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Oriental Republic of Uruguay República Oriental del Uruguay

CAPITAL: Montevideo

FLAG: The flag, approved in 1830, has four azure blue horizontal stripes on a white background; on a white canton is a golden sun, alternately straight and wavy. This "Sun of May" symbolizes Uruguay's independence.

ANTHEM: Himno Nacional, which begins "Orientales, la patria o la tumba" ("Easterners [Uruguayans], our country or death").

MONETARY UNIT: The Uruguayan peso (up), of 100 centésimos replaced the new peso in 1993 at the rate of up1 = 1,000 new pesos. There are coins of 10, 20, and 50 centésimos and 1, 2, 5, and 10 new pesos, and notes of 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 Uruguayan pesos. up1 = $0.04023 ($1 = up24.86) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard, but some traditional measures also are used.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Epiphany, 6 January; Landing of the 33, 19 April; Labor Day, 1 May; Battle of Las Piedras, 18 May; Birthday of Artigas, 19 June; Constitution Day, 18 July; Independence Day, 25 August; Columbus Day, 12 October; All Souls' Day, 2 November; Blessing of the Waters, 8 December; Christmas Day, 25 December.

TIME: 9 am = noon GMT.


The second-smallest South American country, Uruguay is situated in the southeastern part of the continent. It has an area of 176,220 sq km (68,039 sq mi), extending 555 km (345 mi) nnwsse and 504 km (313 mi) enewsw. Comparatively, the area occupied by Uruguay is slightly smaller than the state of Washington. Bounded on the n and ne by Brazil, on the se and s by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the w by Argentina, Uruguay has a total land boundary length of 1,564 km (972 mi) and a coastline of 660 km (410 mi). The Uruguay River and the Río de la Plata separate Uruguay from Argentina. The Cuareim and Yaguarón rivers and the Laguna Merín separate it from Brazil.

Uruguay's capital city, Montevideo, is located in the southern part of the country on the Atlantic coast.


The general character of the land is undulating hills, with a few forest areas along the banks of the numerous streams. Southern Uruguay consists mostly of rolling plains and is an eastward extension of the Argentine pampas. The Atlantic coastline is fringed with tidal lakes and sand dunes. Low, unbroken stretches of level land line the banks of the two border rivers, the Uruguay and the Plata. The northern section is broken by occasional ridges and low ranges (cuchillas), alternating with broad valleys, and is a southern extension of Brazil. The highest point in the country, Catedral, is 514 m (1,686 ft) above sea level. The most noteworthy feature of the northwest landscape is the Cuchilla de Haedo. The Cuchilla Grande runs northeastward from the southern region to the Brazilian border. The Negro, which rises in Brazil, crosses Uruguayan territory and flows into the Uruguay River, which separates Uruguay from Argentina.


The climate is temperate; the average temperature in June, the coolest month, is about 15°c (59°f), and the average for January, the warmest month, is 25°c (77°f). The weather is transitional between the weather of the humid Argentine pampas and that of southern Brazil. Rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year; it averages about 105 cm (41 in), varying from 97 cm (38 in) in Montevideo to nearly 127 cm (50 in) farther north. There are from 120 to 180 sunny days a year. Frost is virtually unknown.


Uruguay is primarily a grass-growing land, with vegetation that is essentially a continuation of the Argentine pampas. Forest areas are relatively small. The most useful hardwoods are algarobo, guayabo, quebracho, and urunday; other hardwoods include arazá, coronilla, espinillo, lapacho, lignum vitae, and nandubay. The acacia, alder, aloe, eucalyptus (imported from Australia), ombú, poplar, and willow are common softwoods. Palms are indigenous to the valleys. Rosemary, myrtle, scarlet-flowered ceibo, and mimosa are common. Most of the valleys are covered with aromatic shrubs while the rolling hills are blanketed with white and scarlet verbena.

Large animals have virtually disappeared from the eastern regions. The carpincho (water hog), fox, deer, nutria, otter, and small armadillo roam the northern foothills. On the pampas are the hornero (ovenbird), quail, partridge, and crow. The avestruz (a small ostrich similar to the Argentine rhea), swan, and royal duck are found at lagoons. Fish include pompano, salmon, and corvina. The principal reptiles are cross vipers and tortoises. Seals are found on Lobos Island, near Punta del Este.

As of 2002, there were at least 81 species of mammals, 115 species of birds, and over 2,200 species of plants throughout the country.


Air and water pollution are environmental concerns in Uruguay. Air pollution, which is worse in the larger population centers, is caused primarily by Uruguay's own industries and by an energy plant in neighboring Brazil. Water pollution from mining and industrial sources threatens the nation's water supply, especially pollution from the meat packing and tannery industry. Uruguay has 59 cu km of renewable water resources with 91% of annual withdrawals used for farming activity and 3% for industrial purposes. About 98% of the population has access to safe drinking water. Natural hazards to the environment include drought, flooding, and fires.

Erosion of the soil affects the nation's agricultural productivity. The nation's cities produce about 0.5 million tons of solid waste per year. Government agencies with environmental responsibilities include the Division of Environmental Health, within the Ministry of Public Health; the Ministry of Agriculture; and the Interior Ministry.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), 6 types of mammals, 24 species of birds, 3 types of reptiles, 4 species of amphibians, 11 species of fish, 1 species of invertebrate, and 1 species of plant were threatened. Endangered species included the tundra peregrine falcon, two species of turtle (green sea and leatherback), and two species of crocodile (spectacled caiman and broad-nosed caiman). The glaucous macaw has become extinct.


The population of Uruguay in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 3,419,000, which placed it at number 127 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 13% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 24% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 94 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 0.6%, a rate the government viewed as too low, presenting challenges for economic development. The projected population for the year 2025 was 3,831,000. The population density was 19 per sq km (50 per sq mi), about double that of South America as a whole.

The UN estimated that 93% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 0.82%. The capital city, Montevideo, had a population of 1,341,000 in that year.


The basic sources of immigration to Uruguay were Spain and Italy. English, French, German, Slavic, and Swiss immigrants also settled in various departments (provinces). In the 1930s, restrictions were placed on immigration, and the importation of seasonal farm workers was stopped. There were 103,002 foreign-born people in 1985. Substantial emigration by Uruguayans for political or economic reasons occurred during the mid-1970s and early 1980s. Official figures suggest that about 180,000 Uruguayans left between 196375 and an estimated 500,000 between 197595. Argentina and Brazil were the main destinations. Nearly 93% live in urban centers, with 42% concentrated around the capital city.

As of 2000, Uruguay had 89,000 migrants, including less than 100 refugees. In 2004, there were 97 refugees and 10 asylum seekers. The net migration rate in 2005 was an estimated -0.28 migrants per 1,000 population. The government views the immigration level as too low and the emigration level as too high. In 2003 worker remittances were $35.3 million.


About 88% of the inhabitants of Uruguay are white and of European origin, mostly Spanish and Italian; a small percentage is descended from Portuguese, English, and other Europeans. Mestizos (those of mixed white and Amerindian lineage) represent 8% of the population and mulattoes and blacks about 4%. The indigenous Charrúa Amerindians were virtually wiped out early in the colonial era.


Spanish is the official language. Uruguayan Spanish, like Argentine Spanish, has been somewhat modified by the Italians who migrated in large numbers to both countries. In general, the language of Uruguay is softer than that of Castile and some words are different from those commonly used in Spain. The gauchos have influenced the language, particularly in words dealing with their way of life. Brazilero (Portunol), a Portuguese-Spanish mix, is spoken on the Brazilian frontier.


About 58% of Uruguayans identify themselves as Roman Catholic. Approximately 9% of the population are Protestant or other Christian. The primary mainline Protestant denominations include Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans, and Baptists. Others include Pentecostals, Mennonites, Eastern Orthodox, Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses. The Unification Church has a somewhat strong presence within the country. There are small communities of Muslims and Baha'is. About 30,000 Jews reside in the country.


After World War II, the Uruguayan government purchased the British-owned railroads and nationalized the entire system. The railroads are run by the State Railway Administration. Four main lines connect the western and northern areas with Montevideo. In 2004, there were 2,073 km (1,287 mi) of track, all of it standard gauge and government-owned.

Highways have surpassed railroads as the principal means of conveyance of passengers and freight. In 2002, there were an estimated 8,764 km (5,446 mi) of roads, of which 7,800 km (4,847 mi) were paved. The Investment and Economic Development Commission's 10-year plan (1965-74) provided about $87 million for highway construction and improvement. A five-year plan for transport and public works, covering the years 1983-87 and partly financed by the IBRD and IDB, provided for construction of 10,000 km (6,200 mi) of new roads. In 1986, the IDB approved a loan of $36 million to help finance a highway development project. Two sections of highway (Routes 1 and 5) in addition to a main artery funneling traffic into Montevideo were scheduled for improvement. In 2003, there were 669,700 motor vehicles, of which 547,800 were passenger cars and 121,900 commercial vehicles.

Montevideo is the major Uruguayan port. Colonia and Nueva Palmira are free ports. There are some 1,600 km (994 mi) of inland waterways, of which the most important are the Plata and the Uruguay, the latter having a depth of 4.3 m (14 ft) as far as Paysandú. Uruguay's merchant fleet in 2005, consisted of 11 vessels of 1,000 GRT or more, totaling 10,918 GRT.

There were an estimated 64 airports in 2004, of which 9 had paved runways as of 2005. Carrasco, an airport 19 km (12 mi) from the center of Montevideo, is used by most international carriers between Europe, Brazil, and Argentina. Frequent air service links Buenos Aires with Montevideo. The state-owned Primeras Líneas Uruguayas de Navegación Aérea (PLUNA) offers service to the principal departmental capitals as well as international flights. In 2003, about 464,000 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.


During the 16th century, only a few Spanish expeditions landed on the Banda Oriental, or east bank of the Uruguay River. Most of them were driven off by the native Charrúa Amerindians. Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries landed in 1624, and formed permanent settlements. By 1680, Portuguese from Brazil had founded Colonia do Sacramento as a rival to Buenos Aires, on the opposite bank of the estuary. Thereafter, the area was a focal point for Spanish-Portuguese rivalry.

Montevideo was founded in 1726, and Uruguay became part of the viceroyalty of La Plata, which the Spaniards established in Buenos Aires in 1776. During the Napoleonic Wars, the British invaded the region of La Plata and captured Buenos Aires and Montevideo (180607), but they were forced out in 1807. After Buenos Aires refused to give Uruguay autonomy, the Uruguayan national hero, José Gervasio Artigas, declared Uruguay independent in 1815. A year later, Brazilians attacked Montevideo from the north, but Artigas led a revolutionary movement against them. The struggle continued from 1816 to 1820, when the Portuguese captured Montevideo and Artigas had to flee to Paraguay. Uruguay was annexed to Brazil in 1821 and was known as the Cisplatine Province.

On 25 August 1825, Juan Antonio Lavalleja, at the head of a group of patriots called the "treinta y tres orientales" ("33 Easterners"), issued a declaration of independence. After a three-year fight, a peace treaty signed on 28 August 1828 guaranteed Uruguay's independence. Disappointed in his hopes for the presidency, Lavalleja launched a series of rebellions. During this period of political turmoil and civil war, the two political parties around which Uruguayan history has traditionally revolved, the Colorados (reds) and the Blancos (whites), were founded. Uruguay's first president, Gen. José Fructuoso Rivera, an ally of Artigas, founded the Colorados. The second president, Brig. Gen. Manuel Oribe, a friend of Lavalleja, founded the Blancos.

The 19th century was largely a struggle between the two factions. Some measure of national unity was achieved in the 1860s. In 1865, Uruguay allied with Brazil and Argentina to defeat Paraguay in the Paraguayan War (186570), also known as the War of the Triple Alliance and the Triguarantine War. However, it was not until the election of José Batlle y Ordóñez as president in 1903 that Uruguay matured as a nation.

The Batlle administrations (190307, 191115) marked the period of greatest progress. A distinguished statesman, Batlle initiated the social welfare system codified in the Uruguayan constitution. From then on, Uruguay's social programs, funded primarily by earnings of beef and wool in foreign markets, gave Uruguay the sobriquet "Switzerland of South America."

After World War II, the Colorados ruled, except for an eight-year period from 195866. It was during the administration of President Jorge Pacheco Areco (196772) that Uruguay entered a political and social crisis. As wool declined in world markets, export earnings no longer kept pace with the need for greater social expenditures. Political instability resulted, most dramatically in the emergence of Uruguay's National Liberation Movement, popularly known as the Tupamaros. This well-organized urban guerrilla movement mounted a campaign of kidnapping, assassination, and bank robbery while espousing Marxist and nationalist ideals.

In November 1971, Colorado candidate Juan María Bordaberry Arocena was elected president, and the Colorados retained control of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies. After Bordaberry assumed office in March 1972, the Tupamaros ended a temporary truce and returned to the offensive. Their activities, coupled with the worsening economic situation, exacerbated Uruguay's political uncertainty. Gradually, the military assumed a greater role in government, and by 1973 was in control of the system. By the end of 1973, the Tupamaros had been crushed.

Military officers were named in 1974 to head all state-run enterprises, including the Central Bank. The 1966 constitution was suspended and political activity was banned. Military leaders ousted Bordaberry from the presidency in 1976, because of his refusal to restore constitutional rule, and they named a new president, Aparicio Méndez Manfredini. The OAS and other international organizations denounced Uruguay for human rights violations. In 1979, Amnesty International estimated the number of political prisoners at 6,000. In mid-1981, the military government began to negotiate with leaders of the traditional parties, and in September 1981, a "transitional" president, Georgio Álvarez Armellino, was installed.

