Paraguay, one of South America's least densely populated countries, experienced more than three decades of dictatorship under Alfredo Stroessner, who was ousted in 1989 and died in exile in 2006. The end of his iron-fisted rule did not bring political stability.
Factional splits led to the assassination of a vice-president, the resignation of a president and an attempted coup. Stroessner's party, the National Republican Association-Colorado Party, survived his departure and remained in power until 2008. In elections in April it was defeated by the centre-left Patriotic Alliance for Change led by Fernando Lugo.
Paraguay Tourist Attractions
Up to 95% of Paraguayans are mestizos, people of mixed Spanish and native American descent. Many speak the language of the indigenous Guarani; the rest are bilingual or only speak Spanish. There is a Japanese community, a legacy of post World War II migration.
With few mineral resources, Paraguay's economy revolves around agriculture. The 1990s saw slow, steady growth, but by 2002 the economy was in serious trouble, partly because of a financial crisis in neighbouring Argentina.Hyde Park
Emergency loans - conditional on economic reforms - were negotiated with the IMF. Corruption is widespread and Paraguay is a centre for smuggling, money laundering and organised crime. The commercialisation of agriculture, population growth and forest clearances have led to a dramatic increase in the number of landless families.
This has boosted migration into urban areas and shanty towns have burgeoned. Around 60% of Paraguayans live in poverty. Much of the north-west is taken up by the Chaco, a vast and largely uninhabited plain. Paraguay and Bolivia fought over it in the 1930s; the war left 100,000 dead.
Full name: Republic of Paraguay
Population: 6.1 million (UN, 2007)
Area: 406,752 sq km (157,048 sq miles)
Major languages: Spanish, Guarani
Major religion: Christianity
Life expectancy: 70 years (men), 74 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 guarani = 100 centimos
Main exports: Soyabeans, cotton, meat, edible oils, timber
GNI per capita: US $1,280 (World Bank, 2006)
Internet domain: .py
International dialling code: +595