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Paraguay is South America's 'empty quarter,' a country little known even to its
neighbors. For much of its history it has distanced itself from the Latin
American mainstream, and for a substantial period of this century was South
America's most notorious and durable police state. PJ O'Rourke summed it up
bluntly when he wrote 'Paraguay is nowhere and famous for nothing,' and then, on
a short visit to cover elections, promptly fell in love with the place. You might
do the same since Paraguay has taken steps to overcome its political, economic
and geographic isolation and now welcomes visitors. The country has a relaxed
riverside capital, impressive Jesuit missions, several national parks and the
vast, arid Chaco - one of South America's great wilderness areas.
Full country name: Républica del Paraguay
Area: 407,000 sq km (158,730 sq mi)
Capital city: Asunción (pop 550,060)
People: 95% Mestizo
Language: Officially Spanish, but Guaraní is widely spoken
Religion: 97% Roman Catholic, 3% Mennonite and other Protestants
President: Luis González Macchi
GDP: US$19.8 billion
GDP per head: US$3,700
Annual growth: -0.5%
Major industries: Soybeans, cotton, timber, oilseed crushing, milling, brewing,
textiles, hides & skins, meatpacking, sugarcane (and contraband)
Major trading partners: Brazil, the Netherlands, Argentina, USA
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