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Quick Facts
CapitalAsuncion
Governmentconstitutional republic
Currencyguarani (PYG)
Areatotal: 406,750 sq km
water: 9,450 sq km
land: 397,300 sq km
Population5,884,491 (July 2002 est.)
LanguageSpanish (official), Guarani (official)
ReligionRoman Catholic 90%, Mennonite, and other Protestant

Paraguay is a landlocked country in South America, northeast of Argentina, with borders with Bolivia and Brazil .

Regions

  • The Asuncion
  • Ciudad del Este
  • Encarnacion
  • Villeta
  • San Antonio

Understand

Population 
5,884,491 (July 2002 est.); population concentrated in southern part of country
Nationality 
noun: Paraguayan(s)
adjective: Paraguayan
Ethnic groups 
mestizo (mixed Spanish and Amerindian) 95%
Religions 
Roman Catholic 90%, Mennonite, and other Protestant
Independence 
14 May 1811 (from Spain)
National holiday 
Independence Day, 14 May (1811)
Constitution 
promulgated 20 June 1992

In the disastrous War of the Triple Alliance (1865-70), Paraguay lost two-thirds of all adult males and much of its territory. It stagnated economically for the next half century. In the Chaco War of 1932-35, large, economically important areas were won from Bolivia. The 35-year military dictatorship of Alfredo STROESSNER was overthrown in 1989, and, despite a marked increase in political infighting in recent years, relatively free and regular presidential elections have been held since then.

Geography

Geographic coordinates 
23 00 S, 58 00 W
Area 
total: 406,750 sq km
water: 9,450 sq km
land: 397,300 sq km
Climate 
subtropical to temperate; substantial rainfall in the eastern portions, becoming semiarid in the far west
Terrain 
grassy plains and wooded hills east of Rio Paraguay; Gran Chaco region west of Rio Paraguay mostly low, marshy plain near the river, and dry forest and thorny scrub elsewhere
Elevation extremes 
lowest point: junction of Rio Paraguay and Rio Parana 46 m
highest point: Cerro Pero (Cerro Tres Kandu) 842 m
Natural resources 
hydropower, timber, iron ore, manganese, limestone
Land use 
arable land: 5.54%
permanent crops: 0.21%
other: 94.25% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land 
670 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards 
local flooding in southeast (early September to June); poorly drained plains may become boggy (early October to June)
Environment - current issues 
deforestation; water pollution; inadequate means for waste disposal present health risks for many urban residents; loss of wetlands

Get in

By plane

Airports 
899 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways 
total: 11
over 3,047 m: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
914 to 1,523 m: 4 (2002)
Airports - with unpaved runways 
total: 868
1,524 to 2,437 m: 27
914 to 1,523 m: 323
under 914 m: 518 (2002)

Flights go out from Miami and other South American airports to Asuncion on a fairly regular basis. There are also two daily flights from Sao Paulo to Ciudad del Este.

By train

By car

By bus

By boat

Get around

By train

Railways 
total: 971 km
standard gauge: 441 km 1.435-m gauge
note: there are 470 km of various gauges that are privately owned
narrow gauge: 60 km 1.000-m gauge

By car

Highways 
total: 25,901 km
paved: 3,067 km
unpaved: 22,834 km (2001)

There are highways connecting all the major regions of Paraguay, but they are one lane each way. You may hit toll booths along the way. Police may pull you over for any reason, and will expect bribes.

By bus

By boat

Waterways 
3,100 km
Ports and harbors 
Asuncion, Villeta, San Antonio, Encarnacion
Merchant marine 
total: 21 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 34,623 GRT/36,821 DWT
ships by type: cargo 14, chemical tanker 1, petroleum tanker 3, roll on/roll off 3
note: includes some foreign-owned ships registered here as a flag of convenience: Argentina 2, Japan 1 (2002 est.)

Talk

Languages 
Spanish (official), Guarani (official)

