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May 1, 2015

May 1, 1865: ganging up on Paraguay

As Spanish holdings began to declare their independence in the early 19th century, the borders were unclear, and different groups began to assert their dominance around the Río de la Plata.

On this day in 1865, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay signed the secret Treaty of the Triple Alliance – an agreement that would cause devastation to its target, Paraguay.

TDIH May 1, 2015

For decades, Paraguay had been an isolationist country. But events in Uruguay – in particular, the overthrow of a Paraguayan ally by a general friendly to both Brazil and Argentina – spooked the landlocked country. In 1864, it closed off the Parana and Paraguay rivers to Brazilian interests, which cut off large portions of western Brazil from the rest of the empire.

The three countries were led mainly by Brazilian Emperor Pedro II, who contributed 200,000 troops; Argentina sent 30,000, and Uruguay, a generally peaceful country fighting against its will, just 5,000. The presence of the third was far less about military might than the psychological effect of three-against-one over two-against-two.

After a quick traditional phase, the Paraguayans turned guerrilla, with devastating results to their own future: by the end of the war in 1870, as much as 90% of the male population of Paraguay was dead, and the country would take decades to recover.

For more on the Paraguayan War, see The Argentina Independent.

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