By Andrew F. Laverdiere

Recently, the YouTube channel The Armchair Historian with 1.83 Million subscribers hosted by Griffin Johnson posted a video about the 5 year War Of The Triple Alliance of Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay against Paraguay. The only context given for the conflict which resulted in a near extermination of the population was that the Paraguayan Dictator, Solano Lopez was a crazy mega-lo-manic with delusions of empire. “

Like his hero Napoleon Bonaparte, “eccentric dictator” are the choice words used by Johnson while the History channel depicts him in their re-enactment smoking a cigar and sporting a wild maniacal look. The rest merely start from Solano’s invasion of Brazil and detail the results of the battles.

So, based on what Griffin Johnson states as the pretext for the war, which is mainly the greed and megalomania of Lopez, do we sympathize with Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina as they murdered half of the 450,000 citizens, and three quarters of the male population? Is it possible to leave out the role of the British Empire in Central and South America in the 19th Century when by Johnson’s account, only Spain and Portugal were involved? If the entire century is glanced at, British manipulation of conflicts on behalf of Free Trade and colonial looting policies rear its ugly head, again, and again, and again.

In 1806 and 1807 British forces invaded the port of Buenos Aires but were repelled by the local military.

1828 President Monroe invokes the foreign policy of  Secretary of State John Quincy Adam of non-interference by any European power in the hemisphere.

1825-26 At the Panama Conference, John Quincy Adams prevents the British-run Simon Bolivar from turning all the former Spanish Colonies into British protectorates.

 Uruguay is created in 1828 by British manipulation of Brazil and Argentina, creating a base of operations used throughout the 19th Century. In 1827, John Ponsonby, First Viscount Ponsonby, British Council in Buenos Aires said “The British government didn’t bring the Portuguese royal family to America to abandon it; and Europe will never allow only two states, Brazil and Argentina, to be the exclusive owners of the eastern coast of South America from north of Ecuador down to Cape Horn.”

According to Thomas Lyle Whigham in his research paper The Iron Works of Ybycui “throughout the continent a new British-dominated neo-colonial order had taken firm root. Britain’s diplomatic ventures at this time centered on the formation of alliances with such American metropolises as Lima and Buenos Aires. These compacts were built upon mutual interests in reconstructing the splintered Viceroyalties into viable political units under basically British hegemony. “The nail is driven,” wrote Foreign Secretary Canning in 1824, “Spanish America is free, and if we do not mismanage our affairs sadly, she is English.”

In 1833, the British with the assistance of President Andrew Jackson seized the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands over Argentine protests over British whalers.

1837-1839 France blockades Mexico’s main port to collect debt claims.

1838 British and French ships jointly occupied the Plate River to attempt to overthrow the Rosas Government in Argentina.

From 1838 through 1848, Giuseppe Garibaldi, friend of British Intelligence asset Giuseppe Mazzini was organizing separatist and “democracy” movements in the area of Uruguay, similar to George Soros financed color revolutions today. Garibaldi’s networks had put the Argentine Free Trade liberals, under Bartolome Mitre (1862-68) in complete control of Buenos Aires with the defeat of Juan Manuel de Rosas in 1852 at the battle of Caseros. This group largely represented British banks interested in the “opening up” of the Argentine frontier. 

In 1845 British and French navies blockaded the port of Buenos Aires.

1848, From the British colony of Belize, the British armed the Indians of Yucatan and encouraged them to rebel against the local government. Invoking the Monroe Doctrine, President Polk assisted Mexico in crushing the rebellion.

In 1861 Spain invades the Dominican Republic. Invoking the Monroe Doctrine, President Lincoln forces them to leave in 1865.

In 1861, Britain, Spain and France invade Mexico and install Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian Josef Maria von Habsburg-Lothringen as Emperor, ostensibly to collect debts, but also to threaten the United States with an invasion of French troops in coordination with a British invasion from Canada in support of the Southern Confederacy. Threats of war against Britain and France by Russia

From 1879 to 1881, Backed by British financial interests, Chile waged war against Bolivia and Peru in the War Of the Pacific over nitrate deposits, a valuable component of gunpowder.

In 1891, British interests financed a coup against nationalist Chilean President Jose Manuel Balmaceda, a follower of the economic policy of Alexander Hamilton and Friedrich List foreshadowing the 1970 coup against Salvador Allende.

1895, President Grover Cleveland invokes the Monroe Doctrine in the dispute over the Venezuela/British Guyana border.

From 1902 to 1903 German and British warships blockaded Venezuelan ports in order to collect unpaid debts. Argentine Foreign Minister Louis Drago invokes the Monroe Doctrine to argue against military intervention to collect debts. He is opposed by Brazilian Monarchist Rio Branco who collaborates with President Teddy Roosevelts Corollary that saw the US using its Navy to enforce debt collection in the manner of the Europeans.

