The War of the Triple Alliance

The War of the Triple Alliance

The War of the Triple Alliance took place in South America between 1864 and 1870. It is, as of 2022, the deadliest war between South American nations. Paraguay lost around 300,000 lives, which represents more than half its total population at the time.

What sets this war apart in World history is the sheer imbalance between the two sides: on the one hand, the two major regional powers, Brazil and Argentina, in alliance with the much smaller Uruguay, on the other side, Paraguay, a small landlocked nation. Amazingly, it is Paraguay that started that war, a move that would be viewed as suicidal to any person who does not grasp the context in which this conflict developed.

The borders between South American nations had been in dispute since the early days of Spanish and Portuguese exploration and colonization. Paraguay was one of the countries that emerged from the independence of the Vice-Royalty of the Rio de la Plata, along with Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia. As a result, it was in territorial dispute with all its neighbours. Argentina and Brazil had been fighting for regional domination, but any alliance between the two major powers would jeopardize the very existence of Paraguay. With this in mind Paraguay developed a strong army and attacked its neighbours in a preemptive way.

While the consequences for Paraguay were disastrous, it can be argued that another approach would have led to the dismantlement of the country. Today, Paraguay still exists as an independent nation, albeit one of the poorest in South America.

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