Intraparty elections took place in November 1982, followed by legislative and presidential voting in November 1984. The moderate government of Colorado candidate Julio María Sanguinetti Cairolo took office in March 1985. Lacking a majority in Congress, Sanguinetti worked closely with other political leaders to reach a consensus on major issues.

One of the first acts of the new government was to release all political prisoners. Another was to declare amnesty for former military and police leaders accused of human rights violations. In an attempt to reconcile warring factions, the government initiated a "social dialogue" with employers and union leaders to reduce social tension. However, slow progress on the economic front led to the 1989 election of the Blanco candidate, Luis Alberto Lacalle.

Lacalle engaged in an ambitious attempt to liberalize the Uruguayan economy. He emphasized deficit reduction, reforms in education, labor, and the civil service, as well as the privatization of state enterprises. However, these plans were dealt a serious blow in 1993, when a plebiscite failed to ratify a set of proposals for liberalization. In November 1994, Sanguinetti was returned to office in the closest elections ever recorded in Uruguay's history. The three-way race between the Colorado, Blanco, and Broad Front (a leftist coalition) parties ended in just a slight majority for Sanguinetti and the Colorados. Both the Blanco and Broad Front candidates were only a few votes behind. It was the first time the Broad Front party had come within reach of the presidency. The Broad Front also gained the municipal government of Montevideo, Uruguay's capital, in 1989 and again in 1994. In the 1990s, the left had discarded revolutionary rhetoric and become more moderate and more appealing to centrist voters. At the same time, many Uruguayans had grown more critical of the traditional parties.

Sanguinetti himself immediately embarked on a program of economic reforms, including a long-range plan for cutting back on Uruguay's historically generous social programs and benefits, including 20 days of vacation after a year of work, paid maternity leave, and a generous retirement package. As a member of Mercosur (Mercado Común del SurSouthern Cone Common Market), Uruguay faced growing pressure to liberalize its economy during the 1990s, as economic giants, and Mercosur partners Brazil and Argentina had done. Yet voters had twice rejected privatization of state-owned companies, some of which were profitable and often even competitive. The economy also had done well, with the GDP averaging 4.2% growth between 199298.

By 1999, the country's economic picture had changed. The troubled Argentinean and Brazilian economies affected Uruguay, where the economy contracted by 2%. Instead of panicking and clamoring for a cut in social benefits and privatization of state industries, presidential candidates from the right and left called for a cautious approach to economic reforms as they neared the October 1999 elections. Tabaré Ramón Vázquez, the former socialist mayor of Montevideo and candidate representing the Broad Front, finished first in the presidential election, with 39% of the vote. He had appealed for caution, gaining the largest number of votes for a leftist coalition in the country's history. But Vázquez failed to gain a 51% majority, forcing a presidential runoff. The Colorado candidate, Jorge Batlle Ibáñez, had unsuccessfully run for the presidency four times and finished second with 31% in the October election. The Blanco candidate, Luis Lacalle, had finished third with 21.5%.

The 72-year-old Batlle, whose great-uncle had built the country's social programs, was not about to dismantle them. He positioned his party as a moderate alternative to Vázquez's leftist coalition. But ultimately, he persevered at the polls by aligning the Colorados with their historic foes: the Blancos. The Blancos aligned themselves with Batlle in exchange for political concessions and ministerial posts. In the November runoff election, Batlle gained 54.1% of the vote to Vázquez's 45.9%. Batlle was inaugurated in March 2000 and named five Blancos to his cabinet. The Blancos and the Colorados also held a slim majority in the Senate, with 17 of 31 seats, and a majority in the lower house, with 54 of 99 seats.

Faced with a shrinking economy and having inherited a country in an economic recession, Batlle faced the economic and political crisis in Argentina, Uruguay's closest and most important ally. The economy remained in a recession in 2000 and 2001, but things got even worse in 2002, when the economy shrunk by 11%. During Batlle's term, the economy shrunk altogether by almost 20%. Though unemployment remained high in recent years, less than 10% of the population lived in poverty by the end of Batlle's term. Yet, Batlle was unsuccessful in adopting a strategy that could generate sustained economic growth and restore dynamism to his country's economy.

In the 2004 elections, the Broad Front capitalized on the discontent with the established traditional Colorado and Blanco parties. Tabaré Vázquez won the presidential election in the first round, with 50.4%. Blanco Party candidate Jorge Larrañaga obtained 34.3% and Guillermo Stirling from the ruling Colorado party won 10.4%. The Broad Front also did extremely well in the parliamentary elections, winning an outright majority of votes and securing control of the Senate (17 of 31 seats) and of the Chamber of Deputies (52 of 99 seats). For the first time in several decades, Uruguay was to be ruled by a party other than the Colorado or Blanco. Vázquez's Broad Front could safely adopt all necessary reforms and implement much needed policies to bring about economic growth and make up for the years of recession and stagnation. The next elections were to be held in October 2009.

Although the economy was a healthy 12.3% in 2004, when Vázquez took office in March of 2005, Uruguay was poorer than in 1998. With a solid 6% growth in his first year, driven by a recovery in Argentina and Brazil, Vázquez was able to increase social spending and help boost employment. Yet, Uruguay's long-term structural deficiencies remained and opportunities for the private sector remained scant. In spite of being a committed leftist, President Vázquez adopted a pragmatic approach to government. He sought to attract foreign investors and made significant efforts to liberalize the economy. Tensions with Argentina, over the construction of a cellulose plant on a river both countries share, underlined President Vázquez's intention to make his country more competitive. Because Uruguay enjoys one of the most stable democracies in the region and boosts one of the lowest levels of inequality and the best-educated workforce in Latin America, the potential for economic growth associated with economic liberalization seemed promising. Yet, the government will need to work hard to liberalize the economy and protect its wide and comprehensive social spending safety net that has helped make Uruguay one of the countries with the lowest levels of poverty in the region. Although he was inaugurated in early 2005, Vázquez showed strong leadership and an ability to bring together Uruguayans in a way that made observers optimistic about the future of the country.


The constitution of 1830 underwent numerous revisions, notably in 1917, 1934, 1952, and 1966. This constitution provided for a republican government, divided into three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. From 1951 to 1966, the executive consisted of a colegiado, or council, of nine ministers, six from the majority party and three from the minority. In the 1966 elections, however, the electorate reinstated the positions of president and a vice president, popularly elected for a five-year term, together with a council of ministers.

According to the constitutional revision of 1966, the congress (or General Assembly) consisted of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. The Senate had 30 popularly elected senators, plus the vice president of the republic as the thirty-first voting member. The Chamber of Deputies had 99 deputies, popularly elected by departments (provinces). The right to vote was extended to all citizens 18 years of age or older, with female suffrage in local elections as early as 1919 and in national elections in 1934.

From June 1973, when President Bordaberry dissolved the Assembly and suspended the constitution, until March 1985, Uruguay was ruled by executive decree, subject to veto by the military, with legislative functions carried out by the 25-member Council of State, appointed by the executive. A new constitution, providing for the permanent participation of the armed forces in government by means of a National Security Council, was drafted by the Council of State but rejected by 57.2% of the voters in a referendum on 30 November 1980.

In March 1985, democracy was restored under President Sanguinetti; in July, the government set up a National Constituent Assembly to devise constitutional reforms that would be submitted to the electorate for ratification. In the elections of November 1994, the proposed reform of 14 articles of the constitution was again rejected, this time by 63% of Uruguayan voters.

Direct democracy provisions, in the form of referendums and legislative proposals initiated by citizens, are widely practiced in Uruguay. Although electoral participation has fallen in recent years, Uruguay remained as one of the most democratically participatory countries in the western hemisphere.


Uruguay has Latin America's oldest two-party system. The Colorados (reds) and Blancos (whites), formed during the conflicts of the 1830s and 1840s, persisted into the 1990s. The Colorados are traditional Latin American liberals, representing urban business interests, and favoring limitation on the power of the Catholic Church. The Blancos (officially called the National Party) are conservatives, defenders of large landowners and the Church.

For more than 90 years, until the 1958 elections, the executive power was controlled by the Colorados. Under such leaders as Batlle, the party promulgated a progressive program advocating public education, advanced labor laws, government ownership of public utilities, and separation of church and state. After eight years of Blanco government, the Colorado party regained power in the 1966 election.

The results of the November 1971 balloting were so close that the final tabulation took more than two months to ascertain; the Colorados won 36.3% of the vote; the Blancos, 35.7%; and the Broad Front (Frente Amplio, a left-wing coalition that included the Tupamaros), 16.6%. These three groups, plus the Christian Democratic Party (Partido Democrático CristianoPDC), formed in 1962 from the former Catholic Civic Union, made up the Uruguayan party system at the time of the military takeover.

Political activities were suspended following the constitutional crisis of June 1973, and in December 1973 the Communist and Socialist parties were outlawed. In June 1980, the military began to liberalize, as they permitted political meetings of nonleftist groups. In November 1982, they allowed for intraparty elections in each of three parties: the Colorados, the National Party (Blancos), and the small Civic Union (an outgrowth of the Christian Democrats). In the voting, party candidates who had campaigned against the military's proposed constitution in 1980 took more than 60% of the vote.

Neither Blanco leader Wilson Ferreira Aldunate nor Broad Front leader Líber Seregni Mosquera was allowed to participate in the elections, but both retained their party posts. In the November 1984 elections, Colorado candidate Julio María Sanguinetti Cairolo won the presidency with 38.6% of the vote. The Colorados also won pluralities in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Aldunate and Seregni frequently consulted with President Sanguinetti, and previously outlawed parties were legalized. In 1985, the PDC and FIDEL belonged to the Broad Front, and the National Liberation Movement (Movimiento de Liberación NacionalMLN), also known as the Tupamaros, reconstituted years after their destruction in 1973, announced their intention to give up violence and join the Broad Front as a legal party.

In 1989, Blanco candidate Lacalle took 37% of the vote. Jorge Batlle, of the Colorado party, unable to capitalize on name recognition, received 29%, while Líber Seregni Mosquera of the Broad Front received 20%. The Blancos also carried a plurality in each house of the legislature, followed respectively by the Colorados, the Broad Front, and the "New Space (or Sector)" Coalition, which consists of the PDC and the Civic Union.

As more people grow disenchanted with market reforms in Latin America, leftist coalitions have become more palatable to voters. In Uruguay, the Broad Coalition candidate Tabaré Vázquez made an impressive show at the polls, finishing first with 39% of the vote in the October 1999 presidential election. His success forced historic foes Blancos and Colorados to back Jorge Batlle in the November runoff election. While Batlle persevered, the leftist coalition managed to increase its total vote behind Vázquez (45.9%). The Batlle presidency was characterized by a further weakening of the traditional parties. Faced by the opposition of the Broad Front, Batlle was forced to rely on the 22 deputies and 7 senators from the National Party that, together with the 33 deputies and 10 senators from the Colorado party, comprised a majority in the 99-seat Chamber of Deputies and 31-seat Senate.

After the 2004 presidential and legislative election, the strength of the Colorado and National (Blanco) party was further diminished. The leftist Broad Front commands a majority control of both chambers. Although the Colorado and National parties have remained formally separated, they have constituted a center-right allied opposition against the Vázquez Broad Front government. The Broad Front, as of 2005, was the largest and most powerful party in Uruguay.


Uruguay territorially is divided into 19 departments (provinces). Under the 1966 constitutional revision, each department had a unicameral legislature, but all 19 legislatures were dissolved by President Bordaberry on 28 June 1973. Following the installation of the democratic government in 1985, the departments returned to their pre-1973 status of limited autonomy under the central government.


Most of the nation's legal system was suspended in 1973, but in 1981, the military government restored the independence of the civilian judiciary. In that year, a Supreme Judicial Council was empowered to name Supreme Court justices and supervise the judiciary. Below the Supreme Court are appellate courts and lower civil and criminal courts, justices of the peace, electoral and administrative courts, and an accounts court. A parallel military court system operates under its own procedure. When the Supreme Court hears cases involving the military, two military justices join the court. Civilians are tried in the military court only in time of war or insurrection. The judiciary is structurally independent of the executive and this separation of powers is respected in practice.

The constitution prohibits the arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence, and the government authorities respect these provisions in practice.

The legal system is based on Spanish civil law. Uruguay accepts the compulsory jurisdiction of the international court of justice.


The armed forces of Uruguay had 24,000 active personnel in 2005. The Army numbered 15,200, organized into four regional divisions. Equipment included 15 main battle tanks and 68 light tanks. The Navy (including the naval aviation arm and a naval infantry force) numbered 5,700 members. Major naval units included three frigates and nine patrol/coastal vessels. The Air Force had 3,100 personnel and 31 combat capable aircraft, including 18 fighter ground attack aircraft. There was a 920-member paramilitary guard in two units. The defense budget in 2005 totaled $163 million. Uruguay participated in UN peacekeeping and had troops and observers stationed in 12 countries or regions.


Uruguay is a charter member of the United Nations, having joined 18 December 1945, and belongs to ECLAC and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, the World Bank, ILO, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, IAEA, and the WHO. Uruguay is also a member of the South American Community of Nations (CSN), the Inter-American Development Bank, G-77, the Latin American Economic System (LAES), the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA), the WTO, the OAS, and the Río Group. In 1995, Uruguay became a founding member (with Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay) of the Southern Cone Common Market, known as Mercosur (Mercado Comun del Sur).

Uruguay is a guest in the Nonaligned Movement and a member of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL). The country has supported UN missions and operations in India and Pakistan (est. 1949), Western Sahara (est. 1991), Ethiopia and Eritrea (est. 2000), Sierra Leone (est. 1999, Burundi (est. 2004), Cyprus (est. 1964), and Georgia (est. 1993), among others. The country is a signatory of the 1947 Río Treaty, an inter-American security agreement.

