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Paraguay is located in the heartland of South America. It was conquered by the Spanish in the late 16th century. The colony was mostly controlled by the Jesuits until their expulsion in 1767. In 1811, Paraguay was the first South American country to achieve independence from Spain. A number of highly authoritarian rulers governed the country as a tyranny but also turned it into a military and economic powerhouse. The War of the Triple Alliance of 1864-1870 led to the near annihilation of Paraguay, which lost half of its territory and eighty per cent of its male population. Paraguay's history remains marked by instability and authoritarianism, although it managed to defeat Bolivia in the Chaco War of 1932-1936. For much of the 20th century the country was ruled by General Stroessner, who provided a safe haven for Nazi war criminals. Around the turn of the millennium however Paraguay started to see a democratic system of government and an impressive economic growth.