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Paraguay

Overview

La República del Paraguay (The Republic of Paraguay) is a constitutional republic located in south central South America. A landlocked country, it is surrounded by Bolivia (the only other landlocked country in South America) on the north and west, Argentina on the south, and Brazil on the east. Asunciónis the capital and the country's largest city. About 95% of the population of 4.5 million is mestizo (of mixed Spanish and Guaraní descent). Both Spanish and Guaraní are official languages. The majority of the population is of the Roman Catholic faith with a small number of Mennonites and other Protestants.

The Guaraní were the native people of Paraguay. Early exploration of the Río de la Plata area was the beginning of European influence. Many 16th century explorers, among them Juan Díaz de Solís, Sebastian Cabot, Juan de Ayolas, and Domingo Martínez de Irala were seeking access from the east to Perú. The Jesuits established a number of missions in the Province of Río de la Plata, part of which became Paraguay, and were influential in the blending of the native and European cultures until about 1767, when Spain expelled the Jesuits from all their lands and colonies. Paraguay declared its independence from Spain in 1811.

The first 60 years of independence brought three dictators. The first, José Gaspar Rodríguez Francia who ruled absolutely for some 26 years was known as 'El Supremo'. Upon his death, Carlos Antonio López continued the same autocratic rule until 1862, when he was succeeded by his son, Francisco Solano López. He plunged Paraguay into the disastrous War of the Triple Alliance (1865-1870) against Uruguay, Brazil, and Argentina. The small country lost more than half of the male population, and the political, territorial, and economic effects continued through the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In some aspects, conditions improved during that time: trade increased, immigration was encouraged and was quite successful, and farming and industrial enterprises intermittently prospered. Yet, the new constitution of 1870, designed to end dictatorship and in-fighting failed to do so, and the government remained anything but stable, and in addition, a serious territorial dispute with Bolivia remained unsettled. These conditions let to another terrible conflict, the Chaco War of 1932-1935. Paraguay won the border dispute, gaining more land in its western territory. However, recovery, again, was slow: resources were depleted, people were exhausted, factions were still warring, the political system was chaotic.

Several dictators rose and fell within five years when Higinio Morínigo took over. From 1940-1948, there was a period of recovery with improvements in public health, construction, transportation and roads, and education. When Morínigo was overthrown, the country again suffered a series of unstable governments until General Alfredo Stroessner took over in a military coup in 1954. Stroessner ruled Paraguay until 1988, when he was elected for the eighth term and later overthrown. Since that time, a two-party system of sorts has emerged, with the ruling Colorado party having won from Stroessner’s removal from power until elections in 2000, when the Liberal Party won for the first time in more than 50 years. Attempts to set right the abuses of the past have co-existed with a continuation of the political corruption of the past. In 2003, Oscar Nicanor Duarte Frutos, a journalist and the Colorado party candidate, was elected president. He has pledged to work to end the persistent corruption and begin the process of healing the depleted economy.

Education

There were few schools in Paraguay during the colonial period. The sons of the wealthy of European descent educated by tutors were sent abroad. A few private schools existed but concerted efforts to establish a comprehensive system was not a priority. By 1877, a public secondary school system began and continued to grow. The National University opened in 1889, and schools for training teachers were first put into operation before the beginning of the 20th century.

Primary and Secondary Education

Compulsory education currently consists of 1 year of Educación Inicial and nine years of Educación Escolar Básica. Additional and optional educación media is provided in career training (usually 2- or 3-year programs) and a 3-year academic cycle which leads to higher education. The Ministerio de Educación y Ciencias oversees secondary Paraguay's education.

Post-Secondary Education

Currently, higher education is overseen by the Consejo Nacional de Educación Superior.

First Cycle

Higher education includes programs leading to careers in specific fields and titles of technician as well as academic studies leading to professional first degrees of Licenciado or títulos profesionales.

Second and Third Cycle

Graduate studies lead to the titles of diplomado, especialista, maestría, and doctorado.


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