In environmental cooperation, Uruguay is part of the Antarctic Treaty, the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


Uruguay's economy remains dependent on agriculture. Agricultural production, combined with the industrial sector based on the transformation of agricultural products, makes up more than half of the country's exports. However, the service sector, especially tourism and financial services, was growing quickly in the early 2000s. In 2005 the service sector was estimated to be over 65% of GDP and employed about 70% of the labor force. Agriculture, however, was still important, particularly livestock production for export and consumption, as well as for inputs for other sectors of the economy. Agriculture accounts for 7% of GDP but employs 14% of the labor force. Industry (agro-industry, chemicals, and consumer goods for local consumption) declined in recent years as the service sector expanded, particularly in terms of employment. Industry employs 16% of the work force, but accounts for 28% of GDP. There is a mixture of private and state enterprises with the economy generally open to foreign trade and investment.

Due partly to the demand generated by World War II and the Korean War for industrial products and also to government efforts to attain a fair degree of economic self-sufficiency and to improve foreign trade, the value of Uruguay's industrial output doubled between 1936 and 1960. Between 1960 and 1970, the industrial growth rate leveled off as the limitations of an import-substitution strategy became apparent. Encouragement of nontraditional manufactured exports led to industrial production increases averaging 6% annually during 197379. The lack of natural resources obliged Uruguay to import most raw materials needed by its industries.

In the early 1980s, in the wake of the second oil shock, the economic situation was characterized by an uninterrupted fall in real output, low levels of investment, high unemployment, mounting inflation, a severe imbalance in public finance, and a massive accumulation of arrears in private-sector debt to the domestic banking system, which in turn caused a potentially critical situation in the country's financial institutions. In mid-1985, the government negotiated agreements with the IMF and creditor banks that produced a standby credit from the Fund, a renegotiation of debt with foreign banks, and an economic-financial program with the IMF intended to reduce the public-sector deficit, inflation and the money supply, and to remedy the balance-of-payments disequilibrium.

Since 1990, the government has pursued a program of economic liberalization, which has included lowering of tariffs, Southern Common Market (Mercosur) integration, reducing deficit spending, controlling inflation, and downsizing government. Growth in GDP averaged 3.7% between 1988 and 1998, with an average 4.75% between 1997 and 1998. However, from 1999 to 2003 the economy experienced an uninterrupted series of contractions. Real GDP contracted 3.2% mainly due to the Brazilian currency devaluation of January 1999, which hurt both Uruguay's exports and its tourist receipts. The government entered into a precautionary standby arrangement with the IMF, but in 2000, the recession eased to 1% of GDP as the government pursued neo-liberal reforms supported by one-year standby agreements with the IMF.

In 2001, a local outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease that hurt meat exports and the Argentine financial crisis combined with the global economic slowdown and the after-effects of the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 to produce a contraction of 2.5%. In 2002, the real decline in GDP reached 10.8%. Attempts were made to prevent the spread of the Argentinean meltdown to Uruguay through extended and enhanced standby agreements. These set a target of 1.7% contraction for 2002, one-tenth of what actually took place. In August 2002, the US government announced it was providing $1.5 billion in short-term loans to Uruguay. That year unemployment reached a high of 19.4%, up from 10.3% in 1997; by 2005, unemployment was up slightly, to 12%.

Contributing to the improved economy were increased exports to North America, especially of meat. Foreign investment has also been encouraged, and new economic sectors have developed, notably a software industry. Furthermore, a successful debt swap helped restore confidence and significantly reduced risk. Uruguay's economy resumed growth in 2003, with a 2.5% rise in GDP. GDP grew about 12% in 2004 and 6.2% in 2005.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Uruguay's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $32.9 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $10,000. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 6.2%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 4.9%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 7.1% of GDP, industry 27.7%, and services 65.2%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $32 million or about $9 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.3% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $17 million or about $5 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.2% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Uruguay totaled $8.15 billion or about $2,411 per capita based on a GDP of $11.2 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 2.4%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 22% of household consumption was spent on food, 14% on fuel, 11% on health care, and 30% on education. It was estimated that in 2003 about 21% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


Uruguay's labor force in 2005 was estimated at 1.52 million. In 2003, the services sector accounted for 73.9% of the workforce, with industry at 21.5%, agriculture at 4.5%, with the remainder in undefined occupations. The unemployment rate in 2005 was estimated at 12%.

In 1943, industrial wage boards with seven members (three for the government, two for the employers, and two for the employees) were established to fix minimum wages and settle wage disputes. Because the wage boards (consejos de salarios) were slow in reaching decisions, the Uruguayan labor force tended to use the strike as a first resort to force the initiation of negotiations. Since 1968, wages and prices have been controlled by the Price and Wage Commission. In July 1973, the National Workers' Convention, which claimed 400,000 members, was declared illegal. Laws enacted in August 1974 restricted trade-union membership to "free and nonpolitical" trade unions. Political activity by union officials was banned, as were strikes in the public sector, health, and commerce. Labor conditions returned to pre-1973 conditions with the 1985 government changeover. The sudden release of years of frustration triggered some 250 strikes in the ensuing year. Uruguay's sole labor confederation is the Inter-Union Workers Assembly-National Federation of Workers (PIT-CNT). In 2002, over 80% of the public sector workforce was unionized, with the number of union members in private industry at around 5%.

The eight-hour day and 48-hour week were instituted in 1915 and remained the standard in 2002. The law provides for one day of rest after every six days of work and grants holidays with pay, plus an annual vacation bonus. The minimum wage was $80 per month in 2002, but it functions in practice as an index for calculating wage rates rather than a measure of a minimum subsistence wage. Most workers earn more than this minimum. The minimum working age is 15, and it is generally enforced although the number of children working in the informal economy is increasing.


Uruguay has a primarily agricultural and pastoral economy, but the importance of these sectors has been declining. The formation of the Mercosur common market in 1995 had a significant effect on Uruguayan agriculture by providing preferential access to neighboring countries, particularly Brazil. Agriculture and animal husbandry together contributed 13% of the GDP in 2003. About 40% of the agriculture's contribution to GDP comes from crops and the rest is from animal husbandry. About 77% of Uruguay's land area is devoted to stock raising and 7.4% to the cultivation of crops. In pasturage, large farms predominate, with farms of more than 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) accounting for two-thirds of all farmland. Crops are grown mainly on small farms of less than 100 hectares (250 acres).

The principal crops harvested (in thousands of tons) in 2004 were rice, 1,262; wheat, 532; barley, 406; corn, 223; sorghum, 70; soybeans, 377; sunflower seeds, 177; oats, 26; apples, 72; and peaches, 14.


Livestock is the basis of the economy. The production costs of stock raising are low, and the quality of the product is generally high. Hereford, Shorthorn, and Aberdeen Angus breeds account for 90% of all beef cattle, with Hereford the most numerous. Corriedale represents about 70% of the sheep stock, followed by Ideal (11%).

Uruguay is especially suited to the raising of sheep and cattle. In 2005, Uruguay had 9,712,000 sheep, second in South America after Brazil. There were also 11,700,000 head of cattle, 380,000 horses, 240,000 pigs, 16,000 goats, and 13,300,300 chickens in 2005. Milk production has expanded, reaching 1.5 million tons in 2005. The preferential duties provided under Mercosur have given Uruguay a great advantage in selling its dairy products to Brazil. The main products exported are cheese, whole and nonfat dry milk, and butter. Meat production in 2005 included 496,000 tons of beef and 26,500 tons of mutton. Beef consumption in Uruguay was about 60 kg per person in 1998, one of highest rates in the world. Leading exports of animals and animal products by value (in millions of dollars) in 2004 were: meat products, $670.9 million; dairy and eggs, $174.9 million; and wool, $17.5 million.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is responsible for stock raising and breeding, control of animal diseases, and improvement of existing grassland and arable resources. The National Meat Board acts as consultant to the government. The meat-packing industry, taken over by the government in 1958, has been restored to the private sector. The government encourages local production through a system of special licenses or customs documents for imported meat and livestock. Furthermore, imports of bull semen and embryos are numerically restricted and must comply with animal health requirements.


Fishing underwent rapid growth in the 1970s. The government-promoted fishing industry made an average annual catch of about 6,000 tons in the 1960s; the catch increased to 20,600 tons in 1972 and, despite temporary setbacks, to 143,170 tons by 1991. In 2003, the total catch was 116,935 tons. Fish exports in 2003 amounted to $108 million.

There are three fishing zones on the southern coast: the low zone, from Colonia to Piriápolis; the middle zone, from Piriápolis to Punta del Este, which is considered one of the finest fishing areas in the world; and the high zone, from Punta del Este to the Brazilian border. Principal commercial species include Argentine hake, whitemouth croaker, and striped weakfish. Other important sea fish are corvina negra (a kind of bass), mullet, sole, anchovy, mackerel, whiting, and shark. The finest freshwater fish is the dorado, a type of salmon.


Uruguay has some 1,292,000 hectares (3,193,000 acres) of forestland. About 50,000 hectares (124,000 acres) were reforested annually from 1990 to 2000. The principal species cultivated are eucalyptus and pine; domestic woods are used primarily for windbreaks, fence posts, and firewood. Lumber suitable for building and construction is imported. Roundwood removals totaled 6,399,000 cu m (225.9 million cu ft) in 2004, with 67% used as fuel wood.


Uruguay's mining sector has traditionally been based on the economically significant exploitation of nonmetallic minerals for the construction, glass, and ceramics industries. The most important commodities were clays, bentonite, dolomite, feldspar, granite, gravel, gypsum, limestone, pebbles, quartz, sand, and talc. There was also minor production of semiprecious stones and ornamental rocks. Various types of clay were mined for producing brick, pipe, tile, and whiteware. Talc was mined for use in the paper industry and in ceramics, cosmetics, insecticides, and pharmaceuticals. Feldspar was mined for the ceramics industry and glass. Estimated production in tons (except where noted) for 2003 included: common sand, 2.7 million tons; limestone, 1.3 million tons; clays, 24,900 metric tons; gypsum, 1.130 million tons; agate, 420 metric tons; and amethyst, 170 metric tons. Also produced in 2003 were barite, bentonite, hydraulic cement, dolomite, feldspar, flagstone, gold, granite, gravel, iron ore, lime, marble, marl, onyx, quartz, stone (including ballast), sulfur, pryophyllite soap-stone talc, traventine, and tufa tuff. Sand, common stone, and talcum were exported, although no minerals ranked among leading export commodities. Limestone had significant potential for export growth.

All products of the subsoil belonged to the state. There were more than 350 ongoing extraction projects; most were small scale. The past few years have seen a revival of minerals prospecting and exploitation, which had been idle for many years. Changes in national legislation have improved the business environment and opened the country to foreign investment, resulting in mining output growth of almost 4% per year in 19972001 and the implementation of gold and cement projects. There were deposits of manganese, iron, lead, and copper, and commercial gold mining was begun in 1997 at the San Gregorio mine, Rivera Department, and at the Santa Teresa deposit in 2001. Agates, opals, and onyx were found in Salto and Artigas. In 2001, diamond exploration was begun, although there was been no recorded diamond output in 2003 or 2002. Drilling began in 2001 on the Paso del Lugo nickel project.


Uruguay, with no proven hydrocarbon resources, is heavily dependent upon hydropower and imports of oil, natural gas, and coal to meet its energy requirements.

In 2004, Uruguay's demand for oil averaged an estimated 31,000 barrels per day, all of it imported. The country however, does possess a crude oil refining capacity represented by the single La Teja facility, which as of 1 January 2004 had an estimated capacity of 50,000 barrels per day. As with oil, Uruguay imported all the natural gas it consumed. In 2002, Uruguay's demand for natural gas totaled an estimated 0.7 billion cu ft. Although Argentina has been Uruguay's chief supplier of natural gas, an energy crisis has forced Argentina to limit its exports of natural gas. To make up the shortfall, Uruguay, in September 2004, signed a natural gas supply contract with Bolivia. In 2002, Uruguay's demand for coal was met entirely by imports. In 2002, coal imports totaled an estimated 2,600 short tons.

Uruguay's electric power is provided by hydroelectric and diesel generating plants. In 2002, Uruguay's electric power generating capacity was estimated at 2.1 GW, of which conventional thermal plants accounted for 29% of capacity, and hydroelectric 71%. In that year, electric power output totaled 9.508 billion kWh, of which 9.442 billion kWh came from hydroelectric sources, followed by geothermal/other at 0.034 billion kWh and conventional thermal fueled plants at 0.032 billion kWh. Uruguay has one of Latin America's highest rates of electrification (95% as of 2002).


Although foreign trade depends mainly on agriculture, the production of industrial goods for domestic consumption is increasing, primarily in the fields of textiles, tires, shoes, leather apparel, cement, petroleum refining, and wine. World War II spurred the industrial growth of Uruguay, and now local industry supplies most of the manufactured products used. Most industry is concentrated in and around Montevideo.

Manufacturing output declined by an average of 1.3% annually between 1977 and 1987, and declined by an average of 0.10% per year during 198898. In 1998, manufacturing improved with 2.3% growth, accounting for 18% of GDP. Growth was led by oil refining, car production, and food production. However, in the first half of 1999 the manufacturing sector suffered a setback, declining by 6.1%. Reduction of domestic demand and a decrease in exports to Brazil and Argentina contributed to the overall decline. A recession that began in 1999 and continued into 2002 further hampered industrial growth. Sectors showing overall production decreases included textiles, vehicles, machinery, chemicals, paper, processed meat, and sugar. By 2004, industry as a whole accounted for 31.7% of GDP, a small increase over 2001 (29%).

