The Chaco War (1932-1935) was fought between the Republics of Bolivia and Paraguay over control of part of the Gran Chaco region, a wasteland with almost no value at all. note It started when Bolivia invaded part of the territory and fought a Paraguayan garrison. Bolivia had more population and troops than Paraguay, but they countered with a different style of war, a more homogeneous population and intelligence and supplies from Argentina. They were able to seize a large part of Gran Chaco. Eventually, both sides, unable to keep advancing, decided to end the war. Even though technically Paraguay won, both countries ended up very badly, with many deaths and huge debts to pay. And worst of it all, the supposed oil never existed, making this war completely worthless. However, Bolivia eventually found out that their territory of Gran Chaco had enormous gas deposits for them to export, making them the winners in the long run.
Works dealing with this war:
- Tintin's comic, Tintin The Broken Ear.
- A poem by Pablo Neruda, Standard Oil Company, mentions the conflict.
- A Doc Savage adventure, The Dust of Death.
Tropes set during the war:
- Banana Republic: The war was fueled in part by oil companies wanting to exploit the area. Standard Oil backed Bolivia and Shell Oil Paraguay. (This was a bit awkward at the time, since Standard was American and Shell was an Anglo-Dutch joint venture, but it seems not to have affected relations too terribly.)
- The Cavalry
- Failure Is the Only Option: This was the fourth conflict lost by Bolivia in history. Bear in mind that it has only ever fought five wars, and that the first and only successful one was the longest independence war fought in South America.
- Lawful Stupid: Paraguay requested help from the League Of Nations. They were as useful as always.
- President Evil: Daniel Salamanca of Bolivia, even considering the Gray and Gray Morality of the conflict, comes off quite badly.
- Pyrrhic Victory: The war seriously damaged both sides and brought them to the brink of economic collapse.
- Shaggy Dog Story: There was no oil in the contested area.
- Was It Really Worth It?: The so-called “Generación del Chaco” still wonder.