Dueling is legal in Paraguay provided both parties are blood donors? That is the claim so often sprouted as fact around the world, but is it true? In short, no, no it is not. This itself may come as a bit of relief to Paraguayans who have been the butt of this ever burgeoning myth ever since it hit the world.
Begin looking on the internet for laws regarding dueling in Paraguay. There are hundreds if not thousands of pages of results. It begins to appear as though the results from the search point to the myth being true. But each and every one of the links point to a page that can not provide a link to a reliable source. This includes Wikipedia, who also have the myth listed on their article about dueling. This has left many wondering if it is in fact a real law, legal in all essence, but just outdated. But this is not the first time that we have discovered that Wikipedia has fallen foul of urban legends, as we found out with the Chinese breast touching festival. So I bet that you are now wondering what makes us think that we know that this claim that dueling is legal in Paraguay provided both parties are blood donors is a myth? Who better to provide the answer than the Paraguayan government?
We really must admit. We didn’t approach the government of Paraguay, and they didn’t approach us. The Paraguayan Embassy called the Mississippi Library Commission (MLC) and informed them that there is absolutely no truth to the claim that dueling is legal in Paraguay. They then proceeded to inform The New York Public Library Desk Reference to follow it up. They indeed confirmed that the myth can not cite any real or true law, and is in fact a complete fallacy.
Where did the claim that dueling in Paraguay is legal come from
This has proven to be much harder than deciphering if there was any truth or not behind the claim. The earliest version that we could find in print was in a book published in 2000 called Dr. Speedy’s Jokes and Riddles. I highly doubt that this was the first time that it ever raised its head. It was more than likely a part of a viral email campaign during the 1990’s, in which the aim was to spread falsehoods as fast as possible from one person to another.
But looking back even further we have discovered a slight variation of the myth that has been circulating for at least half a century. In a 1967 article in Time it was noted that dueling was legal in Paraguay’s neighbor, Uruguay. Indeed, dueling in Uruguay was not a criminal offense between 1920 and 1992. 14 years prior an identical mention of the Uruguay law was printed in the Life magazine.
It is more than likely the case that the false and misleading claim that dueling in Paraguay is legal originated from these earlier laws about Uruguay. The factoid just got confused and changed nationality.