayan economy.

One of Francia's special targets was the Roman Catholic Church. The church had provided an essential ideological underpinning to Spanish rule by spreading the doctrine of the "divine right of kings" and inculcating the Indian masses with a resigned fatalism about their social status and economic prospects. Francia banned religious orders, closed the country's only seminary, "secularized" monks and priests by forcing them to swear loyalty to the state, abolished the fuero eclesiástico (the privilege of clerical immunity from civil courts), confiscated church property, and subordinated church finances to state control.

The common people of Paraguay benefited from the repression of the traditional elites and the expansion of the state. The state took land from the elite and the church and leased it to the poor. About 875 families received homesteads from the lands of the former seminary. The various fines and confiscations levied on the criollos helped reduce taxes for everyone else. As a result, Francia's attacks on the elite and his state socialist policies provoked little popular resistance. The fines, expropriations, and confiscations of foreign-held property meant that the state quickly became the nation's largest landowner, eventually operating fortyfive animal-breeding farms. Run by army personnel, the farms were so successful that the surplus animals were given away to the peasants.

In contrast to other states in the region, Paraguay was efficiently and honestly administered, stable, and secure (the army having grown to 1,800 regulars). Crime continued to exist during the Franciata (the period of Francia's rule), but criminals were treated leniently. Murderers, for example, were put to work on public projects. Asylum for political refugees from other countries became a Paraguayan hallmark. An extremely frugal and honest man, Francia left the state treasury with at least twice as much money in it as when he took office, including 36,500 pesos of his unspent salary, or at least several years' salary.

The state soon developed native industries in shipbuilding and textiles, a centrally planned and administered agricultural sector, which was more diversified and productive than the prior export monoculture, and other manufacturing capabilities. These developments supported Francia's policy of virtual economic autarchy.

But Francia's greatest accomplishment--the preservation of Paraguayan independence--resulted directly from a noninterventionist foreign policy. Deciding that Argentina was a potential threat to Paraguay, he shifted his foreign policy toward Brazil by quickly recognizing Brazilian independence in 1821. This move, however, resulted in no special favors for the Brazilians from Francia, who was also on good, if limited, terms with Juan Manuel Rosas, the Argentine dictator. Francia prevented civil war and secured his role as dictator when he cut off his internal enemies from their friends in Buenos Aires. Despite his "isolationist" policies, Francia conducted a profitable but closely supervised import-export trade with both countries to obtain key foreign goods, particularly armaments. A more activist foreign policy than Francia's probably would have made Paraguay a battleground amid the swirl of revolution and war that swept Argentina, Uruguay, and southern Brazil in the decades following independence.

All of these political and economic developments put Paraguay on the path of independent nationhood, yet the country's undoubted progress during the years of the Franciata took place because of complete popular abdication to Francia's will. El Supremo personally controlled every aspect of Paraguayan public life. No decision at the state level, no matter how small, could be made without his approval. All of Paraguay's accomplishments during this period, including its existence as a nation, were attributable almost entirely to Francia. The common people saw these accomplishments as Francia's gifts, but along with these gifts came political passivity and naïveté among most Paraguayans.

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Paraguay

DICTATORSHIP AND WAR

Carlos Antonio López

[JPEG]

Residence of Carlos Antonio López and Francisco Solano López, Asunción
Courtesy Tim Merrill

[JPEG]

Santísima Trinidad Church in Asunción, the original burial place of Carlos Antonio López
Courtesy Tim Merrill

Confusion overtook the state in the aftermath of Francia's death on September 20, 1840, because El Supremo, now El Difunto (the Dead One), had left no successor. After a few days, a junta emerged, freed some political prisoners, and soon proved itself ineffectual at governing. In January 1841, the junta was overthrown. Another coup followed sixteen days later, and chaos continued until in March 1841 congress chose Carlos Antonio López as first consul. In 1844 another congress named López president of the republic, a post he held until his death in 1862. Paraguay had its second dictator.

López, a lawyer, was one of the most educated men in the country. Until his elevation to consul, López, born in 1787, had lived in relative obscurity. Although López's government was similar to Francia's system, his appearance, style, and policies were quite different. In contrast to Francia, who was lean, López was obese--a "great tidal wave of human flesh," according to one who knew him. López was a despot who wanted to found a dynasty and run Paraguay like a personal fiefdom. Francia had pictured himself as the first citizen of a revolutionary state, whereas López used the all-powerful state bequeathed by the proverbially honest Francia to enrich himself and his family.

López soon became the largest landowner and cattle rancher in the country, amassing a fortune, which he augmented with the state's monopoly profits from the yerba maté trade. Despite his greed, Paraguay prospered under El Excelentísimo (the Most Excellent One), as López was known. Under López, Paraguay's population increased from about 220,000 in 1840 to about 400,000 in 1860. Several highways and a telegraph system were built. A British firm began building a railroad, one of South America's first, in 1858. During his term of office, López improved national defense, abolished the remnants of the reducciones, stimulated economic development, and tried to strengthen relations with foreign countries. He also took measures to reduce the threat to settled Paraguayans from the marauding Indian tribes that still roamed the Chaco. Paraguay also made large strides in education. When López took office, Asunción had only one primary school. During López's reign, more than 400 schools were built for 25,000 primary students, and the state reinstituted secondary education. López's educational development plans progressed with difficulty, however, because Francia had purged the country of the educated elite, which included teachers.

Less rigorous than Francia, López loosened restrictions on foreign intercourse, boosted exports, invited foreign physicians, engineers, and investors to settle in Paraguay, and paid for students to study abroad. He also sent his son Francisco Solano to Europe to buy guns.

Like Francia, López had the overriding aim of defending and preserving Paraguay. He launched reforms with this goal in mind. Trade eased arms acquisitions and increased the state's income. Foreign experts helped build an iron factory and a large armory. The new railroad was to be used to transport troops. López used diplomacy to protect the state's interests abroad. Yet despite his apparent liberality, Antonio López was a dictator who held Paraguayans on a tight leash. He allowed Paraguayans no more freedom to oppose the government than they had had under Francia. Congress became his puppet, and the people abdicated their political rights, a situation enshrined in the 1844 constitution, which placed all power in López's hands.

Under López, Paraguay began to tackle the question of slavery, which had existed since early colonial days. Settlers had brought a few slaves to work as domestic servants, but were generally lenient about their bondage. Conditions worsened after 1700, however, with the importation of about 50,000 African slaves to be used as agricultural workers. Under Francia, the state acquired about 1,000 slaves when it confiscated property from the elite. López did not free these slaves; instead, he enacted the 1842 Law of the Free Womb, which ended the slave trade and guaranteed that the children of slaves would be free at age twenty-five. But the new law served only to increase the slave population and depress slave prices as slave birthrates soared.

Foreign relations began to increase in importance under López, who retained Paraguay's traditional mistrust of the surrounding states, yet lacked Francia's diplomatic adroitness. Initially López feared an attack by the Buenos Aires dictator Rosas. With Brazilian encouragement, López had dropped Francia's policy of neutrality and began meddling in Argentine politics. Using the slogan "Independence or Death," López declared war against Rosas in 1845 to support an unsuccessful rebellion in the Argentine province of Corrientes. Although complications with Britain and France prevented him from moving against Paraguay, Rosas quickly established a porteño embargo on Paraguayan goods. After Rosas fell in 1852, López signed a treaty with Buenos Aires that recognized Paraguay's independence, although the porteños never ratified it. In the same year, López signed treaties of friendship, commerce, and navigation with France and the United States. Nonetheless, growing tensions with several countries, including the United States, characterized the second half of López's rule. In 1858 the United States sent a flotilla to Paraguayan waters in a successful action to claim compensation for an American sailor who had been killed three years earlier.

Although he wore his distrust for foreigners like a badge of loyalty to the nation, López was not as cautious as he appeared. López recklessly dropped Francia's key policies of neutrality without making the hard choices and compromises about where his allegiances lay. He allowed unsettled controversies and boundary disputes with Brazil and Argentina to smolder. The two regional giants had tolerated Paraguayan independence, partly because Paraguay served to check the expansionist tendencies of the other. Both were satisfied if the other could not dominate Paraguayan affairs. At the same time, however, a Paraguay that was antagonistic to both Brazil and Argentina would give these countries a reason for uniting.

