Stevia, Paraguay and Peace Corps

This is one of those why didn’t I think of that.  It is the story of James May who was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay when he was introduced to Stevia.  That natural sweetener used in Terere and Cocido.  Take a look.

POA President Steve Vetter and Ambassador Igor Pangrazio

This short video is from Partners of the Americas.  Steve is welcoming Ambassador Pangrazio to Washington as he starts his post as the Paraguayan Ambassador to the United States.  Igor is a graduate of the University of Kansas.

Soul Deep – The Power to Connect, Serve, Change Lives

Here is another book from Partners of the Americas.  This is the second book celebrating 50 years of Partners.

Soul Deep – The Power to Connect, Serve, Change Lives.

Many are surprised at the breadth and far-reaching impact of Partners of the Americas. By simply connecting passion with human need, this one organization empowered a hemisphere of volunteers to create and implement a broad array of life-changing programs. Soul Deep is a powerful reminder that ordinary people can make an extraordinary difference in the lives of others

You can order from under “Publications.” Discount applies for two or more books, mix and match. See also: The Power of Partnership. #partnersamericas


Fighting Poverty in Paraguay

Here is an interesting press release by the World Bank about a poverty reduction project in Paraguay.  This project funded at about $1 Billion US dollars is an ambitious effort to increase the incomes of the poorest 40% of the population.  I am not sure of the success of these large scale development projects but it is a worthy goal.  Perhaps we could do something similar in the USA.

How Do Volunteers Accomplish So Much?

International partnerships under Partners of the Americas have achieved amazing results through volunteers.  To find out how that is possible take a look at a new book.  Steve Richard has supplied this short piece on The Power of Partnerships.

The Power of Partnership is the beginning of an ongoing project to document the histories of its chapters, partnerships, and networks. It draws on Partners’ institutional archives and more than 100 interviews with volunteers, staff members, and project participants including some from Kansas in March, 2013. Beyond commemoration, the 50th anniversary of Partners highlights the significance of people-to-people diplomacy in U.S.-Latin American relations. Partners appreciates KPP and the efforts of Merrill and Boots Raber in publishing “A 40-Year History of KS PY Partners” as a leading example. Of course all of this is only possible because of our southern partners at Comite Paraguay Partners.

You can order from under “Publications.” Discount applies for two or more books.





War of the Triple Alliance

Here is a nice piece about the Triple Alliance War. I have posted pieces about the war before but is good to get another perspective.  This is from Stratfor that describes itself as a global intelligence company.  The original article included pictures and a map that did copy here.  You might check out the original to see those.

The Bloodiest War in the Americas

December 13, 2014 | 14:00 GMT


On Dec. 13, 1864, the small landlocked but strategically positioned country of Paraguay declared war on the Brazilian Empire. The ensuing conflict became the worst in South American history, leaving nearly 90 percent of Paraguayan men of fighting age dead.

The Paraguayan War laid the foundation of contemporary South America’s geopolitical divisions. The conflict emerged as a result of Paraguay’s centrality in the Platine River Basin and its position in the heartland of South America. Their underlying geopolitical imperatives — the need to secure access to key waterways providing trade routes and outlets to the Atlantic — forced the national interests of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay to collide in the worst armed conflict in South America’s history. Today, 150 years later, the impact of the war still resonates, dominating and defining the nature of regional politics.


Paraguay is a flat, humid, landlocked country, and one of the most geographically isolated nations in the Western Hemisphere. Home to the indigenous Guarani people, the country had become the most industrially and technologically advanced nation in South America by the second half of the 19th century. By 1863, under the presidency of Marshal Francisco Solano Lopez, the Republic of Paraguay had developed the first iron foundry, railways and telegraph communication lines in South America and had built the continent’s first steam-powered iron ship. All of these things were achieved with virtually no recourse to slavery or private ownership of land.

Paraguay is located in the center of the Platine River Basin — a vast area that defines the region. The Platine River Basin, known locally as the Rio de la Plata Basin, is one of the most expansive river basins in the world, comprising parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. The Platine was also the most capital-intensive and productive region in South America, comparable to the Mississippi and Ohio river basins in the United States.

Brazil, Argentina and the Outbreak of War

Brazil’s inlands are rich in resources, but they are on a plateau whose only outlets to the Atlantic are the Paraguay and Uruguay rivers. Argentina, meanwhile, needed to secure the lower end of the two rivers to protect shipments of its growing timber and agricultural exports to Europe. With the collapse of the medieval Treaty of Tordesillas, which drew the lines between Spanish and Portuguese colonial territories in the New World, the newly independent nations of Brazil and Argentina had no regulations or European arbitration to limit their interests. Brazil and Argentina, natural rivals with each other as well as Paraguay, then sought to dominate the Platine River Basin — a situation that would not tolerate the emergence of a third party.