The manufacturing sector still has severe structural problems as a legacy of the protectionist policies that stressed import substitution during the 1970s. With the Mercosur trade bloc, the domestic market for manufactured goods has opened to strong competition from Argentina and Brazil. The automotive, electronic, and machinery sectors will probably continue to decline because of competition among Mercosur partners. Uruguay produced 10,530 automobiles in 2001, down 27% from the 14,404 units produced in 2000; however, the government has prioritized the recovery of the automobile industry, considering it to be one of the possible pillars for the country's creation of new jobs.

With no proven hydrocarbon resources, Uruguay is wholly dependent on imports for oil, natural gas, and coal. The country's sole refinery is the 50,000-bbl/d La Teja facility. The state-owned oil company, Administración Nacional de Combustibles Alcohol y Portland (ANCAP), controls Uruguay's entire oil sector. Relying on imported oil and natural gas, as well as on domestic hydropower, has, at times, jeopardized Uruguay's energy supply. Since spring 2004, for instance, Uruguay dealt with a number of energy supply challengeshigher global oil prices, lower water levels in domestic hydropower facilities, and decreased power imports (including both electricity and natural gas) from Argentina. Hydropower remains Uruguay's main energy source, but a drought has left Uruguay's hydropower plants operating well below capacity in 200406, forcing the government to resort to running more expensive oil-fired power plants. Meanwhile, reduced imports of electricity and natural gas from Argentina, which has been experiencing its own energy crisis, have prompted the Uruguayan government to sign power supply contracts with Brazil (electricity) and Bolivia (natural gas) to make up for shortfalls.


The UNESCO Regional Office for Science and Technology in Latin America and the Caribbean is located in Montevideo. Learned societies include the Pediatrics Society, the Association of Uruguayan Engineers, the Chemical and Pharmaceutical Association, the Odontological Association, and the Surgical Society, all headquartered in Montevideo. The University of the Republic, founded in 1849 at Montevideo, has faculties of agronomy, sciences, engineering, medicine, dentistry, chemistry, and veterinary medicine. The Institute of Higher Studies, founded in 1928 at Montevideo, offers courses in biological climatology, geomorphology, paleontology, and mathematics. The Higher Institute of Electrical Engineering, Electronics, and Computing was founded in 1922 at Montevideo.

In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 32% of college and university enrollments. In 2002, spending on research and development (R&D) totaled $69.232 million, or 0.26% of GDP, Of that amount, the business sector accounted for the largest portion, 46.7%, followed by higher education at 31.4%. Government R&D spending accounted for 17.1%, with 4.7% coming from foreign sources. In that same year, there were 370 scientists and engineers, and 51 technicians per million people, engaged in R&D. High technology exports in 2002 totaled $19 million, or 3% of all the country's manufactured exports.


Although the Uruguayan population is small, it has a relatively high purchasing power. Wholesale and retail trade accounted for 12.4% of GDP in 1996. The reasonably good transportation system allows easy shipment of agricultural products to the capital. Chambers of commerce and other trade associations play an active role in interpreting local market demands. Overland trade has increased markedly since the Mercosur (Southern Common Market) pact was formed in the 1990s.

The labor market improved in 2004 with the average unemployment rate dropping from 17.1% in 2003 to 13.4%, and real average wages were starting to stabilize.


Uruguay traditionally relied on foreign sales of wool, hides, and meat products for its export revenues, which increased steadily until 1998, and then dropped off slightly. Export revenues from goods and services annually increased by an average of 3.3% during 197787, and by 8.2% between 1988 and 1998. The value of imports fell by an average 1.7% per year during the 1980s, but has increased by an average of 17.1% annually during 199095. In 2000, exports increased by 2.6% and imports rose 3.3%.

Imports have been stimulated by falling tariffs, the ongoing implementation of Mercosur agreements, revaluation of the Uruguayan peso, and gradual liberalization of the economy. Rising imports of consumer goods reflect pent-up demand, while increased imports of capital goods reflect the need to upgrade industrial facilities to meet foreign competition. In the first half of 1999, Uruguay's exports declined by 25%. The nation's trade deficit nearly doubled between 1998 and 1999 as a result of the international financial recession.

Uruguay is a member of the Río Group, an association of Latin American states that deals with multilateral security issues (under the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance). Uruguay's location between Argentina and Brazil makes close relations with these two larger neighbors and Mercosur associate members Chile and Bolivia particularly important. Uruguay is a member of the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI), a trade association based in Montevideo that includes 10 South American countries plus Mexico and Cuba.

In 2004, Uruguay exported $2.9 billion, mainly meat, wool, hides, leather, wool products, fish, rice, and furs. The major export markets are the United States (19.8%), Brazil (16.3%), Argentina

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 2,198.0 2,190.4 7.6
Brazil 470.8 459.8 11.0
United States 250.7 167.5 83.2
Argentina 154.9 571.7 -416.8
Germany 145.1 61.7 83.4
China 95.2 86.0 9.2
Mexico 90.8 20.5 70.3
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 88.9 50.2 38.7
Canada 86.8 10.5 76.3
United Kingdom 78.4 25.0 53.4
Spain 75.5 42.8 32.7
() data not available or not significant.

(7.6%), Germany (5.1%), Mexico (4.0%), and China (3.9%). Imports reached $3.1 billion, mainly machinery, chemicals, fuel, and vehicles. The major suppliers are Brazil and Argentina (25.7% each), United States (9.0%), China (7.1%), and Germany (3.4%).


Balance of payments deficits are common in Uruguay, owing to fluctuating world markets for agricultural exports and a high dependency on imports for raw materials and fuels. Traditionally, multilateral assistance, income from tourism, and inflow of capital from other Latin American countries has tended to offset the negative trade picture. The balance of payments in the 1980s and 1990s was affected by the continued weakening of international prices of Uruguay's exports, which are concentrated in a few productsmeat, rice, wool, dairy products, and leather account for about half of the country's exports. The Batlle administration in the early 2000s was looking to expand trade with the United States and the rest of NAFTA. The country's trade with Mercosur has declined in recent years, in part due to a decline in Brazil's importance as a source for Uruguayan imports. Trade with Argentina subsequently increased.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2001 the purchasing power parity of Uruguay's exports was $2.24 billion while imports totaled $2.9 billion resulting in a trade deficit of $660 million. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2001 Uruguay had exports of goods totaling $2.15 billion and imports totaling $2.92 billion. The services credit totaled $1.13 billion and debit $803 million.

Currently, the balance of payments is under control, although the account shows a modest deficit, reflecting the strong pickup in imports that, in part, is being financed by foreign direct investment. Gross international reserves are expected to increase, raising the coverage of dollar liabilities in the banking system by official reserves and bank foreign assets to about 62%. Several measures

Current Account 52.1
   Balance on goods 181.8
     Imports -2,091.5
     Exports 2,273.3
   Balance on services 162.6
   Balance on income -363.9
   Current transfers 71.6
Capital Account
Financial Account -342.6
   Direct investment abroad -3.7
   Direct investment in Uruguay 274.6
   Portfolio investment assets -521.7
   Portfolio investment liabilities 22.9
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets -1,252.8
   Other investment liabilities 1,138.1
Net Errors and Omissions 1,248.5
Reserves and Related Items -957.9
() data not available or not significant.

have been undertaken to maintain its stability. The fiscal program is well on track, and is attempting to exceed the primary surplus target of 3.4% of GDP in 2004. Expenditure restraint will be maintained, and public tariffs will continue to be adjusted in line with operational costs. No further tax reductions will be granted.


The Bank of the Republic (Banco de la República Oriental del UruguayBRDU), established in 1896, is a state bank with a government-appointed director. It operates as both a public and a private bank. It is the financial agent of the government; it also acts as an autonomous agency and, as a commercial bank, makes loans and receives deposits. It participates in determining financial policies and the allocation of foreign exchange for imports. One of its main functions is to provide rural credit.

The 1966 constitutional revision created a Central Bank (Banco Central del UruguayBCU), which is responsible for currency circulation, thus permitting the Bank of the Republic to concentrate on public and private credit. The third state bank is the Mortgage Bank (Banco Hipotecario del Uruguay-BHU). There are 21 private banks operating in Uruguay, the 3 public banks, 8 financial institutions, 12 offshore banks, and 6 savings and loans organizations.

In the early 1980s, economic recession produced a flood of bad debts, prompting the BCU to introduce a refinancing scheme in 1983, under which it took over the nonperforming loans of some financial institutions. This improved the liquidity of the financial system, but shifted the burden onto public finances. In 1999, the IMF criticized Uruguay's two large public banks as being less efficient and profitable than private banks, calling for banking reforms.

A policy of regular minidevaluations was introduced in mid-1975; currency stability was established in the late 1970s, but in November 1982, the peso, regarded as overvalued, was allowed to float freely. The peso has fallen against the dollar since that time. As of 1999, about 90% of the private sector's deposits in the banking system were dollar-denominated, and 75% of the overall credit to the private sector was in dollars. Most purchases were made in dollars. Net foreign reserves equaled $2.43 billion at the end of 1998.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $1.0 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $11.1 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 22.1%. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 71.66%.

The Montevideo Stock Exchange is supplemented by its Internet based partner, the Bolsa Electrónica de Valores (BEVSA). The number of firms raising risk capital through the stock exchange is very small, and only 19 companies are quoted on it. In 1999, practically no shares were traded in the stock market.


The State Insurance Bank (Banco de Seguros del EstadoBSE), launched early in 1912 by a bond issue, was granted a monopoly on all insurance in 1919; however, private insurance companies were allowed to continue issuing life, fire, and marine insurance if they had been in business prior to creation of the state bank. An October 1993 law demonopolized the insurance industry, allowing an individual to purchase insurance with the company of his or her choice, as well as allowing Brazilian, UK, and Spanish companies among others to participate in the market. The Banco de Seguros des Estado remains, however, the only company permitted to insure occupational and health hazard. In 2003, the value of all direct insurance premiums written totaled $238 million, of which nonlife premiums accounted for $185 million. For that same year, the top nonlife and life insurer was Banco de Seguros del Estatdo, which had gross written nonlife and life insurance premiums of $122.9 million and $24.1 million, respectively.


Under the inflationary pressures of the 1990s, budgetary expenditures generally exceeded revenues, although greater fiscal austerity caused a decrease in the budget deficit. In 1998, the number of government offices was reduced by one-third. The 1998 budget deficit was 0.9% of GDP, mostly financed by external loans ($685 million). Because of falling tax revenues and increased spending, the deficit rose in 1999.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Uruguay's central government took in revenues of approximately $4.4 billion and had expenditures of $4.8 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$377 million. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 82.1% of GDP. Total external debt was $9.931 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2001, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues in millions of pesos were 65,592 and expenditures were 77,487. The value of revenues in millions of US dollars was $4,925 and expenditures $5,956, based on a market exchange rate for 2001 of 13.3191 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 14.9%; defense, 4.2%; public order and safety, 4.7%; economic affairs, 5.8%; housing and community amenities, 1.6%; health, 6.6%; recreation, culture, and religion, 0.6%; education, 7.6%; and social protection, 56.5%.


As of 2005, corporate tax is imposed on industrial and commercial income at a flat rate of 30%. Capital gains incurred by companies are taxed as ordinary income at the corporate rate. Individuals are not subject to a capital gains tax. A 30% withholding tax is also imposed on dividends and royalties paid to nonresidents. Other taxes include a commissions tax of 9% and a capital tax of 15%. Personal income and inheritance taxes were repealed in 1974. Other taxes include a net worth tax, a 2.8% tax on banking activities, a bank assets tax, farming and property taxes, consumption taxes, and insurance taxes.

The most important indirect tax is Uruguay's value-added tax (VAT) instituted in January 1968. The standard rate is 23% and there is a reduced rate of 14% on necessities such as foodstuffs, as well as on fruit, flowers, road passenger transport, and hotel accommodation services. Exempt are imports of crude oil, the transfer and rental of immovable property, agricultural goods and raw materials, certain types of machinery, certain banking activities, and medical services.


Uruguay is a member of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) along with Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. As of July 2003, the Mercosur common external tariff (CET) ranged from 020% on most goods, although there is a 21.5% rate. A general 23% VAT rate is applied, although a lower 10% rate is assessed on certain products, while a 14% rate is applied to medicines, certain basic foodstuffs, and certain primary products. Excise taxes ranged from 1030% on soft drinks, cosmetics, and motor vehicles, to 70% on tobacco, 80% on alcohol, and 133% for gasoline. Almost all goods can be imported into Uruguay without restrictions or licenses.

Tariff preferences are also given to members of the LAFA. Uruguay also has a large number of bilateral investment agreements, mostly with EU countries.

Free trade zones operate in Colonia, Florida, Nueva Helvecia, Nueva Palmira, Río Negro, Rivera, San José, and Montevideo.


Historically, Uruguay maintained a number of state monopolies in which direct foreign equity participation was prohibited. Uruguay's Foreign Investment Law of 28 March 1974 closed certain industries to foreign investors: public water and drainage services, railroads, alcohol and petroleum refineries, electric, telephone, local telegraph, mail, port services, insurance, and issuance of mortgage bonds. Private investment in other sectors was generally welcomed.

From 1992 to 1998, foreign direct investment (FDI) amounted to about $150 million annually, which reflected a relatively low pace of privatization, even though the government promoted investment in the mining, tourism, hydrocarbons, forestry, printing, and media sectors.

The 1998 Investment Promotion and Protection Law declared that promotion and protection of national and foreign investment was in the national interest. Foreign and national investments would be treated the same, and investment would be allowed without prior authorization or registration. Complete foreign ownership is allowed in most sectors except for oil and telecommunications. Privatization is often popularly opposed, and the state seeks to foster efficiency through de-monopolization and deregulation. State sectors that have been partially liberalized include insurance, mortgages, road building and repair, water sanitation and distribution, energy generation, piped gas distribution, and cellular phones.

