|The region that would become Paraguay was inhabited by a number of indigenous peoples prior to the arrival of the Europeans in the early 1500s. Thanks to the Jesuits' work, a network of missions were established in the south. The city of Asuncion, later to become capital city, was populated by the country's so-called elite and a struggle would emerge between the Jesuits and these Asuncionis over how the colony would develop. Independence was declared in 1813 two years after the Asuncion elite overthrew the Spanish. As a consequence of the War of the Triple Alliance (1865-1870) Paraguay was devastated: the population decimated (nearly all adult males died), tens of thousands of square miles of territory lost, and a huge debt accrued. Authoritarian rule was a constant in Paraguay from the 19th century through the 20th. One of the most notorious leaders was General Alfredo Stroessner, who ruled from 1954 till 1989. In March 1999, the country was again in turmoil as the vice president was assassinated, the president impeached on charges of complicity (he fled to Brazil), and a new president installed.