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Paraguay, officially the Republic of Paraguay, is a landlocked country in South America, bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. Paraguay lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, which runs through the center of the country from north to south. Due to its central location in South America, it is sometimes referred to as Corazón de América ("Heart of America").The Guaraní have been living in Paraguay since long before the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century, when Paraguay became part of the Spanish colonial empire. Following independence from Spain in 1811, Paraguay was ruled by a series of dictators who implemented isolationist and protectionist policies. This development was truncated by the disastrous Paraguayan War (1864–1870), in which the country lost 60% to 70% of its population and large amounts of territory. Paraguay endured a succession of authoritarian governments, culminating in the regime of Alfredo Stroessner, who led one of South America's longest-lived military dictatorships for a large part of the 20th century. In 1989, Stroessner was toppled in an internal coup, and free multiparty elections were held in 1993. A year later, Paraguay joined Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay to found Mercosur.

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