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Paraguay

Francisco Solano López

Born in 1826, Francisco Solano López became the second and final ruler of the López dynasty. He had a pampered childhood. His father raised him to inherit his mantle and made him a brigadier general at the age of eighteen. He was an insatiable womanizer, and stories abound of the cruel excesses he resorted to when a woman had the courage to turn him down. His 1853 trip to Europe to buy arms was undoubtedly the most important experience of his life; his stay in Paris proved to be a turning point for him. There, Solano López admired the trappings and pretensions of the French empire of Napoleon III. He fell in love with an Irish woman named Elisa Alicia Lynch, whom he made his mistress. "La Lynch," as she became known in Paraguay, was a strong-willed, charming, witty, intelligent woman who became a person of enormous influence in Paraguay because of her relationship with Solano López. Lynch's Parisian manners soon made her a trendsetter in the Paraguayan capital, and she made enemies as quickly as she made friends. Lynch bore Solano López five sons, although the two never married. She became the largest landowner in Paraguay after Solano López transferred most of the country and portions of Brazil to her name during the war, yet she retained practically nothing when the war ended. She buried Solano López with her own hands after the last battle in 1870 and died penniless some years later in Europe.

Solano López consolidated his power after his father's death in 1862 by silencing several hundred critics and would-be reformers through imprisonment. Another Paraguayan congress then unanimously elected him president. Yet Solano López would have done well to heed his father's last words to avoid aggressive acts in foreign affairs, especially with Brazil. Francisco's foreign policy vastly underestimated Paraguay's neighbors and overrated Paraguay's potential as a military power.

Observers sharply disagreed about Solano López. George Thompson, an English engineer who worked for the younger López (he distinguished himself as a Paraguayan officer during the War of the Triple Alliance, and later wrote a book about his experience) had harsh words for his ex-employer and commander, calling him "a monster without parallel." Solano López's conduct laid him open to such charges. In the first place, Solano López's miscalculations and ambitions plunged Paraguay into a war with Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. The war resulted in the deaths of half of Paraguay's population and almost erased the country from the map. During the war, Solano López ordered the executions of his own brothers and had his mother and sisters tortured when he suspected them of opposition. Thousands of others, including Paraguay's bravest soldiers and generals, also went to their deaths before firing squads or were hacked to pieces on Solano López's orders. Others saw Solano López as a paranoid megalomaniac, a man who wanted to be the "Napoleon of South America," willing to reduce his country to ruin and his countrymen to beggars in his vain quest for glory.

However, sympathetic Paraguayan nationalists and foreign revisionist historians have portrayed Solano López as a patriot who resisted to his last breath Argentine and Brazilian designs on Paraguay. They portrayed him as a tragic figure caught in a web of Argentine and Brazilian duplicity who mobilized the nation to repulse its enemies, holding them off heroically for five bloody, horror-filled years until Paraguay was finally overrun and prostrate. Since the 1930s, Paraguayans have regarded Solano López as the nation's foremost hero.

Solano López's basic failing was that he did not recognize the changes that had occurred in the region since Francia's time. Under his father's rule, the protracted, bloody, and distracting birth pangs of Argentina and Uruguay; the bellicose policies of Brazil; and Francia's noninterventionist policies had worked to preserve Paraguayan independence. Matters had decidedly settled down since then in both Argentina and Brazil, as both countries had become surer of their identities and more united. Argentina, for example, began reacting to foreign challenges more as a nation and less like an assortment of squabbling regions, as Paraguayans had grown to expect. Solano López's attempt to leverage Paraguay's emergence as a regional power equal to Argentina and Brazil had disastrous consequences.

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Paraguay

The War of the Triple Alliance

Solano López accurately assessed the September 1864 Brazilian intervention in Uruguay as a slight to the region's lesser powers. He was also correct in his assumption that neither Brazil nor Argentina paid much attention to Paraguay's interests when they formulated their policies. But he concluded incorrectly that preserving Uruguayan "independence" was crucial to Paraguay's future as a nation. Consistent with his plans to start a Paraguayan "third force" between Argentina and Brazil, Solano López committed the nation to Uruguay's aid. When Argentina failed to react to Brazil's invasion of Uruguay, Solano López seized a Brazilian warship in November 1864. He quickly followed this move with an invasion of Mato Grosso, Brazil, in March 1865, an action that proved to be one of Paraguay's few successes during the war. Solano López then decided to strike at his enemy's main force in Uruguay. But Solano López was unaware that Argentina had acquiesced to Brazil's Uruguay policy and would not support Paraguay against Brazil. When Solano López requested permission for his army to cross Argentine territory to attack the Brazilian province of Río Grande do Sul, Argentina refused. Undeterred, Solano López sent his forces into Argentina, probably expecting local strongmen to rebel and remove Argentina from the picture. Instead, the action set the stage for the May 1865 signing by Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay (now reduced to puppet status) of the Treaty of the Triple Alliance. Under the treaty, these nations vowed to destroy Solano López's government.

