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Despite 100,000 deaths, Chaco War all but forgotten
"In the 20th century in South America, there is no conflict of such magnitude," Paz Soldan said of the war that resulted in 55,000 dead on the Bolivian side and some 40,000 on that of Paraguay
25.06.08 - 19:39 -

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The 1932-1935 Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay has the "odd characteristic" of being "almost unknown" despite the fact that it left almost 100,000 dead on both sides, two writers from the neighbouring landlocked countries said on Tuesday.
Bolivia's Edmundo Paz Soldan and Jesús Ruiz Nestosa of Paraguay spoke to Efe after taking part in the colloquium "Bolivianos y paraguayos, un destino comun en Madrid" (Bolivians and Paraguayans: a common destiny in Madrid) held at Casa de America.
"In the 20th century in South America, there is no conflict of such magnitude," Paz Soldan said of the war that resulted in 55,000 dead on the Bolivian side and some 40,000 on that of Paraguay.
The Bolivian writer believes that that is "something strange" that perhaps has to do with "the geopolitics" of the two then-antagonists and with the "lack of communication" in that era.
Ruiz Nestosa noted that his father, who participated in the war, sent a telegram to his mother on June 12th, 1935, to tell her that a peace agreement had been signed, "but the message arrived on the 16th, and that was the rapid way."
The war "left open wounds that never scarred over," Ruiz Nestosa said, adding that contact with Bolivia was missed by Paraguay for years thereafter.
He recalled how the 1954-1989 dictatorship of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner made Paraguay into an "island surrounded by land," in the words of the late Paraguayan novelist Augusto Roa Bastos.
Ruiz Nestosa said that nowadays he thinks "the ideal thing would be to be able to get closer, because there are many things in common; much more with those of the lower part (of the country) than with the altiplano, but in any case we could get closer."
Paz Soldan said he agreed with the words and sentiments of Ruiz Nestosa, adding that despite the fact that the Chaco War was "the bloodiest war of the 20th century," in Bolivia it is the War of the Pacific, in which that country and Peru confronted Chile in the late 19th century, that is better remembered.
"That little bit of resentment that remained between Bolivians and Paraguayans, that shared past of pain that little by little is dissipating between generations ... (is) a good example" for the present day, in which conflicts leave "so much rancor."
The Bolivian author said he thinks that the two countries have the pending task of getting to know one another. "The government (of Bolivia) never promoted the understanding of the neighbouring country who was the enemy but who basically was nothing of the kind."
Ruiz Nestosa said he believes "the meeting of everyone is necessary" and he insisted that Paraguay has "the misfortune or the curse" of having always been isolated, and he sarcastically recalled that Stroessner "had the idea that Bolivia at any time would attack Paraguay again."
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