The 1989 Coup d’État in Paraguay

The first volume from Helion’s four @War series to go into the print in 2019 is ‘The 1989 Coup d’État in Paraguay’ by Antonio Luis Sapienza Fracchia.

On the first look, some might ask themselves, ‘why should I care and buy this one?’

Situated in the centre of the southern half of Southern America, Paraguay is a country ‘very far away’, and thus nowadays rarely catching attention of the mainstream media. However, precisely this is the – first of many – reasons ‘why’: while little known outside the country, Paraguay not only has a very rich military history, but also a markedly different history than other countries in this part of the world.

Just for the start: rather than accepting being overrun by the Spanish or the Portuguese, the native population reversed the conquistadores, resulting in the creation of the only truly bilingual country in the Western hemisphere – and then one where the majority of the population is proud to claim the Guaraní ancestry. Paraguay is also quite unique by its subsequent history: over much of the 17th and 18th Century it was dominated by semi-autonomous theocratic communities (set up by the Jesuit and Franciscan Orders). It was their influence that resulted in the country producing – and its population patiently tolerating – plenty of often bizarre dictators, all of whom in turn exercised direct influence upon the military.

The latest in a seemingly endless series of military dictators, General Alfredo Stroessner Matiauda established himself in power in the course of a coup d’état, in 1954, and then ruled the country with iron fist for 35 years – until overthrown in (yet another) military coup, led by General Andrés Rodriguez, in 1989.

The latter is the topic of this action-packed, detailed, yet fluent and easy-to-follow volume. Obviously, Tony couldn’t avoid providing a comprehensive portrait of Stroessner and his regime: this is the first strong point of this volume.

Furthermore, he also went to great extensions to provide minute details on the Paraguayan military in 1989, and then in telling the story of the entire coup in a blow-by-blow fashion. That’s the second

Precisely this is what makes this volume as interesting – even more so considering the next point. While I’m surely no ‘fan’ of them, military coups do represent a sort of an ‘unrecognized art’ of military operations.

Usually launched by a small group of officers, no matter how well-planned and -organized, or how widely supported, it’s nearly always that their outcome depends on apparently trivial, and certainly unexpected decisions and/or factors. Furthermore, I find it fascinating to read exactly what kind of motives prompt members of any military service – always an organization based on the principles of the discipline and clear accountability – to come to the idea to disregard the chain of command, plot a coup and why, how are they planning, and how are they running ‘combat operations’ of that kind. Combined with a fact that we’re living at the times military coups became very rare (or at least not as common in the period 1940s-1970s), this is making volumes as detailed as this one even more precious.

Thus, except for being richly illustrated with authentic photographs, colour profiles and maps, ‘The 1989 Coup d’État in Paraguay’ – also reads like a ‘manual’ on ‘how to stage a successful military coup’.

The book is due to hit the stores in early February – right on time for the 28th anniversary of this fateful event.

See more details on our website here.

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