Morínigo, Higínio (1897–1983)

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Morínigo, Higínio (1897–1983)

Higínio Morínigo (b. 1897; d. 1983), Paraguayan president (1940–1948) and military leader. Born into a middle-class family in the interior town of Paraguarí, Morínigo decided early on a military career. In 1906 his family moved to Asunción, where he later entered the national military academy.

As a young junior officer in the early 1920s, Morínigo received orders to intervene in a civil conflict then raging between rival groups within the ruling Liberal Party. Though he obeyed these orders, he did so with much resentment—and this experience embittered him toward civilian politicians and their penchant for embroiling the army in their various power struggles. Perhaps because he failed to cater to such politicians, Morínigo soon found himself posted to a series of obscure frontier forts, most of them in the disputed Gran Chaco region.

The Chaco War fought with Bolivia over this same territory (1932–1935) gave Morínigo the chance for rapid promotion. A brief assignment as a regional field commander earned him the rank of major, and in 1936, the Rafael Franco government promoted him to colonel and gave him command of the important garrison of Concepción. By this time, Morínigo had developed considerable popularity among the growing revolucionario faction of the officer corps, a base that he used to advance to the post of army chief of staff in 1938 and then to interior minister in 1939 under Félix Paiva. Finally, in May 1940, radicals in the army pressured José Félix Estigarribia to accept Morínigo as war minister. It was from this position that he was forced upon the Liberals as the new president when Estigarribia died in an airplane crash four months later.

As president, Morínigo erected a repressive police state with clear pro-Axis overtones. Despite Paraguay's official neutrality, the government permitted Nazi agents to work more or less openly in the country. At the same time, the United States attempted to woo Morínigo with the promise of aid for highway construction and other projects. In the end, Paraguay declared war on Germany, but only in February 1945.

By that point, Morínigo had chosen to compromise in domestic politics and had begun to ease out the far-right members of his wartime cabinet. He compromised still further in 1946, when he called for a coalition government that included Colorados and Febreristas. This coalition lasted only a few months before radical elements among the Colorados (especially the Guion Rojo group) were battling the Febreristas, Liberals, and Communists in the streets of Asunción.

Unable to control events any longer, Morínigo watched Paraguay slip into the bloody civil war of 1947. Aided by Colorado militias and arms sent from Perón's Argentina, he managed to defeat the rebels, but in so doing became little more than a figurehead for the Colorados. Their own infighting, in turn, made Morínigo's continued presence in the country inconvenient. In 1948, he agreed to retire from politics and went to live in permanent exile in Buenos Aires.

See alsoParaguay, Political Parties: Colorado Party .


Harris Gaylord Warren, Paraguay: An Informal History (1949), pp. 331-353.

Michael Grow, The Good Neighbor Policy and Authoritarianism in Paraguay (1981).

Oscar Peyrou, Morínigo: Guerra, dictadura, y terror en Paraguay (1971).

Additional Bibliography

Amaral, Raúl. Los presidentes del Paraguay (1844–1954): Crónica política. Asunción: Centro Paraguayo de Estudios Sociológicos, 1994.

Caeiro, Daniel. Crónica de un matrimonio politico: La relación histórica entre peronistas y colorados. Asunción: Intercontinental Editora, 2001.

Farcau, Bruce W. The Chaco War: Bolivia and Paraguay, 1932–1935. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1996.

                                 Thomas L. Whigham

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Morínigo, Higínio (1897–1983)

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