Chaco War

Border disputes and the Powers

South America 1933.0704

Chaco War

The Acre dispute, Venezuela crises, South America in WWI, and the Chaco War (4 July 1933)

Historical Map of South American nations

Bolivia and Paraguay were both left land-locked by the 19th century's wars in South America. Having lost substantial territory to their neighbors, their last major dispute was with each other over the semi-arid Chaco - a region rumored to hold significant oil reserves. Following increasingly frequent border clashes, war broke out between the two countries in 1932.

Main Events

Lake Pitiantuta incident

At 5:30am on 15 June 1932, 18 Bolivian soldiers occupied a Paraguayan outpost on the banks of Lake Pitiantuta, forcing its six-man garrison to flee into the desert. The action prompted Paraguayan counterattacks in June and July, culminating in a major victory at Boquerón in September. However, by December the Bolivians would be fully mobilized and ready to launch their own offensive into the Chaco.

Constitutionalist Revolution

Disenchanted with the dictatorial rule of Getúlio Vargas in Brazil, the state of São Paulo rebelled against the federal government. Gaining only limited support outside the state - in Minas Gerais, Rio Grande do Sul, and southern Mato Grosso - this Paulista uprising was crushed by Vargas over three months fighting, with the loss of several thousand dead on both sides.

State of Maracaju

The self-declared State of Maracuju - effectively modern Mato Grosso do Sul - broke away from the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso under the leadership of Vespasiano Barbosa Martins, mayor of Campo Grande (the most important city in southern Mato Grosso). The secession was in general support of the Constitutionalist Revolution in São Paulo and Brazilian army commander General Bertoldo Klinger in particular. When the central government of Brazil defeated the revolution, Maracuju was dissolved and restored to Mato Grosso.

Ecuadorian Civil War

In October 1931, Conservative landowner Neptalí Bonifaz Ascázubi was elected president in Ecuador's first free election in nearly forty years, only to be disqualified by the Liberal-dominated National Congress on 20 August 1932 due to his 'Peruvian birth' (he was born in the Peruvian embassy in Quito). In response, the garrison of Quito and other supporters of Bonifaz revolted on 27 August. After a four-day civil war, in which more than two thousand people were killed, the insurrection was suppressed and Bonifaz forced to back down.

Leticia Incident

Armed Peruvians seized control of the small but strategic Amazonian port of Leticia, ceded to Colombia by treaty the previous decade. The incident led to armed conflict as the Colombians unsuccessfully attempted to expel the Peruvians from the settlement, although most of the few hundred casualties in the war were from jungle diseases. After Peruvian President Sánchez was assassinated in April 1933, his successor moved to resolve the situation by accepting a League of Nations commission on Leticia. In 1934, at a meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Peru signed a peace treaty with Colombia and agreed to withdraw from the disputed port.

Good Neighbor Policy

During his inaugural address, the United States President Franklin Roosevelt announced the Good Neighbor policy, pledging to end US intervention in the internal and external affairs of the countries of Latin America. Under the influence of the new policy, the US ended its military involvement in Nicaragua and Haiti, and reformed its relations with Cuba and Mexico.

Second Battle of Nanawa

Some 7,000 Bolivian troops, supported by tanks and aircraft, under German-born General Hans Kundt launched an all-out offensive on the Paraguayan stronghold of Nanawa in an attempt to force a decision in the Chaco War before the League of Nations intervened. The Paraguayans successfully repelled Kundt's attack, claiming their second victory at Nanawa - the first occurred in January - with the killing of some 2,000 Bolivians for the loss of 500 of their own.

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