Paraguay was in no sense prepared for a major war, let alone a war of the scope that Solano López had unleashed. In terms of size, Solano López's 30,000-man army was the most powerful in Latin America. But the army's strength was illusory because it lacked trained leadership, a reliable source of weapons and matériel, and adequate reserves. Since the days of El Supremo, the officer corps had been neglected for political reasons. The army suffered from a critical shortage of key personnel, and many of its fighting units were undermanned. Paraguay lacked the industrial base to replace weapons lost in battle, and the Argentine-Brazilian alliance prevented Solano López from receiving arms from abroad. Paraguay's population was only about 450,000 in 1865--a figure lower than the number of people in the Brazilian National Guard--and amounted to less than one-twentieth of the combined allied population of 11 million. Even after conscripting for the front every able-bodied man--including children as young as ten--and forcing women to perform all nonmilitary labor, Solano López still could not field an army as large as those of his rivals.

Apart from some Paraguayan victories on the northern front, the war was a disaster for Solano López. The core units of the Paraguayan army reached Corrientes in April 1865. By July more than half of Paraguay's 30,000-man invasion force had been killed or captured along with the army's best small arms and artillery. The war quickly became a desperate struggle for Paraguay's survival.

Paraguay's soldiers exhibited suicidal bravery, especially considering that Solano López shot or tortured so many of them for the most trivial offenses. Cavalry units operated on foot for lack of horses. Naval infantry battalions armed only with machetes attacked Brazilian ironclads. The suicide attacks resulted in fields of corpses. Cholera was rampant. By 1867 Paraguay had lost 60,000 men to casualties, disease, or capture, and another 60,000 soldiers were called to duty. Solano López conscripted slaves, and infantry units formed entirely of children appeared. Women were forced to perform support work behind the lines. Matériel shortages were so severe that Paraguayan troops went into battle seminude, and even colonels went barefoot, according to one observer. The defensive nature of the war, combined with Paraguayan tenacity and ingenuity and the difficulty that Brazilians and Argentinians had cooperating with each other, rendered the conflict a war of attrition. In the end, Paraguay lacked the resources to continue waging war against South America's giants.

As the war neared its inevitable denouement, Solano López's grip on reality--never very strong--loosened further. Imagining himself surrounded by a vast conspiracy, he ordered thousands of executions in the military. In addition, he executed 2 brothers and 2 brothers-in-law, scores of top government and military officials, and about 500 foreigners, including many diplomats. He frequently had his victims killed by lance thrusts to save ammunition. The bodies were dumped into mass graves. His cruel treatment of prisoners was proverbial. Solano López condemned troops to death if they failed to carry out his orders to the minutest detail. "Conquer or die" became the order of the day.

Solano López's hostility even extended to United States Ambassador Charles A. Washburn. Only the timely arrival of the United States gunboat Wasp saved the diplomat from arrest.

Allied troops entered Asunción in January 1869, but Solano López held out in the northern jungles for another fourteen months until he finally died in battle. The year 1870 marked the lowest point in Paraguayan history. Hundreds of thousands of Paraguayans had died. Destitute and practically destroyed, Paraguay had to endure a lengthy occupation by foreign troops and cede large patches of territory to Brazil and Argentina.

Despite several historians' accounts of what happened between 1865 and 1870, Solano López was not wholly responsible for the war. Its causes were complex and included Argentine anger over Antonio López's meddling in Corrientes. The elder López also had infuriated the Brazilians by not helping to overthrow Rosas in 1852 and by forcing Brazilian garrisons out of territory claimed by Paraguay in 1850 and 1855. Antonio López also resented having been forced to grant Brazil free navigation rights on the Río Paraguay in 1858. Argentina meanwhile disputed ownership of the Misiones district between the Río Paraná and Río Uruguay, and Brazil had its own ideas about the Brazil-Paraguay boundary. To these problems was added the Uruguayan vortex. Carlos Antonio López had survived mainly with caution and a good bit of luck; Solano López had neither.

