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.


Marianna Kistler Beach and Kansas Paraguay Partners

The Kansas Paraguay Partners (KPP) has lost a great friend and a great symbol of what the international partnership is all about, i.e., genuine caring and respect for people of all cultures and circumstances. Marianna was a gracious woman who lived through the early days of KPP, serving as president 1978 – 1981. In later years, she served as Membership Chair.  Marianna was also influential in establishing an Advisory Council “to capture the experience and statewide connections” of leading citizens.

Over many years, Marianna consistently supported the partnership through financial underwriting and personal involvement. In addition to KPP, she was committed to other international organizations related to children with special needs such as, The Council of the Inter-American Children’s Institute, of the OAS.  On some occasions, she was asked to provide consultation to these organizations.

Her extensive connections with business and political leaders helped build strong relationships linking Paraguay and Kansas. Marianna was a supporter of Sister Cities International, leading to a sister city relationship between her home town, Hays, and Santa Maria de Fe in Paraguay. This resulted in her, and husband Ross, helping establish an amazing museum exhibiting the artifacts recovered from the historic Jesuit Missions in Paraguay.  In 1975, Marianna was declared an honorary citizen by the city of Santa Maria de Fe. Later she and Ross accompanied K-State President Jon Welfeld and his wife to Paraguay which included a visit to Santa Marie de Fe and meeting with their close Paraguayan friends, Mika and Carlos Mersan.

In 1989 she was named “Kansan of the Year” by the Native Sons and Daughters. In 1996, the Topeka Capital Journal named Marianna “Kansan of Distinction.” In the same year, the KPP Board met in Manhattan at the newly constructed K-State Marianna Kisler Beach Museum of Art.  This was also a special time of recognizing Marianna’s long time multiple contributions to KPP.  In 2000, Marianna and Ross established an Endowment Trust to be a long term benefit to KPP.  Finally, in 2010, Marianna was a major contributor to the newly established KPP Merit Scholarship Fund.

In brief, Marianna, has been a solid link, over many years, in a chain of significant KPP events that could not have happened without her.  She will be greatly missed but her legacy of kindness, generosity, and leadership will live on as a model for us all.

Written by Merrill Raber

Rutherford B. Hayes Popular in Paraguay

NPR did a nice piece on Rutherford B. Hayes and what he did for Paraguay.  Take a look and/or listen.

Artist Exchanges Between Kansas and Paraguay

Below is a link to a nice article that appeared in ABC Color about Kansas artist Eric Conrad and his visit to Paraguay.  I want to use this opportunity to mention some of the artist exchanges that have occurred between Kansas Paraguay Partners and Comite Paraguay Kansas.  It is a remarkable history all made possible through travel grants from Partners of the Americas.There have also been many musical artist exchanges. I will review those another time. I will miss some artists so feel free to let me know who I missed.

Eric Conrad is an art professor at Emporia State University and is part of the most recent project where Kansas artists are helping judge contests in Paraguay with the winners coming to Kansas in the future.  Amber Hansen traveled to Paraguay a few months ago as part of this same project.  She helped judge a photography contest.  Judith McCrea is an art professor at the University of Kansas (KU) who is helping with this project and has traveled to Paraguay several times and hosted the well respected artist Carlos Colombino in Kansas.  The work that he created while in Kansas is part of the collection of the Spencer Museum of Art at KU. Another very recent Paraguayan artist who visited Kansas is Teresita Gonzalez who presented her photographs of the Paraguayan Hospital de Clinicas.

The ABC Color article mentions other Paraguayan sculptors who met with Eric.  One of those is Gustavo Beckelmann who visited Kansas during the Paraguayan art exhibit held at Washburn University in 2008.  He in turn was greatly influenced by Elden Teft a KU professor who traveled to Paraguay many years ago to teach sculpture.  Gustavo took one of Elden’s classes and was greatly influenced by what he learned.

The art exhibit at the Mulvane Museum at Washburn University in 2008 was curated by Reinhild Janzen who was director of the museum.  She travel to Paraguay and met many artists and brought back works that helped make the exhibit a success.  Speaking of Paraguayan art exhibits in Kansas, there was an exhibit of 20 pieces way back in 1969. This exhibit was at the Wichita Public Library.

Gene Ernst was a professor at Kansas State University who traveled to Paraguay to make sketches from the Jesuit Missions. He turned his sketches into beautiful note cards that I still use and treasurer.

A wonderful large sculpture along Interstate 70 was constructed by Herman Guggiari who was hosted many years ago by Ross and Marianna Beach.  The Beaches also were critically important in the creation of a museum of wood carved saints in Santa Maria de Fe.  The saints were carved by indigenous Paraguayans during the time of the Jesuit Missions.

Let me know what I missed.

Here is the link to the ABC Color article.


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