Stefanich, Juan (1889–1975)

views updated

Stefanich, Juan (1889–1975)

Juan Stefanich (b. 3 May 1889; d. 1975), Paraguayan politician. Born in Asunción, Stefanich first came to public notice during the 1910s, when, as a brilliant law student, he won a series of prizes in literature and philosophy. Awarded a doctorate in law in 1920, he had already become a well-known professor, author, and political commentator.

In 1928 Stefanich helped found the National Independence League, a radical pressure group that offered a strong nationalist response to Bolivian incursions in the Gran Chaco region. After full-fledged war with Bolivia became a reality in 1932, Stefanich pushed for the strongest possible territorial gains for Paraguay, becoming disappointed when his country had to settle for less.

The fall of the Liberal government in 1936 gave Stefanich an opportunity to try to transform these attitudes into reality. Allying himself with Colonel Rafael Franco and the military insurgents who had seized power, he became the main spokesman for their quasi-authoritarian ideology of febrerismo. In this, he drew his inspiration from an eclectic mix of Italian and Spanish fascism, German nazism, Soviet communism, and individualist democracy. He argued that the new Paraguay presented the chance for a new kind of democracy (democracia solidarista) in which all class conflicts would cease and be replaced by a dynamic sense of community. Some elements of febrerista thinking, especially those that stressed firm executive power, found their way into the 1940 constitution.

Stefanich himself became foreign minister in the Franco government, but when the latter regime was overthrown in 1937, he fled into exile. He continued to participate in party politics and publish febrerista tracts and philosophical works from exile, and periodically reappeared in Asunción. He later came to repudiate his earlier extremism, however, in favor of a social-democratic model.

See alsoFranco, Rafael; Paraguay: The Twentieth Century.


William Belmont Parker, Paraguayans of To-Day (1921), pp. 81-82.

Paul H. Lewis, The Politics of Exile (1965), passim.

Additional Bibliography

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

Rahi, Arturo. Franco y la revolución de febrero. Asunción: Augusto Gallegos, 2001.

                                      Thomas L. Whigham

About this article

Stefanich, Juan (1889–1975)

Updated About content Print Article