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Paraguay

LIBERALS VERSUS COLORADOS

The Postwar Period

Ruined by war, pestilence, famine, and foreign indemnities (which were never paid), Paraguay was on the verge of disintegration in 1870. But its fertile soil and the country's overall backwardness probably helped it survive. After the war, Paraguay's mostly rural populace continued to subsist as it had done for centuries, eking out a meager existence in the hinterland under unimaginably difficult conditions. The allied occupation of Asunción in 1869 put the victors in direct control of Paraguayan affairs. While Bolivia pressed its nebulous claim to the Chaco, Argentina and Brazil swallowed huge chunks of Paraguayan territory (around 154,000 square kilometers).

Brazil had borne the brunt of the fighting, with perhaps 150,000 dead and 65,000 wounded. It had spent US$200 million, and its troops formed the senior army of occupation in the country, so it was logical that Rio de Janeiro temporarily overshadowed Buenos Aires in Asunción. Sharp disagreements between the two powers prolonged the occupation until 1876. Ownership of the Paraguayan economy quickly passed to foreign speculators and adventurers who rushed to take advantage of the rampant chaos and corruption.

The internal political vacuum was at first dominated by survivors of the Paraguayan Legion. This group of exiles, based in Buenos Aires, had regarded Solano López as a mad tyrant and fought for the allies during the war. The group set up a provisional government in 1869 mainly under Brazilian auspices and signed the 1870 peace accords, which guaranteed Paraguay's independence and free river navigation. A constitution was also promulgated in the same year, but it proved ineffective because of the foreign origin of its liberal, democratic tenets. After the last foreign troops had gone in 1876 and an arbitral award to Paraguay of the area between the Río Verde and Río Pilcomayo by an international commission headed by Rutherford B. Hayes, United States president, the era of party politics in Paraguay was free to begin in earnest. Nonetheless, the evacuation of foreign forces did not mean the end of foreign influence. Both Brazil and Argentina remained deeply involved in Paraguay because of their connections with Paraguay's rival political forces. These forces eventually came to be known as the Colorados and the Liberals.

The political rivalry between Liberals and Colorados was presaged as early as 1869 when the terms Azules (Blues) and Colorados (Reds) first appeared. The National Republican Association-Colorado Party (Asociación Nacional Republicana-Partido Colorado) dominated Paraguayan political life from the late 1880s until Liberals overthrew it in 1904. The Liberal ascent marked the decline of Brazil, which had supported the Colorados as the principal political force in Paraguay, and the rise of Argentine influence.

In the decade following the war, the principal political conflicts within Paraguay reflected the Liberal-Colorado split, with Legionnaires battling Lopiztas (ex-followers of Solano López) for power, while Brazil and Argentina maneuvered in the background. The Legionnaires saw the Lopiztas as reactionaries. The Lopiztas accused the Legionnaires of being traitors and foreign puppets. The situation defied neat categories, since many people constantly changed sides. Opportunism characterized this era, not ideological purity.

The Legionnaires were a motley collection of refugees and exiles who dated from Francia's day. Their opposition to tyranny was sincere, and they gravitated toward democratic ideologies. Coming home to backward, poor, xenophobic Paraguay from cosmopolitan, prosperous Buenos Aires was a big shock for the Legionnaires. Believing that more freedom would cure Paraguay's ills, they abolished slavery and founded a constitutional government as soon as they came to power. They based the new government on the standard liberal prescriptions of free enterprise, free elections, and free trade.

The Legionnaires, however, had no more experience in democracy than other Paraguayans. The 1870 constitution quickly became irrelevant. Politics degenerated into factionalism, and cronyism and intrigue prevailed. Presidents still acted like dictators, elections did not stay free, and the Legionnaires were out of power in less than a decade.

Free elections were a startling, and not altogether welcome, innovation for ordinary Paraguayans, who had always allied themselves with a patrón (benefactor) for security and protection. At the same time, Argentina and Brazil were not content to leave Paraguay with a truly free political system. Pro-Argentine militia chief Benigno Ferreira emerged as de facto dictator until his overthrow with Brazilian help in 1874. Ferreira later returned to lead the 1904 Liberal uprising, which ousted the Colorados. Ferreira served as president between 1906 and 1908.

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