Uruguay, a longtime ally of Paraguay, requested Paraguay’s aid after Brazil and Argentina intervened to enforce a regime change during the civil war of late 1863. The intervening powers shared the goal of controlling the natural choke point where the Paraguay and Uruguay rivers converge, at the delta of the Rio de la Plata. Whoever controlled that point would be able to supervise, tax or plunder inbound and outbound shipments and thus control most of the wealth and trade from South America’s Southern Cone.

Meanwhile, the growing tension between Brazil and Argentina over the Paraguay River gradually strangled the Paraguayan economy by severely limiting navigation routes. Solano Lopez feared that Paraguay’s neighbors would take complete control of the river routes by seizing the Rio de la Plata delta, fully isolating Paraguay from the Atlantic export routes. Fearing a fate similar to that of Uruguay, Solano Lopez sought to help his ally and invaded Brazil’s Mato Grosso upriver, taking over gold mines and armories in an attempt to convince Brazilian Emperor Pedro II to abandon Uruguay. The emperor refused, and the Paraguayan army marched south. On the way to Uruguay, Paraguayan troops crossed Argentine territory, giving the country an excuse to get involved in the conflict. Despite Solano Lopez’s efforts, the Uruguayan government was ousted, and the new leaders joined Brazil and Argentina in a Triple Alliance to move against Paraguay.

The War’s Aftermath

The conflict lasted until 1870, costing Paraguay nearly half of its territory and almost 90 percent of its men of fighting age. Estimates differ, but Paraguay’s overall population is thought to have dropped from 1.3 million to less than 250,000. The conflict was probably the closest thing to Clausewitzian “total war” ever fought in Latin America. After the war, Paraguay never managed to recover its previous position. Meanwhile, the war efforts of the Triple Alliance nations pushed them to the brink of bankruptcy, which is why the bulk of these countries’ first sovereign debt was acquired during this period.

Ever since the war, Paraguay and Uruguay have been buffer states between Argentina and Brazil and, between about 1870 and 1970, the two moved from Argentina’s economic orbit into Brazil’s. Having assured the free flow of goods, a geographically advantaged Argentina was able to fully exploit the agricultural potential of the Platine Basin and quickly build up capital to develop its industries, maintaining a broad lead over Brazil in such development until the middle of the 20th century. However, economic mismanagement and an unresolved imbalance between Argentina’s core and periphery jeopardized its growth. Brazil, however, resolved its inner divisions by the middle of the 20th century and was then able to concentrate its development efforts, rapidly surpassing Argentina.

Lasting Effects

Although war is an improbable option, the geopolitical forces that gave rise to the Paraguayan War still play a fundamental role in the region. Paraguay and Uruguay still serve as trustees of their respective rivers, as non-contesting parties, to avoid the monopolization of crucial choke points along the navigable waterways. They thus buffer the tensions between the two naturally opposed giants, Brazil and Argentina. Paraguay serves as a checkpoint upriver, where the Paraguay and Parana rivers converge, while Uruguay serves the same function downriver, where the Uruguay and Parana rivers converge at the intersection of the Rio de la Plata delta and the exit to the Atlantic. These rivers are the arteries of the Southern Cone and are key sources of electricity for Brazil and Argentina: The Itaipu and Yacyreta hydroelectric dams are positioned on the Parana and Paraguay rivers, and the Salto Grande dam is on the Uruguay River. Paraguay and Uruguay serve as meek guarantors, ensuring that the flow of water and electricity continues without truly being able to challenge the stronger powers upstream or downriver.

Brazil and Argentina historically have not been able to strike a sustainable balance through war. However, the presence of two weaker buffer states along their contested rivers and a healthy income from trade can dampen the tensions between them. This was the geopolitical purpose of Mercosur: to tie the natural rivals’ interests together and leave little room for animosity to grow. However, as regional trade declines, economic cooperation between Brazil and Argentina will erode and the reasons for Mercosur’s creation will cease to exist. With the wealth that tied its members together absent, the ideologically sympathetic relations within Mercosur will be inevitably offset by pragmatism and suspicion — a reminder that geopolitical imperatives and the conflicts they create never entirely fade. The Platine River Basin and the Paraguay and Uruguay rivers will remain the axis around which the Southern Cone’s economics and politics turn.

United Kingdom Strengthens Ties with Paraguay

Here is an interesting piece about the United Kingdom increasing business with Latin America and particularly Paraguay. It includes some of the historical ties.  For example, the first railroad in Latin America was in Paraguay built by British engineers.  I also recall thinking it was strange when I met a Paraguayan who spoke English with a British accent.  Of course I am sure that the reverse is also true.

I would like to see a comparable news story about increasing US and Paraguayan ties.  Perhaps there has been one recently that I missed.  If so, please let me know.



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