Corruption and Power
Franco and Ella are both corrupt—Franco by his unlimited power and Ella by her wealth and social position. They both use their power in devious ways. The Lopez family's line of dictatorship sets up Franco for unlimited power. Combined with Franco's sadistic ways, many of the intelligent and able soldiers are killed off due to Franco's paranoia. All the government positions are staffed by Franco's relatives who never tell him the truth out of fear of being imprisoned or killed. At the end of his dictatorship, Franco was killing anyone who revealed anything negative about the war.
Dislocation is a major theme in Letters From Paraguay. The main character, as well as some of the minor characters, are stranded in a country which is not their own. As a result, they act inappropriately, are not accepted, and become lost. For example, Ella is never accepted by Franco's family. She constructs an enormous palace to insulate herself from the community that does not understand her, but to no avail. Her world closes in on her and she lives a delusional life, totally unable to see the devastation around her. Her maid cannot ride a horse and dies as a result. In addition, her Spanish teacher is found wandering the countryside, confused. Eventually she disappears.
In an interview in Australia's The Age, the author says, “I think that dislocation is a big theme in my stories, people feeling uprooted....I feel very rootless.”
Franco's military strategy was poor because he appointed relatives as generals and commanders who had little or no military experience. These appointments, in addition to his arrogance in the field, led to many bad decisions on the battlefield. Franco was impatient and his impatience cost him many battles. For example, when he was in Humaita at a fortress on a hill, he could not wait until the forces came to him; instead, he forced his soldiers down the hill and they got impeded in the swamp. If he would have used his strategic position above the others on the hill surrounded by the swamps, they could have caught the Brazilian forces as they came up the hill. In addition, he took all of his country's able-bodied men for soldiers, leaving none to farm. As a result, the country suffered a food shortage. Worst of all, Franco was a known ruthless and violent dictator. Everyone was afraid of him, so he could not obtain truthful feedback. Without information to use to plan the battles, he was left in a lurch with nowhere to go in terms of strategic planning. Franco had several opportunities to end the war but he refused to do so, based upon no logical reasons, save his own arrogance. His arrogance blinded him to viable solutions to war and a possibility to restore his country to peace.