From 1999 to 2001 FDI inflow increased steadily, from $239 million to $285 million, to $320 million. Under the impact of the worldwide decline in outward FDI, flows to Uruguay in 2002 are estimated to have fallen about one-third, but rebounded in 2003. Main investors included Canada and the EU.

A law in February 2001 de-monopolized the telecommunications industry, which was controlled by ANTEL. The state-owned oil company ANCAP was the only importer and refiner of petroleum products in Uruguay, and was scheduled to remain a monopoly until 2006. There are nine free trade zones (FTZs), in the country, some state-owned and operated, others state-owned but privately operated, and others privately owned and operated. FTZs offer tax and duty exemptions.

FDI was virtually insignificant at the beginning of the 1990s but increased quite steadily afterwards, accounting for 1.36% of GDP in 2000 and 2.46% of GDP in 2003. FDI in Uruguay has been historically low because of the country's small market, the lack of major privatizations, and the small number of firms that base their Mercosur-wide operations locally. Uruguay's FDI/GDP ratio of 1% is well below the Latin American/Caribbean average of about 3%, and that of its Southern Cone neighbors Argentina and Brazil, with 2.6% each, and Chile with 5.6%.

According to Uruguay's Central Bank, FDI stock declined from $2.4 billion in 2001 to $1.4 billion in 2002, mostly due to decreased asset values following the sharp 2002 economic contraction and devaluation. Economic recovery led the stock of FDI to increase to $1.8 billion in 2003.


Monopolies have traditionally been permitted in the fields of banking and insurance, postal services, ports, water, light and power, telephone services, and fuels. Industrial and commercial activities of the state must be organized as "autonomous entities." Other public services may be organized as autonomous entities, like decentralized services, or divisions under a ministry. Exceptions to this policy are state-operated postal and telephone services, customs houses, port administration, and public health.

The Committee on Investment and Economic Development, established in 1960, published a 10-year plan for 196575 for production, investment, and consumption. The plan, stressing industrial development and external financing, was superseded in April 1973 by the National Development Plan for 197377, prepared by the Planning and Budget Office. This plan projected an annual growth rate of 3.8% in real gross domestic product (GDP), or 2.5% per capita; increases in exports and imports were projected at 10.1% and 14.9%, respectively. Domestic investment was to rise at an annual rate of 15.1%a projection quite remote from the actual average annual increase of 3.2% realized during 196672.

After the severe slump of the early 1980s, the decisive actions by the new government injected life into the economy. In particular, restructuring the heavy domestic debt burden of the industrial and agricultural sectors increased confidence in the economy. Domestic investment rose sharply, with some industries at full capacity.

The Lacalle administration continued the fiscal adjustment program in 1990 to reduce the budget deficit. A state-enterprises reforms law passed in September 1991 permitted partial privatization of certain state-owned enterprises. Uruguay also became an important trade partner and provider of services to Mercosur countries. The flip side of this relationship was Uruguay's dependency on and vulnerability to economic developments in its neighboring countries. A slowdown in Brazilian growth and a recession in Argentina caused Uruguay's economy to slip into recession in 1995 and in 1998.

The government instituted a three-stage stabilization program in 1994. The plan increased consumption and payroll taxes, instituted a program designed to downsize government, and planned for long-term social security reform. This plan continued into the late 1990s with moderate success, but a recession hit in 1999 that exacerbated the problems of a state-monopolized economy dependent upon exports to Argentina and Brazil, and dependent on US dollars for the currency.

The financial crisis in Argentina in late 2001 and subsequent recession hurt exports and tourism in Uruguay, and Uruguay's banking crisis in 2002 was exacerbated by the situation in Argentina. In all, the Argentine economic crisis and its aftereffects caused a 10% contraction in Uruguay's economy. An outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease among its cattle and an energy crisis in Brazil also adversely affected the economy. By 2002, the total debt stood at around $13.5 billion, some 65% of GDP, and the fiscal deficit stood at around 3% of GDP. Uruguay is diversifying its export base, has a well-run offshore financial center, and has significantly improved the structure of the economy. Foreign direct investment reached $248 million in 2001. Many formerly state-owned sectors had been liberalized by 2003, including insurance, mortgages, road construction and repair, piped-gas distribution, energy generation, water sanitation and distribution, cellular telephones, and airline transportation. In June 2005, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a three-year $1.13 billion Stand-By Arrangement for Uruguay. Oil refining was de-monopolized, but oil imports were to remain a monopoly until 2006.

Uruguay is characterized by an export-oriented agricultural sector, a well-educated workforce, and high levels of social spending. The economy grew about 10% in 2004 as a result of high commodity prices for Uruguayan exports, the weakness of the dollar against the euro, growth in the region, low international interest rates, and greater export competitiveness. By 2005, it had slowed to 6.2%.


Uruguay has frequently been referred to as South America's first welfare state. Some legislation dates back to 1829. Social legislation now provides for a day of rest in every week (plus Saturday afternoon), holidays with pay, minimum wages, annual cash and vacation bonuses, family allowances, compensation for unemployment or dismissal, workers' accident compensation, retirement pensions for rural and domestic workers, old age and disability pensions, and special consideration for working women and minors. The state also provides care for children and mothers, as well as for the blind, deaf, and mute. Free medical attention is available to the poor, as are low-cost living quarters for workers.

A dual social insurance program and private insurance system is in place. There is a separate system for bank employees, notaries, university graduates, members of the armed forces, and the police. All other employees and the self-employed are within the program. For pension coverage, employers withhold 15% of each employee's gross earnings and contribute 12.5% of payroll to the appropriate fund. Retirement is set at 60. Maternity and sickness benefits are also provided and are funded by contributions of 3% of earnings by the employee and 5% of payroll from the employer. Maternity benefits are paid at 100% of earnings for up to 12 weeks. Work injury and unemployment insurance are available to all employees.

Women account for nearly half of the work force but tend to be concentrated in lower paying jobs. Nevertheless, many attend the national university and pursue professional careers. Although the law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, few claims are filed because it is not viewed as a problem. Spousal abuse is a serious social problem which is receiving greater attention by non-governmental organizations. The number of reported cases has increased dramatically, reflecting a greater willingness by women to confront the problem.

Black minorities, accounting for 6% of the population, are severely underrepresented in politics and in the professions. They face considerable discrimination in education and employment. Occasional reports of the use of excessive force by police are reported each year, and judicial delays can result in lengthy pretrial detention. Human rights organizations operate freely in Uruguay.


The government traditionally has placed great emphasis on preventive medicine and on the sociological approach to public health problems. The US Institute of Inter-American Affairs and the Uruguayan Ministry of Public Health created the Inter-American Cooperative Public Health Service, which built four health centers and clinics. For the region, life expectancy is high (76.13 years in 2005); infant mortality is low (11.95 per 1,000 live births in 2005); and the ratios of doctors and beds to the population are exceptionally good. Approximately 98% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 95% had adequate sanitation. As of 2004, there were an estimated 365 physicians, 86 nurses, and 116 dentists per 100,000 people. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 9.1% of GDP.

The Commission for the Fight against Tuberculosis is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health; as a result of its efforts, tuberculosis is almost unknown in Uruguay today. The commission also deals with the social and economic effects of various diseases.

The major causes of death are heart diseases, cancer, and digestive disorders. Degenerative diseases rank higher as a cause of death in Uruguay than in most other Latin American countries.

As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 17.3 and 9 per 1,000 people. Maternal mortality was 26 per 1,000 live births. Contraceptive use was high, with nearly 85% of married women in Uruguay using some method of birth control. Immunization rates for children up to one year old were tuberculosis, 99%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 88%; polio, 88%; and measles, 80%.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.30 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 6,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 500 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


The housing situation is more favorable in Uruguay than in most Latin American countries. Housing construction, dominated by the public sector, is financed in large part by the Mortgage Bank. The National Institute of Low-Cost Housing builds low-cost dwellings for low-income workers and pensioners.

At last estimate, 98% of all housing units were made of durable materials including stone masonry, wood, zinc, or concrete. Owners occupied more than 55% of all dwellings; nearly 25% were rented; less than 20% were occupied by usufructus (households legally inhabiting someone else's living quarters); and about 1% were occupied by members of housing cooperatives. Of all housing units, more than 90% had private toilet facilities, and nearly 75% had water piped indoors. The preliminary results of the 2004 census indicated that there were about 1,274,052 housing units nationwide.


Education in elementary, secondary, and technical schools and at the University of the Republic in Montevideo is free. Elementary education, which lasts six years, is compulsory. Secondary education is in two stages of three years. Students may choose to attend a three or four year technical school at the upper secondary level. The academic year runs from March to December.

In 2001, about 62% of children between the ages of three and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 90% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 73% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 91.8% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 21:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 18:1. In 2003, private schools accounted for about 12.9% of primary school enrollment and 11.2% of secondary enrollment.

There are five major universities: the University of the Republic, the Catholic University, the University ORT Uruguay, Universidad de la Empresa, and the University of Montevideo. The University of Trabajo is a state-operated technical school. In 2003, it was estimated that about 37% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in tertiary education programs. The overall adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 97.7%.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 2.6% of GDP, or 9.6% of total government expenditures.


The National Library, founded in 1816, contains over 900,000 volumes, primarily modern but including a sizable historical collection. Other major collections are found in the special libraries of the Council of Secondary, Basic, and Higher Education (110,000 volumes), the Museum of Natural History (200,000), and at the Pedagogic Library (118,000). The University of the Republic in Montevideo (1849) holds nearly one million volumes.

The National Historical Museum exhibits artifacts of local Amerindian cultures and of Uruguayan historical development. The National Museum of Fine Arts has paintings by prominent Uruguayan artists, including Juan Manuel Blanes and Joaquín Torres García. Both are in Montevideo, as are the Museum of Industrial Arts, the Pedagogical Museum, and the Museum of the Discovery, a unique public affairs institution chronicling the impact of the European encounter with the new world. There are regional museums in Mercedes, Salto, San José de Mayo, and Tacuarembo.


The state owns the telegraph and telephone services. In 2003, there were an estimated 280 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 193 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

Private broadcasting companies share the airwaves with the state-run public broadcasting company, SODRE. As of 2001, Uruguay had 91 AM and 149 FM radio stations and 20 television stations; color television broadcasting was introduced in 1981. In 2003 there were 603 radios and about 530 television sets for every 1,000 people. In 2003, there were 110.1 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 119 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 79 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

In 2004 there were at least four major daily newspapers in Montevideo, including El Diario, 170,000, El País, 110,000; El Diario Espanol, 20,000; and Últimas Noticias, 19,500. The first newspaper in the Banda Oriental was the Southern Star, published by the British in 1807 during their brief occupation of Montevideo. El Día, founded by José Batlle y Ordóñez in 1886, helped lay the foundation for the social reforms of the first two decades of the 20th century.

The constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press and these rights are generally respected by the government. The government does retain the right to impose regulations or restrictions on speech and press if a person is inciting violence or insulting the state.


The two most important organizations of livestock farmers are the Rural Association and the Rural Federation, both founded by large landowners. Other employers' organizations include the Importers' and Wholesalers' Association and the Uruguayan Exporters' Union. The Chamber of Industries is a powerful organization, with a representative on the Export and Import Control Commission. There are several professional societies, including the National Council for Scientific and Technological Research, which serves also as a primary educational and research organization.

There are student-youth organizations associated with universities and political parties. Scouting and YMCA/YWCA programs are also active. International organizations with national chapters include Amnesty International, Defence for Children International, and the Red Cross.


Tourism, one of Uruguay's major enterprises, enjoys government support. The state owns many hotels along the coast, especially in the area of Punta del Este, 145 km (90 mi) east of Montevideo and one of the more sophisticated resorts in South America. Montevideo has been promoted as the "city of parks" because of its many parks and gardens.

The most popular sport in Uruguay is football (soccer); there is an intense rivalry between supporters of the two major teams, the Peñarol and the Nacional. Other popular sports include basketball, cycling, tennis, pelota, golf, and water sports. Uruguayan soccer teams won the World Cup in 1930 and 1950; the first World Cup competition was hosted by Uruguay in 1930.

All visitors must have a valid passport. Visas are required of all foreign visitors except for the citizens of 63 nations, including Australia, Canada, and the United States. Visas are valid for up to three months. Tourist arrivals numbered 1,508,055 in 2003. There were 18,160 hotel rooms with 41,759 beds. Tourism expenditure receipts totaled $406 million that same year.

In 2004, the US Department of State estimated the cost of staying in Montevideo at $133 per day; elsewhere costs ranged between $133 and $369 per day.


The national hero of Uruguay is José Gervasio Artigas (17641850), who led the fight for independence against Brazil and Portugal. Juan Antonio Lavalleja (1786?1853) directed the uprising that established Uruguay's independence in 1828. The nation's first two presidents were Gen. José Fructuoso Rivera (1790?1854) and Brig. Gen. Manuel Oribe (1796?1857), the founders of the Colorados and Blancos, respectively. One of Uruguay's greatest citizens was José Batlle y Ordóñez (18561929), who served twice as president of the country. José Pedro Varela (184579) was Uruguay's chief educational reformer.

One of the most respected defenders of Latin America's cultural tradition was José Enrique Rodó (18721917), whose Ariel and Motivos de Proteo fostered the idea of the superiority of Latin American culture. Juan Zorrilla de San Martín (18551933) was a 19th-century romantic poet whose finest work, Tabaré, describes Uruguay at the time of the Spanish conquest. Eduardo Acevedo Díaz (18511924) won fame as the writer of a gaucho novel, Soledad (1894). Other significant novelists are Carlos Reyles (18681938) and Javier de Viana (18721925). Horacio Quiroga (18781937) is regarded as one of Latin America's foremost short-story writers. The poets Julio Herrera y Reissig (18751910) and Juana de Ibarbourou (18951979) have attained a devoted audience beyond the borders of Uruguay. Emir Rodríguez Monegal (192185) is considered a leading writer and literary scholar.

