Paraguay Country Overview

According to Countryaah, Paraguay is a state of South America. It borders with Bolivia (to the N and NW), with Brazil (to the E) and with Argentina (to the SE, to the South and to the W).

  1. Physical characteristics

The territory of Paraguay, without an outlet to the sea, consists of 2 regions that are profoundly different from a physical, human and economic point of view: the south-eastern one, enclosed between the Paraguay and Paraná rivers, and the northwestern one, which is part of the Chaco Boreale (Paraguayan Chaco). The first, which represents the extreme offshoots of the Brazilian highlands, goes towards the S with a succession of low-lying terrain (rarely over 500 m); further to the East there is an undulating plateau that slopes slowly towards the furrow of the upper Paraná. To the west of the plateau, an extensive alluvial plain descends towards the left bank of Paraguay, crossed by streams and punctuated, in the lower part, by numerous marshy areas. The Paraguayan Chaco constitutes a uniform low plain (average altitude 150-200 m), interrupted only by some isolated relief; west of the course of Paraguay it gradually rises up to the Andean foothills.

Paraguay has a subtropical, hot and humid climate. Temperatures have quite marked seasonal and sometimes diurnal fluctuations and rainfall, mainly in summer and spring, falls in extremely different quantities from period to period; their quantity however decreases from E (1000-1500 mm per year) towards W (usually well below 1000 mm).

The Paraguay is crossed from N to S, with a mostly longitudinal course, by the Paraguay river which affects the country starting from Bahía Negra; along its course it receives numerous tributaries and flows just N of Corrientes, in the Paraná, also coming from the north. The hydrographic network in the eastern region is denser, while the Chaco, with the exception of the Pilcomayo, a right tributary of the Paraná, has an underdeveloped hydrography with watercourses that often run out by evaporation.

The vegetation reflects the climatic conditions. In the Chaco prairie and scrub with xerophilic characters predominate, which are accentuated towards N. In the eastern alluvial plains there is the prairie, which along the water courses is interrupted by the gallery forest; in the flooded areas (esteros) there is a vegetation of grasses and ferns and aquatic plants are widespread; the campos cerrados del N are xerophilous wooded savannahs.

  1. Population

The residents of the Paraguay are largely mestizos (86%), the result of the cross between the indigenous (Guaraní) and Spanish colonists; whites represent 9.3% of the population, while pure Amerindians are now only 1.8%.

The demographic dynamics have been very irregular: negative in the past, in relation to the war events that broke out after independence, positive in recent decades. The rate of increase (2.4% in 2003-08) is almost exclusively due to the positive balance of the natural movement; the immigration factor (there have been flows from Brazil and eastern countries in the past) has had little impact and indeed in some periods has been canceled out by a consistent emigration to Argentina and Brazil. The distribution of the population is extremely uneven: the greatest densities are in the eastern region, between the Paraguay river and the cordillera, which is counterpointed by the western region (Chaco), almost depopulated (average density of 0.5 residents / km 2). The Paraguayan population is still largely rural; the urban one, equal to 60% of the total, is mainly concentrated in the capital (519,647 residents) and its satellite centers. The only other important city is Ciudad del Este (223,350 residents), On the Paraná river.

Guaraní, an official language alongside Spanish, is a written language of literary dignity. Catholicism is the clearly dominant religion (almost 90%).

  1. Economic conditions

Still markedly rural, it is among the least developed in Latin America. In the 1970s, with the establishment of the first basic industries by the State, it experienced a notable economic expansion, which then contracted in the following decade due to the world crisis. Even the policy of liberalization of the productive apparatus established with the return of civilians to the government (1993) failed to relaunch a structurally fragile economy. At the end of the 1990s, the MERCOSUR crisis and the damage to agriculture caused by adverse climatic conditions further hampered the recovery.

Agriculture, breeding and forestry exploitation are basic to the country’s economy and employ 31% of the active population. Agriculture, although characterized by a dualistic structure (on the one hand the immense estates, on the other the small and very small peasant property), has not suffered the damage caused elsewhere by plantation crops and presents a fairly diversified picture of production. Main crops for export are soy, largely transgenic, and sugar cane, used mainly for the manufacture of rum and alcohol, followed by tobacco and cotton; among the subsistence crops corn, cassava, beans, rice and fruit prevail. Great importance is given to animal husbandry, based on extensive cattle breeding, which dominates in the central regions and in the Chaco.3 of timber per year) raises concerns about excessive deforestation, with negative environmental consequences. The hydroelectric potential has been exploited on a large scale and thanks to its exploitation the Paraguay has overcome energy self-sufficiency and now makes good income from the sale of excess energy.

The national industry, mainly concentrated in the metropolitan area of Asunción and in the Central department, finds many obstacles in the shortage of transport infrastructures and investments. The food sector prevails (processing and preservation of meat, sugar refineries, production of alcoholic beverages), followed by the chemical, electromechanical, textile, cotton, tobacco, wood, leather, glass and cement industries. The trade balance is passive, with a prevalence of imports over exports: among the former, fuels and lubricants, machinery, chemical and pharmaceutical products prevail; among sales, soybeans, raw cotton, lumber, meat and tobacco. Major suppliers and customers are Argentina, Brazil, USA, Uruguay and China, followed by Germany and Russia. Tourism is still underdeveloped.

The communication routes are inadequate: the railways (just 441 km) are centered on the Asunción-Encarnación line, the roads (29,500 km) have their main axes in the Pan-American highway, which joins Asunción to Ciudad del Este, in the direct asphalted section towards Argentina and in the Trans-Chaco which connects the capital with Bolivia. River navigation is important.

Paraguay Country Overview