Sunday, November 8, 2009

A New Look At An Old War

A new book is prompting a re-examination of a controversial figure from South American history and is dredging up some hard feelings between two neighboring countries.

Eliza Lynch has been painted as a former Irish prostitute who became the unofficial "Queen of Paraguay" that led her country into a disastrous war with Brazil. Now a new book, The Lives of Eliza Lynch: Scandal and Courage, by Michael Lillis, a former diplomat, and Ronan Fanning, a historian is taking a new view of Lynch. Rather than a bloodthirsty wanna-be Queen, they say Lynch was a loyal wife to dictator Francisco Solano López, and the authors say that that López, not Lynch, was the one who pushed for the ill-fated war against the "Triple Alliance" of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay in 1864.

The war was an utter disaster for Paraguay - Brazilian forces would rampage throughout the country, leaving 90% of Paraguay's men dead. In addition to trying to rehabilitate the image of Lynch, the authors also say that the Brazilians bear responsibility for what they call a "near genocide" during the final two years of the six year war as Brazil's Emperor Dom Pedro II tried to wipe out every last remnant of Paraguay's military.

With their portrayal of Francisco Solano López and Emperor Dom Pedro II, authors Lillis and Fanning have managed to anger people in both Paraguay and Brazil - they have received death threats from Paraguayan nationalists upset at their treatment of López, while the Brazilians have bristled at charges of genocide, who note that it was Paraguay who started the war in the first place.

Meanwhile in modern-day South America, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez told his military on Sunday to "prepare" for war with Colombia. Chavez has accused Colombia of being a puppet of the United States and has said that the US is negotiating a ten-year lease for a Colombian military base to use it as a stepping stone for an eventual US-led invasion of Venezuela. Relations between Venezuela and Colombia have been getting steadily worse, on Thursday Venezuela sent 15,000 soldiers to the Colombian border, supposedly to fight drug trafficking.
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