The painter Juan Manuel Blanes (18301901) is best known for his Episode of the Yellow Fever. Pedro Figari (18611938) painted vivid scenes of early 19th-century Uruguay. Joaquín Torres García (18741949) founded his painting style on the principles of universalism and constructivism. Eduardo Fabini (18831951) is Uruguay's best-known composer. Francisco Curt Lange (b.Germany, 19031997), Latin America's foremost musicologist, founded various inter-American institutions and publications for the promotion of music of the Americas.


Uruguay has no territories or colonies.


Calvert, Peter. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Latin America. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.

Castiglioni, Rossana. The Politics of Social Policy Change in Chile and Uruguay: Retrenchment Versus Maintenance, 19731998. New York: Routledge, 2005.

Garretón, Manuel Antonio, and Edward Newman, (eds.). Democracy in Latin America: (Re)constructing Political Society. New York: United Nations University Press, 2001.

Health in the Americas, 2002 edition. Washington, D.C.: Pan American Health Organization, Pan American Sanitary Bureau, Regional Office of the World Health Organization, 2002.

Kohut, David R. Historical Dictionary of the "Dirty Wars." Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2003.

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Oriental Republic of Uruguay

Major City:

Other Cities:
Colonia del Sacramento, Fray Bentos, Minas, Paysandú, Punta del Este, Rivera, Salto, Treinta y Tres


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 1999 for Uruguay. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


A wedge of a nation tucked between Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay is the smallest and, after Ecuador, the most densely populated republic in South America.

Rolling grasslands of black, potash rich soil make raising cattle and sheep the lifeblood of the nation's economy. Also important are tourism and financial services. Montevideo, home of 45% of Uruguay's population, gears much of its industry to processing wool, meat, and hides. White-sand beaches and luxurious resorts stretch along the Atlantic shoreline, bringing Uruguay renown as a vacation playland. It has one of the highest living standards in South America and a broad program of social welfare.

A constitution provides for a republic with three autonomous branches of government. Under it, there prospers a progressive land where beef is the national dish and soccer the national game.

On the east coast of South America, south of Brazil and east of Argentina, Uruguay is comparable in size to Oklahoma. The country consists of a low, rolling plain in the south and a low plateau in the north. It has a 120-mile Atlantic shoreline, a 235-mile frontage on the Rio de la Plata, and 270 miles on the Uruguay River, its western boundary.

Prior to European settlement, Uruguay was inhabited by groups of indigenous peoples collectively known as the Charruas. The Spanish visited Uruguay in 1516, but the Portuguese were first to settle it. After a long struggle, Spain wrested the country from Portugal in 1778, by which time almost all of the indigenous people had been exterminated. Uruguay revolted against Spain in 1811, only to be conquered in 1817 by the Portuguese from Brazil. Independence was reasserted with Argentine help in 1825, and the republic was set up in 1828.

A military coup ousted the civilian government in 1973. The military dictatorship that followed used fear and terror to demoralize the population. After ruling for 12 years, the military regime permitted election of a civilian government in November 1984 and relinquished rule in March 1985; full political and civil rights were then restored.

Subsequent leaders have contended with high inflation and a mammoth national debt. Uruguay has pushed for constitutional and economic reforms aimed at reducing inflation, partially through tax increases and privatization.



The southernmost capital in the hemisphere, Montevideo is the industrial, commercial, educational, and cultural center of Uruguay. It is situated on the northern shore of the estuary formed by the Uruguay and Paran Rivers, known as Rio de la Plata, 120 miles east-southeast of Buenos Aires.

Like most Latin American cities, Montevideo has the "Ciudad Vieja," (Old Quarter) characterized by narrow streets and colonial buildings. There stands the city's oldest church (Basilica Metropolitana), the first city hall (Cabildo), and remnants of the original walled settlement (Ciudadela). Across the harbor rises a 435-foot hill, El Cerro, with an old fortress at its peak commanding a view of the greater part of Montevideo. It is believed the city was named after the hillMonte Videofrom "I see a hill"-uttered by a Portuguese sailor aboard a ship of one of the earliest explorers.

The old city contains much of Montevideo's commerce and banking. In the newer section are "galerias," housing many small shops under one roof, often connecting two streets in midblock. Many wide, tree-lined avenues, along with numerous plazas and monuments, give the city a parklike atmosphere, although poor maintenance of streets and buildings detract from the city's overall beauty. Among the more attractive areas to the east are the residential suburbs of Pocitos, Punta Gorda, and Carrasco. The architectural diversity, terra cotta roofs, and ironwork balconies, and beaches make Montevideo's suburbs pleasant.

In its time, Montevideo was the pearl of Latin American cities, well planned and designed to take advantage of the riverside. The city took pride in its architecture, boulevards, and boardwalk. The architectural tradition has been diluted with multistoried buildings, however, and is tarnished by poor maintenance and rubbish collection.


Electrical current is 220v, 50 cycles, single phase throughout Uruguay. U.S-made 110v, 60 cycle appliances, except for clock radios or timers, can be used with stepdown transformers.

Voltage fluctuations often occur during peak periods with occasional power failures. Battery operated radios and clocks, several flashlights, candles and a camping lantern are useful.

The telephone system functions well.


Beef, the staple of the Uruguayan diet, is abundant, of good quality, and inexpensive. Pork and poultry are more expensive than in the U.S. Veal is difficult to find, and lamb (mutton) is only available at certain times of the year (August-January). Local cold-cuts are tasty and of good quality. Purchase freshly-baked bread daily. A wide variety of pastries and cookies is also available. A good selection of fish from the Rio de la Plata is often sold at reasonable prices along the river front and in local outdoor markets. Shellfish is expensive and available occasionally.

Fresh milk, cream, and milk products such as yogurt, ice cream, and cheese are one of the advantages of living here. Ice cream is good but about twice the U.S. cost. Long-life milk in cartons is also available.

Fruit and vegetables abound in season and become more available each year. Wash green leafy vegetables and fruits that are not peeled thoroughly before eating.

Many Americans enjoy buying produce and variety foods at outdoor markets (ferias) that are set up daily in different parts of the city and dismantled in early afternoon. Most neighborhoods are served by a feria at least twice a week. Also, many permanent vegetable and fruit stands are available, some of which sell select produce and hard-to-find items. Also, some companies deliver milk, cheese, fresh bread, and pastry to your house daily.

Uruguayan supermarkets are smaller and have fewer items than in the U.S. Some supermarkets and many smaller stores stock imported foods.

Montevideo's typical restaurant is the "parillada." (A parillada has a huge grill where meat is slowly barbecued over coals of a wood fire.) The food is very good and prices are reasonable. A few restaurants offer Italian, German, Chinese, French, and Swiss cuisines. A few seafood restaurants are in Punta del Este and other coastal towns.

Rarely do restaurants open before 8 p.m. Because of the late dinner hour, tea is fashionable in Uruguay. Several tea shops offer a variety of sandwiches and pastries. Also many snack shops and sidewalk cafes are open throughout the day and into the night. These serve pizza, "chivitos" (the delicious Uruguayan variation of a steak sandwich), and other foods from snacks to full meals. The atmosphere is informal. A McDonald's has recently opened restaurants in Montevideo, Atlantida, and Punta del Este. Pizza Hut, Burger King, and Subway are also present in Montevideo.


Clothing needed in Uruguay is similar to clothing worn during equivalent U.S. seasons.

Men : Local tastes in menswear are like those in the U.S. and Western Europe. Office and commercial workers wear suits and ties year round. For informal occasions, Uruguayans follow the latest fashions in sportswear. Shirts are available in common neck and sleeve lengths. Topcoats, heavy sweaters, scarves, and hats are worn in winter. Most foreign residents limit their purchases of local menswear to wool sweaters, leather jackets, and high quality fabrics that they have made into custom-tailored suits (at reasonable prices).

Although quality varies considerably, shoes are available in most sizes at higher-than-U.S. prices. Those with narrow feet will have difficulty finding shoes. Uruguay's export lines are not available on the local market.

Women: Clothing for women in Montevideo is surprisingly fashionable and similar to that worn in the U.S. and Western Europe. Currently, short or cocktail length dresses are being worn for dinners, parties, and receptions Suits, jackets with skirts and blouses, or dresses are appropriate office wear as well as for luncheons or teas. Casual outfits are needed for asados. No restrictions on the use of pants or shorts exist. Hats are rarely worn.

Warm clothes are needed in winter. Include some wool garments against the penetrating damp cold of Montevideo (indoors and out). As Montevideo's social life is much more active in fall, winter, and spring (March-November) than in summer, you will need a number of dressy, but warm outfits. Summer days can be humid and air-conditioning is rare so cotton, cotton blends, and rayon fabrics are suitable.

A variety of ready-made women's clothing is available locally; prices are higher than in the U.S. Some export-quality wool clothing is available locally. Quality knitwear is available; prices on wool and orlon products are reasonable. Quality hosiery and undergarments are expensive; selection is limited. Leather, suede, otter, fox, and nutria coats are available in many styles at popular prices.

A limited selection of apparel fabrics is available but very expensive. Good jewelry, especially amethyst and topaz, is available at reasonable prices.

Children: Ready-made clothing is attractive, but with the exception of knitwear, expensive, wears out quickly, and is difficult to clean.

All Uruguayan school children wear uniforms that must be purchased locally. The Uruguayan-American School does not require uniforms. The British, Scottish, and Italian schools, which are open to Americans, do require uniforms.

Jackets and coats for children are available at higher-than-U.S. prices. Children's shoes, including tennis shoes, are attractive and expensive, but not durable. Corrective shoes may be satisfactorily custom made here.

Infant wear in local stores is almost entirely wool or orlon knit; few terrycloth suits are available. Undershirts, polo shirts, and overalls are found, but prices are high and styles are not practical. Infant shoes are readily available.

Teenage clothing is limited and expensive.

Supplies and Services

Prescription drugs are generally available. Bring a supply of nonprescription medicines with you, including, but not limited to, acetaminophen, aspirin, antacids, and cold medicines.

Bring cosmetics, home perms, nail polish, and hair coloring from the U.S. Paper products such as toilet paper, tissues, sanitary products, and paper towels are sold locally, but are of poor quality and expensive.

Cameras cost two to three times U.S. prices. Most types of film can be purchased and developed locally at high prices. Families find film ordered and developed through U.S. film mail-order companies satisfactory.

Children's toys are very expensive. Those not imported from the U.S. seldom meet American safety standards. Bring toys for your children and for gifts. Also bring lunch boxes, book bags, and school supplies for schoolchildren.

Most household appliances can be repaired locally but not always quickly or cheaply, especially if new parts are needed. TV service is good. Watch repair is of good quality. Shoe repairs are done quickly. Auto maintenance is adequate and reasonable, but spare parts are expensive and sometimes difficult to obtain. Body-work is done well at reasonable prices.

Both beauty shops and barbershops are good. Adequate dry cleaning is available, but expensive; dry cleaning service is available through the commissary.

Diaper services are nonexistent. Laundry is normally done at home. Laundry service is Laundromat style: clothing is washed and pressed. Iron-on mending tape is useful to repair clothes and is available here.

Domestic Help

It is easier to find daily or part-time, rather than live-in, domestic help. Domestic help is relatively expensive. A few families with small children have a live-in servant. Other families and single people hire a daily housekeeper, part-time cleaning woman, or housekeeper/cook. It is easy to find someone to prepare party food, and good waiters are reasonable.

Employer obligations regarding time off, vacation, year-end bonus, severance pay, social benefits, etc., tied to regularly rising salaries, have sharply increased costs for domestic help.

Religious Activities

Montevideo has four churches that have English-language services: Christian Brothers (Roman Catholic), Christ Church (interdenominational Protestant), the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity (Episcopal), and the Church of Christ Science. Many other Christian sects are represented, holding services in Spanish.

With a fairly large Jewish population, Montevideo also has two synagogues, one conservative congregation and the other, orthodox.

The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints also holds weekly sacrament meetings in Spanish. There are approximately 55,000 church members and 365 missionaries throughout the country.


Uruguay has free public education from kindergarten through university. Many private and parochial schools also exist. Instruction is in Spanish, and private schools that do not provide instruction in Spanish must offer it as a second language. The local school year runs from March to mid December, with a mid-term vacation in June/July and a spring vacation in September. Montevideo's public schools, some of which offer good education and excellent facilities, are generally overcrowded and work on two or three shifts, 5-6 days a week. The private British and St. Andrew's Schools and a Christian school also offer instruction in English.

The Uruguayan-American School (UAS), founded in 1958, moved to its Carrasco location in 1978. It fulfills the requirements of an American school abroad. Sufficient classroom space is available in three separate buildings located on a spacious campus. The school offers food service (optional), and bus transportation can be arranged.

UAS provides classes in English from nursery school through grade 12. The school uses an American curriculum, methodology, textbooks, and American or bilingual teachers. All classes are coeducational. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The school capitalizes on its overseas location to provide instruction in Spanish as well as other regional studies for U.S. and international students.

The student body numbers about 160, of which 60% is American; 20% Uruguayan; and the remainder come from various countries. The small high-school student population (50-65 students) does not enable the school to provide many extracurricular activities. Classes in art, music, computer science, and physical education are included in the curriculum. However, because of its size, the school offers limited electives/materials and sports facilities. The school has an 8,000-volume library and offers complete counseling services.

