Results of The War of the Triple Alliance

The War of the Triple Alliance, also known as the Paraguayan War, and in Paraguay as the Great War, was fought from 1864 to 1870 between Paraguay and the allied countries of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. It caused more deaths than any other South American war and particularly devastated Paraguay, killing most of its male population.


The outcome of the war was the utter defeat of Paraguay. After the Triple Alliance defeated Paraguay in conventional warfare, the conflict turned into a drawn-out guerrilla-style resistance that devastated the Paraguayan military and civilian population. The guerilla war lasted until López was killed on March 1, 1870. One estimate places total Paraguayan losses - through both war and disease - as high as 1.2 million people, or 90% of its pre-war population. A different estimate places Paraguayan deaths at approximately 300,000 people out of its 500,000 to 525,000 prewar inhabitants.


It took decades for Paraguay to recover from the chaos and demographic imbalance in which it had been placed. What had been by name one of the first South American republics, Paraguay only chose its first democratically-elected president in 1993.

In Brazil, the war helped bring about the end of slavery, moved the military into a key role in the public sphere, and caused a ruinous increase of public debt, which took decades to pay, seriously reducing the country's growth. It has been argued that the war played a key role in the consolidation of Argentina as a nation-state. After the war, that country became Latin America's second wealthiest nation (Brazil being the first). For Uruguay, it was the last time that Brazil and Argentina would take such an interventionist role in its internal politics.


Following Paraguay's final defeat in 1870, Argentina sought to enforce one of the secret clauses of the Triple Alliance Treaty, according to which Argentina would receive a large part of the Gran Chaco, a Paraguayan region rich in quebracho wood (a product used in the tanning of leather). The Argentinian negotiators proposed to Brazil that Paraguay should be divided in two, with each of the victors incorporating a half into its territory. For the Brazilian government, however, the complete dismemberment of Paraguay was not a desirable outcome - for one thing Brazil needed to maintain a good trading relationship with Britain and the British were not about to countenance the disappearance of a country that owed them such a large sum of money; in addition the Brazilians could see that Paraguay served as a buffer between the Brazilian Empire and Argentina.


No single overall peace treaty was signed. The post-war border between Paraguay and Argentina was resolved through long negotiations, finalized in a treaty that defined the frontier between the two countries signed on February 3, 1876 and which granted Argentina roughly a third of the area it had intended to incorporate originally. The only region about which no consensus was reached - the area between the Río Verde and the main branch of Río Pilcomayo - was arbitrated by U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes, who declared it Paraguayan. (The Paraguayan department Presidente Hayes was named after Hayes due to his arbitration decision.) Brazil signed a separate peace treaty with Paraguay on January 9, 1872, obtaining freedom of navigation on the Río Paraguay. Brazil received the borders it had claimed before the war[. The treaty also stipulated a war debt to the imperial government of Brazil that was eventually pardoned in 1943 by Getúlio Vargas in reply to a similar Argentine initiative.


Argentina annexed part of Paraguayan territory and became the strongest of the River Plate countries. During the campaign, the provinces of Entre Rios and Corrientes had supplied Brazilian troops with cattle, foodstuffs and other products. In total, Argentina and Brazil annexed about 140,000 km² (55,000 square miles) of Paraguayan territory: Argentina took much of the Misiones region and part of the Chaco between the Bermejo and Pilcomayo rivers, an area which today constitutes the province of Formosa; Brazil enlarged its Mato Grosso province by claiming territories that had been disputed with Paraguay before the war. Both demanded a large indemnity (which was never paid) and occupied Paraguay until 1876. Meanwhile, the Colorados had gained political control of Uruguay, which they retained until 1958.

The purple is territory awarded to Argentina, the blue is territory awarded to Brazil

 

Return to Wild Geese >