It is 6 years compulsory and free primary school from the children is 6 years. 91% of children attend primary school, and 50% continue in high school. But there are major regional differences, and the dropout rate during school hours is large. The high school is 6 years (3 + 3 years). The country has two universities in Asuncion, one state and one Catholic private. In 1991–92 four new universities were established. According to UNESCO’s calculations, approx. 8% of the adult population illiterate (2001).
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62 years later in another brother war, Paraguay and Bolivia coalesced in the so-called “Guerra del Chaco” (1932-35). It was encouraged by the multinational oil companies who wanted control over the oil sources. Paraguay won, but lost 50,000 men on the battlefield.
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Over a 31-year period, the country had 22 presidents, until a coup in 1954 brought General Alfredo Stroessner to power. He descended from Germans, admired Nazism and protected war criminals who had fled Europe. Stroessner was “re-elected” seven times – the last time in 1988 – and he only allowed a legal “opposition” whose leaders were often appointed by himself.
In the mid-1980’s, General Stroessner’s regime began to show signs of exhaustion under the impression of general tendencies toward democratization in Latin America. The opposition began to organize with the formation of the Labor Movement (Movimiento Intersindical de Trabajdores), the Organization of Native American groups, the formation of the Permanent Assembly of Peasants without Land (APCT, Asamblea Permanente de los Campesinos sin Tierras) and the Coordination of Female Peasants (Coaci de Mujeres Campesinas). At the same time, the Catholic Church began to speak in favor of change.
On February 3, 1989, Stroessner was overthrown by a troop force led by his brother-in-law and First Army Corps commander, General Andrés Rodríguez. Mr Rodriguez immediately declared that elections should be held in May of the same year, which should form the basis for forming a government.
The election was held on May 1, 1989 with the participation of the entire opposition – except the Communist Party which remained illegal. General Rodríguez was elected president with 68% of the vote, while the main opposition party, the Autido Liberal Radical Auténtico (PLRA), received 21%. Despite the presence of several foreign election observers, a large number of irregularities were documented in the election proceedings, for which the traditional governing party, the Partido Colorado, was responsible. Nevertheless, the opposition considered the election as the starting point for a democratization process that was to be carried forward through quick elections to a Constituent Assembly.
Multinational companies today dominate the production of soy and cotton. 2% of farmers today occupy 85% of Paraguay’s land. Most of the companies and foreign farmers are concentrated in the border with Brazil – in a land area that is 2000 km long and 65 km wide. They speak predominantly Portuguese, and the Brazilian Real is the usual coin. 300-400,000 Brazilians also live in this area next door.
The opening and launching of the huge Itaípu dam at the border with Brazil further strengthened economic relations between the two countries.
The agricultural development projects in Caazapa and Caaguazu – supported by the World Bank – aim to involve and transform the land of Indians in the eastern part of the country into cattle enterprises. Instead, the Indians are stowed together in small sanctuaries in their old areas. Twelve Native American villages asked the Workers’ Union, the CUT, to represent them in the Constitutional Assembly. In the election of members to this Assembly in December 1991, CUT decided to support Movimiento Constitución para Todos.