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Paraguay in facts and figures

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Paraguay, a small landlocked nation that is among Latin America's poorest and historically most turbulent, is set to elect a new president, vice president, 45 senators, 80 deputies and the governors of the country's 17 departments on Sunday.

Here are some facts about the country:

GEOGRAPHY: The country stretches across 406,752 square kilometers (157,048 square miles) of territory in the center of South America. Linked to the Atlantic Ocean by the Parana River, Paraguay borders Bolivia to the north, Brazil to the east and Argentina to the west.

CAPITAL: Asuncion.

POPULATION: 6.5 million in 2011, according to World Bank figures.

LANGUAGE: Official languages: Spanish and Guarani (widely spoken indigenous language).

RELIGION: Catholicism is the official state religion with 96.4 percent of the population. A Protestant minority exists.

POLITICAL SYSTEM: The president is elected for a five-year term in single-round elections, with no opportunity for re-election. The National Congress consists of an 80-member Chamber of Deputies and 45-member Senate.

In April 2008, former Roman Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo ended six decades of right-wing rule in Paraguay.

But he was forced out of the presidency in June 2012 after Congress impeached him over his handling of a deadly land dispute near the end of his four-year term in office. Pending new elections, he was replaced by Vice President Federico Franco.

ARMED FORCES: 10,650 soldiers, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

HISTORY: Paraguay declared independence from Spain in 1811. It suffered a devastating defeat in an 1865-1870 war against Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay that decimated its population and shrunk its territory by almost half.

It did better in a 1932-1935 war against Bolivia, grabbing a disputed border territory called Gran Chaco after a costly campaign, though the conquered land proved not to contain the major oil reserves whose presumed existence triggered the conflict.

Civil war raged between 1940 and 1947.

In 1954, a general, Alfredo Stroessner took over in a coup and installed a dictatorship he maintained until he himself was overthrown by the military 35 years later.

ECONOMY: The economy relies on agriculture, producing and exporting cotton and soy, of which Paraguay is the world's fourth biggest exporter, and beef.

GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT: $23.84 billion (World Bank, 2011)

INCOME PER CAPITA: $3,629 (World Bank, 2011)

UNEMPLOYMENT: 5.6 percent (World Bank, 2011)

INFLATION: four percent (Central Bank, 2012)

POVERTY: In 2011, around 32 percent of the population lived below the poverty line.

CURRENCY: Guarani.

In a country where corruption and trafficking are rampant, Paraguay is the world's second biggest producer of cannabis.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130419/paraguay-facts-and-figures