Colorado Party

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Colorado Party

The Colorado Party is one of the two traditional political parties in Uruguay. It developed around the country's first president, Fructuoso Rivera. The name Colorado, or red, derived from the color of the ribbons the soldiers wore in battle. The Colorado Party found itself in constant struggles with its more conservative opponent, the Blanco Party, for much of the nineteenth century. These struggles often led to civil war.

The Colorado Party has dominated the presidency almost uninterruptedly since independence. Only in the periods 1835–1838 and 1959–1967 were the Colorados not in power. The Colorados have tended to represent the urban middle class, while the conservative Blancos have rural support. And although the Colorados have dominated the presidency, they have had to make occasional concessions to the Blancos in order to govern. The party began to acquire the form of a true political organization under the leadership of José Batlle y Ordóñez, who was elected president in 1903. In his two administrations (1903–1907, 1911–1915), Batlle introduced radical sociopolitical reforms that made Uruguay a model of democracy as well as a model of a welfare state.

The period 1919–1933 was one of high prosperity, and the three Colorado administrations experienced few problems in governing the country, but divisions within the party did appear, particularly over Batlle's reforms. Aside from the Batllistas, which represented the largest faction, others appeared, such as one opposed to the colegialismo (a collegial executive for the nation) imposed by Batlle and several following individual leaders. The death of Batlle in 1929 accelerated the divisions within the party. Batlle's reforms did not satisfy everyone. Those on the left thought his reforms had not gone far enough, focusing particularly on his failure to subdivide the great estates for the small farmers. On the other hand, the reforms antagonized the conservatives because they required state intervention in the economy. In 1930, the conservative Colorado Gabriel Terra was elected. Hefaced strong opposition from within his own party and from the Blancos, but was able to strike a compromise with the Blanco leader Luis Alberto de Herrera. Still, his position was precarious. In 1933, he established dictatorial rule, abolished Batlle's colegiado system, and concentrated the executive power in the presidency. In 1938, the colegiado was revived by Alfredo Baldomir, and in 1951, during Andrés Martínez Trueba's presidency, a plebiscite approved the colegiado as the only executive body.

From the 1940s on, the two main factions within the party have been the Lista 14, representing colegialistas, and the Lista 15, representing presidencialistas. As a consequence of its internal divisions, the party lost control of the national council from 1959 to 1967. After that time, the Colorados regained the presidency once again, but the 1960s were a period of turmoil, exemplified by the terrorist organization the Tupamaros and by economic problems. In 1966, a major reorganization of the political system abolished the colegiado system, and a five-year presidency was established. President Juan María Bordaberry, elected in 1971, dissolved Congress in 1973 under pressure from the army, which had been playing an important role in civilian affairs since it began fighting terrorism. The army removed Bordaberry in 1976 and remained in control until 1984, when the country returned to civilian rule. Although dominant during the twentieth century, the Colorados have become much weaker. The party's presidential candidate gained only 10.4 percent of the vote in the 2004 elections.

See alsoBaldomir, Alfredo; Batlle y Ordóñez, José; Bordaberry, Juan María; Herrera, Luis Alberto de; Rivera, Fructuoso; Terra, Gabriel; Uruguay, Political Parties: Blanco Party; Uruguay, Political Parties: Broad Front.


Baltasar L. Mezzera, Blancos y Colorados (1952).

Russelll H. Fitzgibbon, Uruguay: Portrait of a Democracy (1954).

Julio Lista Clericetti, Historia política uruguaya, 1938–1972 (1984).

Gerardo Caetano et al., De la tradición a la crisis: Pasado y presente de nuestro sistema de partidos (1985).

Additional Bibliography

Costa Bonino, Luis. La crisis del sistema político uruguayo: Partidos políticos y democracia hasta 1973. Montevideo: Fundación de Cultura Universitaria, 1995.

Crespo Martínez, Ismael. Tres décadas de política uruguaya: Crisis, restauración y transformación del sistema de partidos. Madrid: Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas, Siglo Veintinuo de España, 2002.

Mallo, Susana, Rafael Paternain, and Miguel Angel Serna. Modernidad y poder en el Río de la Plata: Colorados y Radicales. Montevideo: Editorial Trazas, 1995.

Pelúas, Daniel. Coparticipación y coalición: 164 años de acuerdo entre Blancos y Colorados. Montevideo: Arca, Humus, 2000.

Sosnowski, Saúl, and Louise B. Popkin, eds. Repression, Exile, and Democracy: Uruguayan Culture. Translated by Louise B. Popkin. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993.

                                     Juan Manuel PÉrez

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Colorado Party

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Colorado Party