The school's first semester runs from early August through December, followed by a 10-week summer vacation. The second semester starts in late February and ends late June. UAS is the official testing center in Uruguay for the Scholastic Aptitude Test and the American College Test.

The British School is coeducational for kindergarten through grade 12. Located in a large attractive complex in Carrasco, the student population is primarily Uruguayan, with some British and a few Americans. It uses a British curriculum, but American history and government are also taught. American children accustomed to the American system may have difficulty adjusting to the British system, particularly in adjusting to the different way of teaching mathematics. However, the school offers excellent sports.

Coeducational St. Andrew's (Scottish) School has students from kindergarten through grade 8. Located in Pocitos, with adequate play facilities, it uses a U.K. curriculum.

The British School and St. Andrew's School have first semester from March to June and second semester from late July to early December.

Special Educational Opportunities

The University of the Republic and the Catholic University of the Republic Damaso Antonio Larranaga, both located in Montevideo, are the country's only universities. Instruction at the University of the Republic is free and facilities are open to all foreign residents. However, courses seldom are transferable for credit at U.S. colleges and universities. Uruguay does have the University of Maryland, European Division. All courses are taught in English, and the professors are local, American, and British.


Uruguay's national pastime is soccer, locally called football (futbol). Teams enjoy fanatical support, especially the rivalry between the two best clubs, Nacional and Pe arol. Montevideo's Centenario Stadium holds about 70,000 people and games are frequent. Tickets are reasonably priced.

Five-a-side soccer is currently the most popular sport among Uruguayans. Uruguyans and Americans alike can participate in informal league play.

Swimming is popular and enjoyed 4 to 5 months every year. Uruguay's beaches extend from Montevideo to the Brazilian border. The river and beach front in Montevideo are polluted and unsafe for swimming. Bathing and surfing is possible beyond Atlantida (28 miles east of Montevideo). Several private clubs with swimming pools are available in Montevideo.

Tennis is popular and some municipal courts are available. Several private clubs offer membership with reasonable entrance fees and monthly dues.

Golfers will find two challenging 18-hole courses in Montevideo. The Golf Club of Uruguay has a beautiful course in Punta Carretas, a residential area bordering the Rio de la Plata. Facilities include a large dining room, snack bar, swimming pool, and tennis and paddleball courts.

The Cerro Golf Club is across the bay from the downtown area, about 40 minutes by car. Less crowded than Punta Carretas, neither is crowded in the U.S. sense. The Cerro Golf Club offers light luncheons and its bar/gameroom is open Wednesday afternoons, weekends, and national holidays.

Riding is also popular. The Hipico and the Polo Club (which also has two tennis courts and a large swimming pool) offer all facilities needed for the care and maintenance of horses. Fees for horse rentals, including jumpers, are reasonable.

Horse racing is a popular diversion, and Montevideo has a good track in the northern part of the city. Bull-fighting and cockfighting, popular in many Latin American countries, were outlawed here many years ago.

Montevideo has three sailing clubs: Montevideo Yacht Club, Nautilus Yacht Club, and Montevideo Rowing Club. The Montevideo Yacht Club has several Marconi-rigged fin keel-boats for members. Water sports other than swimming are just beginning to develop in Montevideo. Water skiing, surfing, and sail-boarding are popular in Punta del Este.

Uruguay offers good freshwater fishing in the interior and surfcasting along the coast. The Rio Negro is famous for its large dorado, an excellent game fish. The best fishing is in Punta del Este where weak-fish, blackdrum, and bluefish are most often caught. Boat rentals are expensive, particularly during summer. Bring your own tackle for shoreline and freshwater angling.

Good hunting is available within a relatively short drive of the city. Partridge, plover, dove, pigeon, and duck are among the game birds available. A permit and permission from the property owner to hunt on private property are required. Guns and ammunition are available in Montevideo, but at very high prices.

Almost all sporting equipment available in Montevideo is imported and expensive. Tennis balls are especially expensive. Bicycles are popular with both children and adults. Bicycles sold here are expensive.

Paddleball is the new rage. Squash courts are available through several inexpensive clubs. Racquetball is relatively new to Montevideo, though two clubs have opened with several courts.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Montevideo has a number of historic sites that are worth visiting, including the Cabildo (city hall) and El Cerro fortress. A planetarium offers scheduled shows.

The city has several parks and plazas, many with play facilities, and a botanical garden. The Legislative Palace boasts 47 kinds of native marble and is interesting to visit when either house is in session. A short drive into the country will take you into cattle and sheep country, land of the Uruguayan gaucho. Traffic in the interior is usually light and a Sunday drive can be relaxing.

Uruguay is unique in South America in that practically any point of the country is within a day's drive of the capital. Popular tourist attractions are the resort towns of Atlantida, Piriapolis, and Punta del Este. Beyond Punta del Este are many worthwhile sights on the way to the Brazilian border. Punta del Este's popularity with wealthy Argentines and Brazilians has pushed prices well past an official American's normal budget.

The town of Colonia, founded by the Portuguese in 1680, lies 100 miles west of Montevideo along the coast, and has several museums and restored 17th-century colonial buildings. Colonia is 1 hour from Buenos Aires by hydrofoil.

The city of Minas is 78 miles north of Montevideo in the interior. Known for its quarries of high-grade marble and mineral water springs, its lakes and hills present a change from the seaside. The pleasant interior towns of Salto and Paysandu, located along the Uruguay River, can also be reached in less than a day's drive. The Termas (hot springs) del Arapey, especially nice in winter, are less than 30 miles from Salto.

To the north, on the Brazilian border, are the towns of Rivera and Artigas. Located in the area between these cities are geological fields where amethyst and topaz are found. The Brazilian border town of Chuy, just 140 miles northeast of Punta del Este, offers a popular duty-free shopping area. Brazilian coffee and other consumer goods are available at advantageous prices. Also near the border are two restored old forts, Santa Teresa and San Miguel, and the lovely small beach resort of La Coronilla. Near both forts are charming government-run inns (paradores), which are worth an overnight stay or even an extended vacation. Comfortable, reasonably priced hotels and several good restaurants are also in the area.

Brazil, Argentina, and Chile offer a multitude of tourist attractions. One of the most popular is Iguazu Falls, which most travelers consider a must. You can reach this series of unharnessed falls on the Brazilian-Paraguayan-Argentine border by automobile, bus, or air.


Montevideo has many movie theaters showing recent American and European films. Movies in English have Spanish subtitles. Admission prices are comparable to the U.S.

Montevideo has two casinos, the Parque Casino and the Carrasco Casino. Another is in Atlantida, a half-hour drive from Carrasco. No nightclubs exist; however, some restaurants with floor shows and a few lively late hour discotheques are available for teenagers and the twenties crowd.

Social Activities

The American Association holds monthly luncheon meetings. Membership enables you to meet Americans and Uruguayans representing business interests and other organizations in Uruguay. The association sponsors an annual golf tournament.

The American Women's Club is an active community service and social group composed principally of the spouses of Americans in Montevideo. The club holds monthly meetings at its Carrasco clubhouse, except during summer. Among its activities are a thrift shop, which sells used articles to raise funds for charity, and a number of social events.

Both the Lions and the Rotarians welcome Americans as guests or members of their numerous Montevideo chapters.

Membership in a tennis, golf, or yacht club can be another excellent way of meeting people.

An English-language Cub Scout pack operates at the Uruguyan-American School, and scouting is also widespread among Uruguyans. Spanish-speaking Boy Scout troops meet at the British School.

Private entertaining usually takes the form of luncheons, cocktail parties, coffees, teas, buffet suppers, and small dinner parties. Uruguayans are open to social contacts, and representational activities are frequent.


COLONIA DEL SACRAMENTO (also called Colonia), about 80 miles west of Montevideo in the far southwest, is Uruguay's most colonial-flavored city. Situated on the Río Plata across from Buenos Aires, Argentina, it was settled by the Portuguese in the late 17th century, and later by the Spanish. Tourism plays a big role in the local economy, and sites such as the parochial church, museum, viceroy's mansion, and lighthouse, are favorites. The ruins of the city's bullring, visited by throngs of Argentines until bull-fighting was outlawed in the 1930s, can be viewed. Colonia del Sacramento serves as a commercial and manufacturing center for adjacent hinterlands. Its location makes it an important border crossing and trade zone. Connections to Buenos Aires are available via hydrofoil, ferry, and airplane. Travel to Montevideo is possible via highway and railway. Uruguay's main agricultural research center and a dairy industry school are located here. Colonia del Sacramento has roughly 17,000 residents.

FRAY BENTOS houses the largest meat packing plant in a country that once outstripped Argentina in beef exports. Situated in the southwest about 160 miles northwest of Montevideo, the city is the capital of Río Negro Department. In 1969, the Puerto Unzué bridge was constructed in Fray Bentos. This bridge has greatly facilitated trade between Uruguay and Argentina. Fray Bentos was founded in 1859 as Independencia, but later was renamed for a religious hermit who lived nearby. It has a population of about 20,000.

MINAS is a mining city of about 35,000, situated in thickly forested hills 75 miles north of Montevideo. Its name, meaning "mines" in Spanish, was given in recognition of the nearby marble and granite deposits which support this picturesque spot. Juan Antonio Lavalleja (1786-1853), a leader of Uruguayan independence, was born here. He directed the Treinta y Tres, or "Thirty-Three Immortals," who declared the country's independence from Brazil in 1825 under the motto "liberty or death." After three years of war, a British-mediated treaty confirmed Uruguay's status as a sovereign state. The thirty-three revolutionaries, meanwhile, became politicians. Lavalleja's equestrian statue has a prominent place. Considered interesting for the visitor are the church, nearby caves, and the local parkParque Salus. The Cascada de Agua del Penitente waterfall also is a local attraction. The city is noted for its bottled mineral waters.

PAYSANDÚ , an often-used crossing point to Argentina on the Río Uruguay, gives the visitor a sense of history with its major attractions. The cathedral has cannonballs still embedded in its walls from the 1865 War of the Triple Alliance, when Paraguayans briefly held the town. In the next building is a museum in the Silesian college. Paysandú features several budget hotels, and a local tourist information office. Many industries are located in Paysandú, among them tanneries, breweries, distilleries, flour mills, meat processing plants, and textile factories. The city is a busy port through which goods are shipped to northwestern Uruguay. This departmental capital has a population of about 75,000.

PUNTA DEL ESTE has emerged as one of South America's most popular resort and conference centers. Located about 70 miles due east of Montevideo on the Atlantic coast, the city hosted several important political conferences in the 1960s, including the 1961 meeting which proclaimed the Alliance for Progress and a 1967 meeting of the presidents of the American republics. Foreigners, principally Argentines, Brazilians, and Chileans, vacation here regularly, visiting the many restaurants, casinos, and recreational facilities. Fishing is a popular pastime. Punta del Este, linked to Montevideo by a major road, has a population of over 10,000.

RIVERA is a city of 57,000 people on the Brazilian frontier, about 270 miles north of Montevideo. A street separates it from the Brazilian city of Santa Ana do Livramento. Rivera serves as capital of Rivera Department, as well as being the largest Uruguayan city on the border. Nearby are the Cuchilla de Santa Ana Mountains and livestock-growing regions. The city is home to several industries which manufacture mosaics, brooms, cigars and cigarettes, and textiles. Rivera is a trading center for the fruits, grains, and vegetables grown in the region. There is a local airport and good road connections.

SALTO is the last of the major population centers to be found when traveling up the Río Uruguay. The capital of Salto Department in the northwestern part of the country, it is a city of about 77,000, known as a rail and shipping center for agricultural products and livestock.

It is situated in the midst of a large area of vineyards and citrus orchards. The vineyards near Salto are considered the best in Uruguay. Many of these vineyards produce tomatoes, corn, wheat, and strawberries. For many years, a boat-building industry has operated here. Meat processing and wine production are also important industries. Salto lies opposite Concordia, Argentina. Salto is linked by rail, river, highway, and air services with Montevideo.

TREINTA Y TRES lies 150 miles northeast of Montevideo, near the Olivar River. This departmental capital takes its name from the Treinta y Tres, or "Thirty-Three Immortals," who led the successful revolt for independence from Brazil in 1825. The city's approximately 26,000 residents enjoy the Quebrada de los Cuervos National Park about 25 miles outside of town.


Geography and Climate

La Republica Oriental del Uruguay (the Oriental Republic of Uruguay, or literally translated, the Republic East of the River Uruguay) covers an area of 72,200 square miles, slightly larger than North Dakota.

Topographically, the country is divided into three parts. The southern area is a belt of gently undulating alluvial plains; the western part, an extension of Argentina's flat pampas; and the northern area, an extension of southern Brazil's low regions and broad valleys. Maximum elevation above sea level is about 2,000 feet; the average being about 490 feet. Few natural forests exist, but extensive forestation has been undertaken.

Except for a small subtropical area in the northwest, the climate is even throughout Uruguay. Temperatures are generally mild but seasons are distinct: summer daytime temperatures average 70°F and rarely exceed the mid-90s; autumn (March-May) is mild; and spring (September-November) is often damp, cold, and windy. In winter, monthly temperatures range from 44°F to 60°F with occasional frost, although humidity, averaging 75 percent year round, intensifies the cold. Average annual rainfall is 39.5 inches.


Uruguay's population (2.97 million) is composed primarily of Spanish and Italian ancestry. The native Indians were killed or forced to migrate during colonization in the last century. Some 4 percent of the population is of African descent, mostly Brazilian immigrants. Small colonies of German, East European, Armenian, and British citizens also live here. Most of the elderly "anglos," who speak English as their primary language, are second and third generation dual-nationals whose ancestors came in the last century to work in the many British-founded companies. A small colony of Swiss lives in an area called Colonia Suiza located about 100 miles west of Montevideo. The various languages of their former country are still spoken and they retain the customs of their forebears as well.