So, with that vista of the Nineteenth Century in your vision, are we told that, by Simon Whistler of the  Warographics channel, or the Kings and Generals channel, or Whatifalthist channel, or the History Channel or any of the other channels that have videos on the subject who merely repeat the claim that Lopez was just a madman bent on global conquest? Long before the first shots were fired in 1864, the Portenio press led by the British Packet and Argentine News as far back as 1828 was shouting for an “expedition to liberate Paraguay.” “We think that those who reflect upon the advantages will agree that the attempt to open the trade of Paraguay is worth a few sacrifices.” In April 1830, the Brazilian consul in Paraguay, Correia de Camara, informed his secretary of state that “the only way . . . to do away with that nascent colossus [Paraguay] is through a rapid and well-coordinated invasion.”

 In 1846, Paraguay had risen to a point where the U.S. Consul considered it “the most powerful nation of the New World after the United States.” If that is the case, let us look at how such a small nation became the envy of South America. The trend following the success of the France under the Cameralist policy of  Minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert and the United States following the American Revolution with Alexander Hamilton’s creation of the First National Bank of the United States, protectionist policies, and canal and railroad building inspired others. Upon gaining independence from Spain, Dr. Jose Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia (1814-1840), Carlos Antonio Lopez ( 1840-59) and his son Francisco Solano Lopez ( 1859-70) used Cameralist methods to keep Paraguay independent, prosperous, and free from foreign debt.

Inheriting a country that was undeveloped and nearly all the citizens in a state of illiteracy, Francia had to eliminate the class system of aristocrats and peasants, which he did by arresting all 300 of the peninsulares or Spanish born elite and requiring a payment of 150,000 peso for their freedom which broke their dominance over the country. Second, the Roman Catholic Church was for the most part eliminated, Church revenues subjugated to the State, and 900 families homesteaded on Church property. Francia lastly forced the  intermarrying of the Spanish and Guarani that created a homogeneous Mestizo citizenry, unique on the continent.

Francia organized the Paraguayan market and economy in such a way that it benefited national interests which was intolerable to the free traders. The state regulated all economic and commercial activities; the military was put in charge of cattle production from confiscated Spanish rancheros providing revenue to the state and all surplus cattle were provided free to the peasants. By heavily taxing the richest, he reduced taxes for the poorest. He prohibited the export of gold and silver, which broke the cycle of dependence on the Buenos Aires banks and merchants, and did away with a negative trade balance. Francia also prohibited the contracting of foreign loans. With these and other measures, he eliminated the role of local oligarchies as the country’s dominant political and economic force . The governments of Carlos Antonio Lopez and Francisco Solano Lopez deepened the process with the building of infrastructure, development of the educational system, and modernization and expansion of the Armed Forces. Carlos Antonio Lopez used to say that “with time and foresight, the government wants to avoid the two dangers which threaten the Republic: the danger of remaining stationary in the midst of progress and advances of all kinds which make up modem societies, and the revolutionary danger which seeks to rush and disturb everything using the pretext of progress.”

Carlos Antonio Lopez made the improvement of the educational system a top priority: He founded new schools, libraries, and hired foreign professors to participate in this process. Many young people were also sent abroad to study, and later returned with expertise to contribute to national development. “Schools”, Lopez used to say, “are the true monuments we can build to national freedom.” Carlos Antonio Lopez always emphasized that he was not a man of the Enlightenment, and that he was a great student of St. Augustine. Education was extended to rural areas. The founding of the Normal School by the Spanish intellectual Idelfonso Bermejo, was an important achievement. Through a scholarship plan, Lopez sent Paraguayan students to Europe and the United States, and rewarded inventors and others who introduced innovations in the production process. In 1857, there were 408 schools, with 16,000 students; by 1862, the number of schools grew to 435, with 25,000 students.

In 1845, the government inaugurated the state-run printing press. Touring Europe, Lopez recruited foreign engineers, doctors, and technicians hired from England, Germany, Austria, France, and Italy, to help build the military complex at Humaita, together with several other projects such as the iron foundry at Ibicui, and the Asuncion arsenal and shipyard. The first Railroad on the continent, the telegraph, and numerous military clinics were also built, the latter with the aid of foreign physicians. Other projects included the merchant marine and Navy.

Roads, bridges, and canals were constructed. The government built ammunition factories, extended telegraph lines, and established industries for the production of paper, sulphur, dyes, textiles, ceramics, and lime. By 1857, iron production which was at a level of 1,000 pounds every twelve hours was beginning to threaten the British iron monopoly over South America. Under this system of industrial protection, Paraguay’s economic and industrial development was a source of envy among its neighbors. Between 1851 and 1857, exports grew by 600% and the trade surplus by 800%

By the end of the 1850s, the British Crown had determined that it was time to destroy Paraguay. In 1859, after a British plot to assassinate Carlos Antonio Lopez was discovered, an “offended ” Great Britain broke off diplomatic relations with Paraguay, and carried out a number of provocative actions violating that nation’s territorial waters.

