Paraguay: key milestones

Asuncion (AFP) –


Here is a list of key developments in the history of Paraguay, the landlocked Latin American nation which is holding a presidential election on Sunday:

- From discovery to independence -

In 1515, the region of Paraguay, which is populated by Guarani Indians, is discovered and colonized by Spain.

From 1604 to 1767, it is governed by Jesuits who establish a Christian republic with so-called "reductions" -- missions where the indigenous people lived and worked the land.

After a war with the Portuguese, Paraguay becomes attached to the vice-kingdom of Peru, then to the River Plate, a river and large estuary between Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia and Paraguay.

It achieves independence from Spain in 1811 after a bloodless revolt.

- 1864-1870: ravaged by war -

In 1864, Francisco Solano Lopez, son of dictator Carlos Antonio Lopez (1844-1862), draws Paraguay into a disastrous war against a "Triple Alliance" of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.

Paraguay is ravaged. According to different estimates it loses between half and two-thirds of its population, mostly men.

In ruins, the country sells off up to half its territory.

It then extends its borders following the 1932-1935 Chaco war with Bolivia over control of the disputed northern Gran Chaco region, where oil reserves have been discovered.

- 1954-1989: dictatorship -

In 1954, army chief General Alfredo Stroessner seizes power in a coup.

He rules the country with an iron grip for 35 years. His Colorado party has held an almost uninterrupted dominance over the country's political life since 1947.

Under Stroessner, between 1,000-3,000 people were killed or went missing, human rights groups say.

- 1989: democracy -

In 1989, Stroessner is ousted by General Andres Rodriguez, who reestablishes freedom of expression, legalizes opposition parties and allows exiles to return.

In 1992, a new constitution provides for the election of a president every five years without the possibility of a second term.

- 2012: president ousted -

In 2008, former Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo becomes the first person since 1947 from outside the Colorado party to accede to power.

Once known as the "bishop of the poor," he is forced from the presidency by the Senate in 2012 for dereliction of duty, for his handling of a land dispute that turned deadly.

He was also dogged by several paternity suits dating back to his time as a clergyman.

The impeachment is considered "a parliamentary coup" by Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela.