The Paraguayan War became the largest international military conflict in South America in the 19th century. In Argentina and Uruguay, this war is known as the “War of the Triple Union”, as the “Big War” - in Paraguay. She lasted six years. It began in December 1864 of the year and ended only at the end of 1870 of the year, with the death of Francisco Solano Lopez, the dictator of Paraguay.
The main causes of the war are as follows. From the very beginning of their independence, since 1811, the Paraguayan leaders have tried not to enter into conflicts with their neighbors in the Plata region. But this policy of self-isolation ended with the coming to power of the dictator Francisco Solano Lopez in 1862. Note that in the 1864 year, the Brazilian Empire was implicated in an armed conflict in Uruguay (its former province). The Brazilian military invaded Uruguay and overthrew dictator Aguirre, party leader Blanco and ally Solano Lopez. Lopez was categorically opposed to the invasion of Brazil in Uruguay. As some Brazilian historians point out, he believed that Brazil’s next goal should be Paraguay and therefore became actively preparing for war. We also note that during this period the Brazilian empire did not have a regular army at all, but merely had a contingent of the national guard of Emperor Don Pedro the Second. This is roughly 23 of thousands of soldiers, according to Brazilian scientist Chiavenato. Therefore, Brazil at that time could not have serious plans to invade Paraguay.
Paraguay at that time was a developed country and produced, practically, everything necessary for domestic consumption. Some historians cite the desire of Paraguay to gain access to the ocean, in order not to depend on the domination and control of Argentina in the delta of the River La Plata, in the Gulf of Platino. Another version says that the British crown was not interested in the further development of Paraguay in an autonomous mode, regardless of British interests and capital, creating a negative (risky) precedent and model for other countries in the region that were already on the “needle” of British capital. , including the Brazilian Empire. In the end, the UK found a way to provoke the authorities to oppose Paraguay through a conflict with Uruguay, where the UK had a great political and economic influence.
The Paraguayan government ordered the capture of the Brazilian ship Marquês de Olinda in the port of the Paraguayan capital Asuncion, and, after that, attacked the Brazilian city of Dourados, in the province of Mato Grosso. It was a direct challenge to the start of the war. In May 1865, Paraguay also carried out several raids in the eastern part of Argentina with the aim of engaging in military action in the Brazilian province of Rio Grande do Sul. As a result, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay created the so-called. military Triple Alliance against Paraguay.
During the fighting, which began with great superiority of Paraguay, there were tactical misunderstandings between the commanders of the armies of Brazil and Argentina. Therefore, Emperor Don Pedro the Second appointed Luis Alves Silva (the future Duquede Caxias) in 1867, to lead the Brazilian army. It was under the command of Caxias that the Brazilian army was reorganized, well equipped and more efficient. Among the important battles where the Brazilian army won, such as Humaitá, Itororó, Avaí, Angostura and Lomas Valentinas can be called. At the beginning of 1869, the Brazilian military took Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay. The war ended in March 1870, near the Andes Mountains, where the Cerro Cora battle took place, during which dictator Lopez was captured and killed.
A very painful consequence of this war for Paraguay was the loss of about 80% of the country's population, most of them men older than 20. The loss figure ranges between 300 and 800 to thousands of people. But there is no exact amount of losses. The population of the whole country then was about 1 million people. Paraguay also lost about 40% of its territory. These lands are in favor of Brazil and Argentina. Brazil occupied Paraguay, and this military presence lasted more than 10 years. Almost all of the industrial base of Paraguay was destroyed, because of which the country's economy after the war went completely to existence at the expense of agriculture and degraded. Paraguay had a huge debt to the Brazilian Empire, which was forgiven by the Brazilian dictator Getulio Vargas already in the 40-s of the twentieth century. Socially and economically, Paraguay was completely broken down and fell into a big debt trap of foreign capital.
On the other hand, the war with Paraguay also left an imprint on Brazil, which also fell into debt dependence and was forced to make foreign loans, mainly from the UK. Politically, another important consequence of the war for Brazil was the accelerated modernization and institutional strengthening of the Brazilian army. Most of the officers were educated people, middle and upper classes, who were actively debating among themselves and in secular circles about the future of Brazil, about the growing social problems in the country, etc. When these officers returned to their hometowns, and to the capital of the empire, to Rio de Janeiro, almost immediately they began to demand more political rights for themselves, realizing their new status in a slave-owning, monarchical society. In the end, it was this part of the military elite that supported the liberal-republican movement, which carried out a military coup, eliminated the head of the country and declared Brazil the Republic of November 15 1889 of Brazil. In fact, it was the Paraguay War that rallied the people of Brazil. And it was after this event, the Brazilians began to feel like a single nation.
In December, 2014 was exactly 150 years from the beginning of the worst conflict on our continent, where at least 60 thousands of Brazilians died in battles and from various diseases too. And so, 150 years later. Paraguayans still feel the deep wound that remained from the war.
Today, Brazil has, as it were, two sides of relations with Paraguay. On the one hand, this is an active and growing trade balance between the two countries, which has grown in recent years by 300% and has reached 4 billion dollars. Brazil annually exports to Paraguay more than 3 billion dollars in various products and invests heavily. For example, along almost the entire Brazilian-Paraguayan border, it is Brazilians who buy land, invest big money in equipment, fertilizer and labor, develop agriculture and get big dividends. On the other hand, Paraguayans often demonstrate aggressiveness and mistrust towards Brazilians. Very often, the local population comes into conflict with the Brazilian and entrepreneurs, and even invade their private property. In Paraguay, it is believed that Brazil is an imperial neighboring country, which not only invests in the economy of Paraguay, but also exploits and constantly intervenes.
The Itaipu Hydroelectric Power Station (Itaipu - singing stone) is perhaps the biggest symbol in the relationship between Brazil and Paraguay in the postwar period. Symbol of dialogue and mutual understanding. We note that the normalization of Paraguay-Brazilian relations began only in 1941, when Brazilian President Getulio Vargas made the first official visit to Paraguay, forgave debts during the war and began the process of returning documents and trophies captured during the conflict. In 1965, the Friendship Bridge is opened in the city of Fosda Iguazu, which connects with the city of Puerto Iguazu in Paraguay. And in 1973, the Itaipu Agreement is signed for the construction of the world's largest hydroelectric power station on the border of the two countries (on the Paraná River) and with equal operating rights: 50% for Brazil and 50% for Paraguay. Also, it is in the capital of Paraguay in 1991 that the famous meeting of the four presidents of the region takes place to sign the MERCOSUR Treaty, which is a new stage in the political relations of the Southern Cone countries in South America.
But there are still unresolved issues. Paraguay demands and awaits the return of the sword of Solano Lopez and the famous Paraguayan Cannon El Cristiano, cast in bronze from various churches of the country. In the statements of politicians of Paraguay, this topic is still not forgotten, and the population of this country is very sensitive to the subject of the return of documentation and trophies. Often, Paraguayans create additional problems in cooperation with the law enforcement agencies of Brazil, in the fight against drug trafficking and traffic. weapons.
However, it is necessary to understand that Brazil is just beginning to restore its legal status as a superpower in South America. And our friends and neighbors should get used to the great hegemony of Brazil in the region. Brazil is a country that is just beginning to wake up from a long political and military hibernation.