In 1861, Lord John Russell communicated Britain’s demand that Paraguay submit to its “imperative mandate.” That same year, Bartolome Mitre revealed the Triple Alliance’s true objectives, as well as the identity of its promoters, when he said, “We should be aware of this peaceful triumph [in the region]; let us seek the nerve center of this progress, and find the initial force which put it into motion. What is the force which drives this movement? Gentlemen, it is British capital.”

During the war, Mitre raved that “when our warriors return from their long and glorious campaign, to receive the well-deserved applause of their people, commerce shall see inscribed on their banners, the great principles which the apostles of free trade proclaim for the greater glory and happiness of mankind.”

In May 1860, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento told El Nacional, “We have faith that the moment will come when neighboring countries will intervene in the misfortune of the Paraguayan people . . .. Should Argentina’s great problem (internal strife) find a happy solution, then the common interests of Brazil and the United Provinces of La Plata must bring them together, to make triumphant on the rivers of our countries’ interiors, the principles and freedom which guarantee our safety against the government of Paraguay.”

In 1865, the preemptive military strike made by Solano Lopez against Brazil, became the pretext for the British Empire to move rapidly against Paraguay through the Triple Alliance. The details about the military campaign are covered  by the other channels, but needless to say, the entire population, men, women, and even children rallied to the defense of the nation despite the odds. After 5 years of brutal warfare, three quarters of the male population had been killed off, and half of the population of 450,000 were killed, thousands more died as the result of wounds, hunger, and cholera epidemics. In the final stages of the war, in June 1869, Gaston de Orleans, Count d’Eu, who was commander-in-chief of the imperial army and also son-in-law to the Brazilian emperor, described in his diary the “modernity” soon to be imposed on Paraguay. The Ibicui ironworks, one of the Lopezes great achievements, “has been totally and definitively razed by engineer Jardim, who found a large quantity of still-usable machinery and some weapons …. Eighty men did the job … setting fire to the smelting, carpentry, turnery and foundry buildings … as well as the fuel warehouses. The job will be finished when the plant is destroyed, and the narrow valley in which the establishment is located, is subsequently flooded.” Marshal Solano Lopez never gave up, and died fighting, rather than surrender to the Brazilian imperial army at Cerro Cora in 1870. “I die for my country, with sword in hand,” were his last words.

Paraguay was then occupied by Brazil until President Rutherford Hayes negotiated a settlement that retained the area known as the Gran Chaco for Paraguay. In gratitude, a state was named after him and his name is celebrated every year. At least one honest fact was told by Griffin Johnson, about the Pyrrhic victory of the Alliance. The cost of the conflict bankrupted both Brazil and Argentina and saddled both countries with excessive debt to the British. 

Ironically, the Chaco region was the scene of another bloody conflict between Bolivia and Paraguay over the right of Rockefellers Standard Oil in Bolivia and Royal Dutch Shell in Paraguay to drill oil. In the 1920s, and then officially in 1932, two of South America’s most impoverished countries, Bolivia and Paraguay, fought a war over this hellish region for three years. Because of the Chaco War’s deadly trench warfare and battleground conditions, one historian has referred to it as a South American version of World War I. It engulfed the two “most defeated and most looted” nations in the hemisphere, as Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano described them, in a senseless and cruel conflict which took the lives of nearly 100,000 of their citizens—52,000 Bolivians and 40,000 Paraguayans—many of them poor Indians, and some no more than children.

And the oil? In a final irony, the petroleum wealth that had inflamed the imaginations of prewar nationalist agitators turned out to be a will-o’-the-wisp. There was no oil in the Chaco itself, and Bolivia’s modest output was exported, not by river which was the main impetus for Standard Oil to push for war, but by pipeline through Brazil. The oil speculators pronounced themselves mistaken, and left the Gran Chaco to the cow, the quebracho, and the dead. The military government which took power in Bolivia in 1936 expropriated Standard Oil’s holdings a year later, creating the state-oil company YPFB. Notably, the Roosevelt government refused to intervene on Standard Oil’s behalf.


The Iron Works of Ybycui: Paraguayan Industrial Development in the Mid-Nineteenth Century by Thomas Lyle Whigham Source: The Americas, Oct., 1978,

Executive Intelligence Review: September 25 1992 Mercantilism vs. free trade: The War for Ibero-America by Cynthia Rush

Executive Intelligence Review: November 28 1986 The imperial designs behind Moscow’s revival of the Baron Rio Branco by Lorenzo Carrasco

Executive Intelligence Review: May 17 1996 Triple Alliance War vs. Paraguay was to impose British free trade by Cynthia Rush

Executive Intelligence Review: September 9 2005 Chaco War: Anglo-Dutch Resource Grab by Cynthia R. Rush

Armchair Historian video

Kings and Generals video

Warographics video

Whatifalthist video

History Channel video

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