The Blanco Party, also known as the Partido Nacional, is one of the two traditional political parties in Uruguay. It came together under Manuel Oribe, the second president of the country (1835–1838), in his struggles against Fructuoso Rivera, the country's first president (1830–1835), who represented the Colorados. The Blanco Party represented the more conservative forces of the country. The nineteenth century was plagued with conflicts between these two political parties, which often led to civil war. The first conflict began in 1836, when Rivera rose against Oribe. An agreement was reached by the two groups after the Blanco revolution of 1897, led by the half-Brazilian gaucho Aparicio Saravia. Under the terms of the agreement, the Blancos were given control of six of the nineteen departments and minority representation in Congress.
When José Batlle y Ordóñez became president in 1903, the country was still divided from the civil war, with the Colorados controlling thirteen departments and the Blancos controlling six, acting mostly on their own, with Montevideo unable to reach them and bring them into line with the rest of the country. Both sides were very distrustful of each other. In January 1904 war broke out once again. The Blancos, led by Saravia, fought for eight months, until Saravia himself was killed in battle. After Saravia's death Blanco resistance collapsed, and an agreement was reached. The Blancos lost control over the six departments. A new electoral law, although endorsing the principle of proportional representation (a major point of the peace agreement after the first Saravia revolution), in fact practically did away with it, leaving the Colorados in complete control of the country.
Following the defeat suffered in the 1904 civil war, the Blanco Party began to reorganize itself into a modern political party and to accentuate its differences with the Colorados. Its main political aims were those of Saravia: the secret ballot and proportional representation. This transformation was accomplished through the leadership of Luis Alberto de Herrera, who controlled the party from 1920 to 1959. But the party was divided, despite Herrera, between the conservative Herreristas and more progressive forces, such as the Unión Blanca Democrática.
In 1958, for the first time in ninety-three years, the Blancos won the national elections, and they did so again in 1962. The first period of Blanco domination (1959–1963) was controlled by the Herreristas, and the second one (1963–1967) was dominated by the UBD faction. Blanco success was the result of a combination of factors, such as economic problems in the country; urban terrorism; accusations of graft, corruption, and incompetence against the Colorados; and the divisions that plagued the Colorados. After the death of Herrera in 1959, Benito Nardone assumed leadership of the party. He was as vigorous as Herrera. Subsequently, the Blancos fared no better than the Colorados. They had to face the economic situation left by the Colorados and instituted an austerity program. As a result of these policies they antagonized labor. In 1971 the Blanco candidate, Wilson Ferreira Aldunate, received more votes than the Colorado candidate but lost the election because of the complicated lema system of voting, which combined primary elections and general elections in one ballot. The military overthrew the elected regime in 1973 and held power until 1984. With the return of democratic governance, the Blancos have continued to be an important electoral competitor. In 1990 the Blanco candidate, Luis Alberto Lacalle Herrera, won the presidency, but lost to the Colorados in 1994. Both the Colorados and the Blancos lost to the leftist coalition called Broad Front, which won the presidency in 2004.
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Juan Manuel PÉrez