President Jose Mujica underlined the strong identity of Uruguay with the Paraguayan people, but also recalled no the “immense debt that we never settled or will we ever be able to settle for having participated in the War of the Triple Alliance”.
The War of the Triple Alliance, (1864/65–70), is considered the bloodiest conflict in Latin American history, fought between Paraguay and the allied countries of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay.
We were forced participants of a useless war and contributed to a major genocide, with historic consequences, in a country which at the time was a rare example of autonomous development in the context of that time said Mujica, who made a brief visit to Paraguay over the weekend.
We must never forget that the dreadful genocide which was the Paraguay war, started in Uruguay, said Mujica, underlining ”it was the consequence of our civil conflicts, which we were unable to solve by ourselves, and the region walked in (Brazil and Argentina), and Paraguay took sides in that struggle to try and help us, to try and give us a hand
But both big neighbors had their eyes set on Paraguay, they were waiting for the occasion, because the country (with all its development and advances in education and healthcare) was a dangerous example and things don't happen by chance”.
Paraguay had been involved in boundary and tariff disputes with its powerful neighbors Argentina and Brazil, for years. The Uruguayans had also struggled to achieve and maintain their independence from those same powers, especially from Argentina.
In 1864 Brazil helped the leader of Uruguay’s Colorado Party to oust his Blanco Party opponent, whereupon the dictator of Paraguay, Francisco Solano López, believing that the regional balance of power was threatened, went to war with Brazil. Bartolomé Mitre, president of Argentina, then organized an alliance with Brazil and Colorado-controlled Uruguay (the Triple Alliance), and together they declared war on Paraguay on May 1, 1865.
López’s action, following his buildup of a 50,000-man army, then the strongest in Latin America, was viewed by many as aggression for self and national aggrandizement; but, as the war wore on, many Argentines and others saw the conflict as Mitre’s war of conquest.
The outcome of the war was the utter defeat of Paraguay. After its defeat in conventional warfare, Paraguay conducted a drawn-out guerrilla-style resistance, resulting in the destruction of the Paraguayan military and much of the civilian population.
The guerrilla war lasted until López was killed by Brazilian forces on 1 March 1870. Estimates of total Paraguayan losses range from 300,000 to 1,200,000. The male population 12/60 years was virtually annihilated, and Brazil left its troops in Paraguay.
Nevertheless it took decades for Paraguay to recover from the chaos and demographic imbalance.
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 a decade to pay off, seriously reducing the country's growth.
In Argentina it has been argued the war played a key role in the consolidation of Argentina as a nation-state. Argentina became South America's wealthiest nation, and one of the wealthiest in the world, by the early 20th century.
Uruguay must never forget these things, the past helps to look into the future and to learn for the future, said Mujica.