José Félix Estigarribia

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José Félix Estigarribia
Jose Estigarribia.jpg
47th President of Paraguay
In office
August 15, 1939 – September 7, 1940
Preceded by Félix Paiva
Succeeded by Higinio Morínigo
Personal details
Born (1888-02-21)February 21, 1888
Died September 7, 1940(1940-09-07) (aged 52)
Altos, Paraguay
Nationality Paraguayan
Political party Liberal party
Alma mater Trinity College of Agriculture
Military service
Service/branch Paraguayan Army
Years of service 1911–1936
Rank commander-in-chief
Battles/wars Chaco War

Marshal José Félix Estigarribia Insaurralde (February 21, 1888 in Caraguatay – September 7, 1940 in Altos) was a decorated Paraguayan war hero and an elected President of Paraguay for the Liberal party, who following his election, repositioned himself to become dictator. He died in a presumed accidental airplane crash barely a year after his election.

Early life[edit]

Estigarribia was of humble origin, son of a peasant and silversmith, Mateo Estigarribia, and Casilda Insaurralde. Born in San Roque rural town of Santa Elena, Department of Cordillera, Paraguay. Elementary school was made in his hometown and in 1908 went to study at Trinity College of Agriculture, a college of agriculture. However, after obtaining his diploma, Estigarribia switched careers and in 1910 enlisted in the army with the rank of Lieutenant of Infantry.


Educated as an agronomist, he joined the national Army in 1910 and spent time in Chile and in Saint Cyr's military academy in France for additional training. He commanded the First Infantry division during the Chaco War and was promoted successively to brigadier, division general, and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. In 1935, he made a victorious return to Asunción as "Hero of the Chaco War" and was awarded a lifetime pension of 1,000 gold pesos a month. He was dismissed from the position of armed forces chief after President Eusebio Ayala was overthrown in the Febrerista Revolution by Rafael Franco, but served as Paraguay's ambassador to the United States.

He completed courses in Chile, from 1911 to 1913, the Military School of Bernardo O'Higgins . In 1917 he was promoted to captain. Played an important role in the revolution of 1922 in Paraguay and was later promoted to Major. For their skills was selected to attend the course staff, three-year at the École Supérieure de Guerre at Paris, where he was a disciple of General Maurice Gamelin and Marshal Foch. Estigarribia graduated there with top notes. On his return in 1928 was appointed Chief of Staff of the Army. Less than a year after being named was removed from office because of disagreements with the government regarding the strategy for defending the Chaco, "The Chaco should be advocated abandoning it," he argued, that is, the point was not occupy the land but to destroy the enemy. However, as the war against Bolivia seemed inevitable, the government decided that Lieutenant Colonel Estigarribia was the man who was needed in the Chaco. He was then 44 years. Small of stature, so peaceful, introspective, or his personality or his austere uniform of campaign-whose sleeves were invariably short-set him apart from the rest of the officers.

The definition of the Chaco War would be a war of "communications", where the handling of space and time would be essential, determined that the Paraguayan government to accept its general mobilization plan and the beginning of the first offensive surprise Paraguay (September- December 1932) before Bolivia could mobilize their resources.

Given clear that the army under his command was all that Paraguay with maximum effort could have led a successful military campaign against successive Bolivian army, superior in men and resources, making back to the Rio Parapiti. His strategic thinking about the war of movement, the importance of logistics (especially water), concentration of forces surprise, the passage from the defensive to the offensive and thorough knowledge of the enemy and terrain of operations placed him in a privileged among military drivers between the two world wars. Made the most of the officers under his command and combative and moral virtues of Paraguayan soldier.

He directed the Paraguayan army during the first year of war with the rank of colonel. He was promoted to general after the victory of Campo Grande and Pozo Favorite. In recognition of services rendered to the defense of the Chaco was promoted to the rank of marshal after his death in 1940.

Post War[edit]

Estigarribia was elected President for a four-year term in 1939, assuming office on August 15. Six months later on February 19, 1940, Estigarriba dissolved the legislature and suspended the Constitution. Declaring that "our nation is on the edge of horrible anarchy," he announced that democracy would be restored as soon as a workable constitutional framework could be designed. It turned out to be an empty promise; within five months, he recast the constitution into a severely authoritarian document that granted sweeping powers to the president.

On September 7, 1940, Estigarriba and his wife were on a tour of the Paraguayan interior.[1] On a trip from Altos to his country residence in San Bernardinos, his plane crashed in Agapuey and all on board were killed.[2] Estigarribia was succeeded by Higinio Morínigo and posthumously promoted to the rank of marshal. His authoritarian constitution would remain in effect until 1967.


  1. ^ "Dictatorship in Paraguay," Oakland Tribune, February 19, 1940, p. 1
  2. ^ "Dictator of Paraguay is Killed in Airplane Crash," Oakland Tribune, September 8, 1940, p. 1

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Félix Paiva
President of Paraguay
Succeeded by
Higinio Morínigo