Buy

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Economy

Economy - overview 
Paraguay has a market economy marked by a large informal sector. The informal sector features both reexport of imported consumer goods to neighboring countries as well as the activities of thousands of microenterprises and urban street vendors. Because of the importance of the informal sector, accurate economic measures are difficult to obtain. A large percentage of the population derives their living from agricultural activity, often on a subsistence basis. The formal economy grew by an average of about 3% annually in 1995-97, but GDP declined slightly in 1998, 1999, and 2000. On a per capita basis, real income has stagnated at 1980 levels. Most observers attribute Paraguay's poor economic performance to political uncertainty, corruption, lack of progress on structural reform, substantial internal and external debt, and deficient infrastructure.
GDP 
purchasing power parity - $26.2 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate 
0% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita 
purchasing power parity - $4,600 (2001 est.)
GDP - composition by sector 
agriculture: 29%
industry: 26%
services: 45% (2000 est.)
Population below poverty line 
36% (2001 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share 
lowest 10%: 1%
highest 10%: 44% (1998) (1998)
Distribution of family income - Gini index 
58 (1998)
Inflation rate (consumer prices) 
7.2% (2001 est.)
Labor force 
2 million (2000 est.)
Labor force - by occupation 
agriculture 45%
Unemployment rate 
17.8% (2001 est.)
Budget 
revenues: $1.3 billion
expenditures: $2 billion, including capital expenditures of $700 million (1999 est.)
Industries 
sugar, cement, textiles, beverages, wood products
Industrial production growth rate 
0% (2000 est.)
Electricity - production 
53.056 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - production by source 
fossil fuel: 0%
hydro: 100%
other: 0% (2000)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption 
1.95 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports 
47.392 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports 
0 kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products 
cotton, sugarcane, soybeans, corn, wheat, tobacco, cassava (tapioca), fruits, vegetables; beef, pork, eggs, milk; timber
Exports 
$2.2 billion f.o.b. (2001 est.)
Exports - commodities 
electricity, soybeans, feed, cotton, meat, edible oils
Exports - partners 
Brazil 39%, Uruguay 14%, Argentina 11% (2000)
Imports 
$2.7 billion f.o.b. (2001 est.)
Imports - commodities 
road vehicles, consumer goods, tobacco, petroleum products, electrical machinery
Imports - partners 
Argentina 25.4%, Brazil 24.5%, Uruguay 3.8% (2000)
Debt - external 
$2.9 billion (2001 est.)
Economic aid - recipient 
$NA
Currency 
guarani (PYG)
Currency code 
PYG
Exchange rates 
guarani per US dollar - 4,783.0 (January 2002), 4,107.7 (2001), 3,486.4 (2000), 3,119.1 (1999), 2,726.5 (1998), 2,177.9 (1997); note - since early 1998, the exchange rate has operated as a managed float; prior to that, the exchange rate was determined freely in the market
Fiscal year 
calendar year

Eat

You'll find much of the standard South American cuisine here - beans, rice, with some Brazilian influence as well (fried bananas, pineapple). Also highly popular are empanadas (meat/egg stuffed in a pastry and baked) and milanesa (breaded and fried chicken/beef/fish) - these are considered fast food, and are also found in other countries in the region. If you order a hamburger at a restaurant, expect it to come topped with a fried egg. Asado (BBQ) is great, and prices are quite reasonable - 20000 Guaranis ($3.20 US) will get you an all you can eat buffet at many nice places. 5000 Guarani is enough to pay for a hamburger. Paraguayan food isn't particularly spicy, so those who can't tolerate spices won't have problems here. There isn't much in the way of traditional Paraguay cuisine, aside from a bread baked in a fire, usually made out of mandioca (yucca plant) flour. Mandioca is often substituted for potatos.

Drink

It's not advisable to drink the tap water (unless boiled), but you probably won't get sick if you do. The national beverage in Paraguay is a tea called mate, and is made from the yerba plant. It is served only in wooden cups, and is drunk through a metal straw called a bombilla. The tea is prepared by pouring dry yerba into the cup, then adding water (hot or cold) and optionally sugar. The taste is best described as earthy and bitter; it will take getting used to if you plan to drink it. Drinking matte is most definitely one of the social customs of Paraguay, shops will close around noon for a siesta and a matte round with friends. If you can get used to the taste and participate, locals will be appreciative. This drink is also found in other South American countries such as Argentina and Uruguay.

Beer is widely available, as are many liquors

Sleep

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Stay safe

There aren't many large cities in Paraguay, which means that if you stay clear of them, you are unlikely to run into any trouble. The police are known to be corrupt, and if you are pulled over for any reason, you will almost be expected to pay a bribe. In the cities, crime is common, though not as rampant as in other cities such as Rio. Ciudad del Este is a money laundering capital of the world, and also a counterfeit capital. You'll want to keep an eye on your bags and wallet here. Generally, as long as you aren't involved in drug smuggling (inadvertently or otherwise), and beware of pickpockets, you should be safe most of the time.

Legal system 
based on Argentine codes, Roman law, and French codes; judicial review of legislative acts in Supreme Court of Justice

Stay healthy

Hospitals in Paraguay range from decent to unsanitary and unequipped. If you get desperately ill, try to get to the best hospital even if it takes a bit longer - you may not find surgical gloves in the worst of them. There are many stray dogs running the streets - avoid them. They usually won't bother you. You may pick up a foot parasite known locally as a pica, these will usually collect around your toes. They will lay eggs in your feet if not taken care of - the best way to get rid of them is to pierce the site with a stitching needle and pour hydrogen peroxide over the area. Then dig the bug out. You may notice itching or tenderness in your feet if you have picked one up.

Contact

Diplomatic representation in the US 
chief of mission: Ambassador Leila Teresa RACHID COWLES
chancery: 2400 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
consulate(s) general: Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York
FAX: [1] (202) 234-4508
telephone: [1] (202) 483-6960 through 6962
Diplomatic representation from the US 
chief of mission: Ambassador John F. KEANE
embassy: 1776 Avenida Mariscal Lopez, Casilla Postal 402, Asuncion
mailing address: Unit 4711, APO AA 34036-0001
telephone: [595] (21) 213-715
FAX: [595] (21) 213-728

Communications

Telephones - main lines in use 
290,475 (2001)
Telephones - mobile cellular 
510,000 (2001)
Telephone system 
general assessment: meager telephone service; principal switching center is Asuncion
domestic: fair microwave radio relay network
international: satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)
Radio broadcast stations 
AM 46, FM 27, shortwave 6 (three inactive) (1998)
Radios 
925,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations 
4 (2001)
Televisions 
990,000 (2001)
Internet country code 
.py
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) 
4 (2000)
Internet users 
20,000 (2000)