Monday, March 03, 2008

Down Northern South America Way

Much excitement in South America! Sylvania is rattling its sabers at Freedonia. Or was that Venezuela and Columbia? And how long has it been since we had a good old-fashioned nation-state war in South America?

I checked on that, and Ecuador and Peru had a dustup in 1995 that caused a few dozen casualties, and there was the Falklands War more than a quarter-century ago now, but for really bloody nation-on-nation fighting (and I don't mean assorted civil wars, revolutions, coups, or periods of oppression, unrest or various other shades of public violence), you have to go back further. Such as to the Chaco War of the 1930s, when Paraguay kicked Bolivia out of most of the Gran Chaco region, or the War of the Pacific in from 1879 to 1884, the result of which was that both Peru and Bolivia lost territory to Chile.

But for a really horrific South American war, consider the War of the Triple Alliance. Traveler Bernard Cloutier sums it up well on his web site: "Francisco Solano López... led the country into a war against an alliance of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. The war devastated Paraguay, and when López's death ended the conflict in 1870, more than half of the population had been killed [some estimates put the death toll among the male population as high as 90 percent], the economy had been destroyed, agricultural activity was at a standstill and the country had lost more than 142,500 sq km (55,000 sq mi). The country was occupied by a Brazilian army until 1876, and had to pay heavy war indemnities."

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