Ayala, Eligio (1880–1930)
Ayala, Eligio (1880–1930)
Eligio Ayala (b. 1880; d. 24 October 1930), president of Paraguay (1924–1928) and educator. Born in Mbuyapey of humble parents, Ayala displayed considerable talent at an early age and rose rapidly in the ranks of the Partido Liberal. In the 1890s, he moved to Asunción, where he attended the Colegio Nacional and began teaching in 1904, giving courses in philosophy, civics, psychology, and logic. In 1908 he received a doctorate in law from the university.
At this time, Ayala embarked on a political career. He held office as attorney for the indigent, civil judge, and congressional deputy. After participating in the 1904 and 1911 revolutions as a Liberal stalwart, he left Paraguay and spent the next eight years in Europe.
Upon his return after World War I, Ayala dedicated himself to teaching and journalism. He regained his old congressional seat and in 1920 was appointed finance minister by President Manuel Gondra. Ayala quickly gained a reputation for honesty and level-headedness. Eschewing the jingoism of many Liberals, he took a stand in favor of negotiations with Bolivia over the disputed Chaco Region.
After serving as provisional president of Paraguay in 1923, he was elected to that office one year later. His administration brought the first spate of internal peace in more than twenty years. Bent on reforming the nation's archaic fiscal system, Ayala balanced the national budget, stabilized the currency, and paid off a considerable portion of the government's debt. With Paraguay's renewed access to international credit, Ayala purchased munitions for his fledgling army and two warships for the navy. His emphasis on the professionalization of the armed forces rescued the military from continued partisan strife and prepared it for the upcoming Chaco War, a conflict that Paraguay was unable to avoid after all. Indeed, in the last year of Ayala's administration there was a series of border incidents that overshadowed all the progress he had promoted.
In 1928 Ayala resumed the post of finance minister, this time in the government of his successor, José P. Guggiari. He also retained several key posts in the Partido Liberal. Two years later he was killed in Asunción, the victim of a tragic romantic involvement.
William B. Parker, Paraguayans of To-Day (1921).
Carlos Zubizarreta, Cien vidas paraguayas, 2d ed. (1985), pp. 277-280; The Cambridge History of Latin America, vol. 5 (1986), pp. 475-496.
Brugada, Arturo, and Leandro Prieto Yegros. La Revolución de 1904. Asunción: Editorial Cuadernos Republicanos, 1990.
Llano, Mariano. Eligio Ayala: el milagro paraguayano. Paraguay: Editora Ricor Grafic, 1998.
Viola, Alfredo. Eligio Ayala: presidente constitucional, 1924–1928. Asunción: Centro de Publicaciones de la Universidad Católica, 2002.
Thomas L. Whigham