About 45 percent of Uruguay's total population lives in Montevideo. Salto and Paysandu, with about 100,000 inhabitants each, vie for the honor of being the second largest city. Several other cities are in the 25,000-40,000 population range. Uruguay does not share Latin America's concern with the population explosion; a low birth rate and emigration result in an annual growth rate of less than 1 percent. Families are small and close.

Life expectancy in Uruguay is 70 years and the literacy rate is about 94 percent, the highest in Latin America. Spanish is the official language. Religion does not play a dominant role in the lives of Uruguayans, many of whom classify themselves as agnostics. Roman Catholicism is the predominant faith but many are Protestants. Montevideo has a relatively large Jewish and Mormon communities as well.

Public Institutions

Traditionally one of the strongest democracies in Latin America, Uruguay, in the early 1970s, experienced a gradual transfer of power to the Uruguayan military because of the government's inability to cope with a violent leftist urban guerrilla group, known as the Tupamaros. The process culminated in the dissolution of parliament in 1973 and the ouster of the elected President in 1976. Civilian, democratic rule returned to Uruguay on March 1, 1985, after the military agreed to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in November 1984. The military banned several leading politicians from participating in the 1984 elections, a proscription that was removed by the new civilian government before the 1989 elections. National elections were held without incident in 1989, 1994 and 1999.

Uruguay's constitution, adopted in 1967 and partially suspended during military rule, provides for a republic with three autonomous branches of government. The President and vice-president, elected by popular vote, serve a single 5-year term but can be reelected after an interval of 5 years. They are assisted by a cabinet, made up of 12 ministers and the heads of various state entities, appointed by the President.

The legislative branch consists of two houses, a Senate (30 members) elected at large, and a Chamber of Deputies (99 members) elected proportionally from the 19 provinces (departamentos). Although each province has at least two deputies, most come from Montevideo, where about 45 percent of the country's population resides. It takes a two-thirds vote of Parliament to overturn vetoes or remove executive branch officials. In special cases, such as national crises, Parliament can also be called into session as a unicameral General Assembly.

The judicial branch consists of a five-person Supreme Court, whose primary duties are interpreting the Constitution and dealing with claims against the government. Appeals courts, criminal courts, and justices of the peace deal with other matters of law. Supreme Court justices are appointed by the President and must retire at age 70. Special courts oversee the election process, audit government departments, and arbitrate appeals against administrative acts.

Uruguay's 19 departments (provinces) are organized similarly to the national government. An "intendente," or departmental governor, is elected by popular vote and is assisted by a departmental council or "junta departmental," chosen on a proportional basis. Montevideo, the capital city, is treated as a one of the 19 departments and has a similar governmental structure.

The major political parties, the National ("Blanco") and Colorado parties, in the past embraced about 90 percent of the electorate. The two parties have seen their share of the vote decline to approximately 65 percent of the electorate. The "Broad Front" a coalition of the Communist Party, Socialist Party, and various leftist factions, is now a major force in Uruguayan politics. A fourth political force, the New Space Coalition, is a social democratic grouping that consists primarily of two social democratic parties that split from the Broad Front in 1989.

Uruguayan politics value consensus and compromise over confrontation. The Colorado and Blanco parties share the administration of the independent state enterprises, and political agreements to split Cabinet posts are not uncommon. Almost all politicians pride themselves on their refusal to let ideological differences result in personal animosity.

Arts, Science, and Education

Montevideo is the cultural center of the country and activities are varied and continuous. Most, however, occur during the school year, March-November. Cultural mainstays are the S.O.D.R.E. (Servicio Oficial de Difusion Radiotelevision y Espectaculos), the official government radio and television network; the Intendencia Municipal; and the Centro Cultural de Musica, a local nonprofit organization that organizes international events.

S.O.D.R.E. offers a 15-18 week symphony season featuring Uruguayan and internationally famous conductors and performers. Concerts are broadcast on the government TV channel. Short opera and ballet seasons usually follow the symphony season. Since the S.O.D.R.E. theater was destroyed by fire in 1971, most of its programs are held at the Sala Brunet, a smaller hall, which has recently been refurbished. S.O.D.R.E. also sponsors events at the Teatro Solis (1,300 seats). SODRE is building a new cultural center that should be completed soon.

The Centro Cultural de Musica offers 8 to 10 cultural events during the year. Tickets for season and individual performances are less expensive than in the U.S. Expect to wait in line overnight when the season subscriptions go on sale. Except for extraordinary occasions, all events take place at the Teatro Solis.

The Intendencia Municipal sponsors the Comedia Nacional, the national repertory company, which plays at the Teatro Solis and Sala Verdi. In addition, the municipal government has a popular and varied program of cultural activities. For instance, the municipal symphony (Orquesta Filarmonica de Montevideo) repeats its weekly Teatro Solis concerts in different neighborhoods and all programs are free.

Other theaters presenting professional productions are the Teatro Circular, El Galpon, Teatro del Centro, and the Teatro del Notariado. The Montevideo Players, an amateur acting society with English and American participants, produces two or three plays a year in English. The U.S. established binational center, known as the Alianza Cultural Uruguay-Estados Unidos de America is a large complex in downtown Montevideo. It houses an English teaching center (over 4,000 students), one of the city's most prestigious galleries, and one of its most sought after theater spaces. The Biblioteca Artigas-Washington, a USIS library, is located in the same complex and is considered to be the most up-to-date library in the country. The Alianza encourages Americans to participate in all of its programs and invites licensed English teachers to join the teaching staff.

Public education in Uruguay is free through the university level, and many people receive advanced degrees in numerous disciplines. Since 1985, a number of private, fee-charging universities have also begun operating. In 1993, the University of Maryland began offering courses at Alianza.

Commerce and Industry

Uruguay's economy is based on services (mostly tourism and financial services), along with exploitation of renewable natural resources and related industries. Natural-resources exploitation and related activities benefit from Uruguay's level terrain, temperate climate, abundant rainfall, and natural pastures. Although Uruguay exported mainly cattle hides during colonial times, the principal export products have been beef and wool for more than a century, and Uruguay has developed such additional exports as textiles, garments, shoes, and rice.

In the last decade, the most dynamic sectors of the economy have been transport and communications, construction, commerce, and tourism; industry and financial services have the lowest growth rates. Although Uruguay has no-known hydrocarbon deposits, it is generously endowed with hydroelectric resources, now mostly developed. Electric production from the world's fourth largest hydroelectric complex, at Salto Grande (a joint venture with Argentina), began in late 1979. Social indicators place Uruguay among Latin America's most advanced countries. Uruguay has long had one of the highest literacy rates in Latin America, and the income distribution is much more equitable than in most Latin American countries. Between 1990 and 1994, urban poverty was reduced by 50% to only 6%, the lowest in Latin America (Latin American average is 40%). Moreover, Uruguay's income distribution resembles that of industrialized countries; a per capita income of US$6,000 places it among the upper middle income bracket in the World Bank classification. However, despite good social indicators, unemployment has been slightly lower-10% in recent years. During the 1950s, with good export performance from farm and cattle products fueled by World War II and the Korean war, Uruguay provided incomes that were among the highest in Latin America, gaining the nickname "The South American Switzerland." However, as in many Latin American countries, Uruguay shifted its economic interests inward in the early 1960s, following an import-substitution model. For the next decade, Uruguay shut its doors to the world, protecting its industries with high import tariffs. Results were disastrous; export growth was low, inflation was high and volatile, and productivity performance and GDP growth were substandard. At the same time, with the creation of the European Economic Community which cut off traditional agricultural markets in Europe, Uruguay's agricultural sector suffered a serious setback. General stagflation ensued. These factors contributed to political instability during the 1960s and early 1970s.

In the early 1970s, the government adopted a program of gradual economic liberalization, loosened control over the economy, reduced public sector employment, and opened the economy to international trade. Exports of processed items, including leather goods, foods, textiles, fish, marble, and granite, surged. By 1981, the dollar value of Uruguay's exports had more than doubled from their worth a few years earlier.

Even before the advent of global recession in the early 1980s, the Uruguayan economy suffered from an artificially high fiscal exchange rate and chronic public sector deficits. To finance its deficit and to maintain the exchange rate, and because of readily available international funds, the government borrowed heavily from abroad. By 1982, the total external debt was more than three times the amount at the end of 1978. Global recession compounded Uruguay's woes as exports and investment inflows declined and capital flight accelerated.

In November 1982, with the country well into a serious recession, the fixed-exchange rate was abandoned, and the peso was devalued almost 100% from 14 to 28 pesos per US$. The GDP declined by 9.4% in 1982, 5% in 1983, and a further 1.8% in 1984. Unemployment peaked at more than 16% in 1983.

However, since 1985, Uruguay's growth trend has recovered. It has maintained an open-capital account in that interest rates are market determined, and there are neither price controls nor restraints on currency exchange. Between 1985 and 1990, the average annual growth was 3.4%; it reached 4% between 1991 and 1996. The GDP in 1999 was about $21 billion, and most estimates indicate that Uruguay will continue to have annual growth unless external shocks arise.

The LaCalle and Sanguinetti administrations affirmed Uruguay's commitment to the economic liberalization process, which had begun in the 1970s. Furthermore, they have implemented some important structural reforms. First, the social security system was modified to convert the highly deficit-ridden public system into a mixed system of both public and private providers; combined with laws passed on capital market and investment funds, this change should stimulate capital market operations and national savings. Second, educational reforms in progress are expected to have a positive impact on future human capital. Despite the setback of privatization by a 1992 referendum, private-sector access to previously state owned activities continues. Controlled by moderate and left-of-center parties, respectively, both the national and the Montevideo state governments encourage the private sector's growing economic role.

Managed by the government, the Uruguayan exchange system is based on a band inside, within which the exchange rate can float. As of December 1990, the estimated rate was 11.7 pesos to the dollar. The annual inflation rate has steadily declined for the past 6 years, decreasing from 130% in 1990 to about 4% in 1999.

Uruguay is a member of Mercosur, a regional common market, with Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. Argentina is Uruguay's largest trading partner, followed by Brazil, the U.S., and Germany. With Mercosur integration into the economies, duties among Mercosur's members were exchanged for a common external tariff applying to most products. Chile and Bolivia are associate members of Mercosur in that they do not belong to the Common Market, but rather, to the free trade area; negotiations with other countries are being held.



Roads in and around the capital are fair-to-poor with many potholes. Many streets are poorly identified and illuminated. Intercity highways are well maintained and generally excellent, but the all weather aspect of some of these roads requires caution. More traveled routes, such as the highway between Punta del Este and Montevideo, have service stations, tow trucks, and other facilities.

Gasoline is sold by a government company, ANCAP, as well as by ESSO, Texaco, Shell, and other international oil companies. The better grade of gas is of lower octane than that used in the U.S., but American cars operate adequately with it. Moderate detergent oil is used.


Bus service is cheap and extensive within Montevideo. Taxis are readily available at reasonable fares.

Intercity bus service, the most popular transportation method, is frequent to most parts of the interior. Modern buses, including sleepers, connect Montevideo with Brazil and Argentina. Bus tickets are cheaper than in the U.S.


Several international airlines fly from Uruguay to other parts of Latin America, North America, and Europe. Many international flights board in Buenos Aires, only 25 minutes by air from Montevideo, but some flights require a wait of several hours and an expensive and time-consuming change of airports. Pluna, the government-operated airline, and others offer flights to Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Brazil.


Telephone and Telegraph

The telephone network works reasonably well. Cellular phones are available in Montevideo and Punta del Este. Telephone connections outside Uruguay, especially to the U.S., are good but very expensive. English-speaking, long distance operators are usually on duty.

USA Direct service through MCI, AT&T, and Sprint is available and much less expensive than regular international operator-assisted calls to the U.S. Telegraph and fax facilities connecting Montevideo with North America and Europe are good but expensive.

Radio and TV

Montevideo has some 35 radio stations including 12 FM. Radio programming consists of music, news programs, and soap operas. The tango, the music of the Rio de la Plata area, is heard on many stations, but modern rock from the U.S., Brazil, and Europe is more popular.

Shortwave reception is quite good in Montevideo, outside the downtown area. Listeners can pick up VOA, BBC, and the Armed Forces Radio Service. The best reception is from 8 p.m. to midnight. Uruguay has four TV stations that offer color TV transmission, and five cable channels provide additional programming. American TV's can be used here but will receive only black-and-white images unless they are converted to the PAL-N color system.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

Newspapers, as well as several weekly papers, are published in Montevideo. The Buenos Aires Herald, an English-language daily, is expensive.

Time and Newsweek are regularly available. Some technical journals from the U.S. and Europe are sold in two or three bookshops specializing in foreign literature. Many bookstores sell paperbacks in English.

The Artigas-Washington Library at the Uruguayan-American Alianza is colorful, attractive, and modern. In addition to a selection of about 12,000 books in both English and Spanish, it provides members with an extensive audiovisual section, which includes audio cassettes, tapes, records, video tapes, and films, plus a broad selection of U.S. magazines and journals.

Health and Medicine

Community Health

Montevideo experiences few health problems. In rural Uruguay where livestock is raised, hydatid disease (echinococcosis) can be contracted by humans via food contaminated with dog feces. Avoid contact with strange dogs anywhere in South America. Other intestinal parasites and worms are uncommon in Uruguay.

Hepatitis A occurs occasionally in Montevideo. Have gamma globulin injections every 4-6 months or get the Hepatitis A vaccine.

Montevideo has four seasons. Spring and summer are very pleasant. Winter is cold, wet, and windy; hence, frequent colds and sore throats occur. Upper respiratory tract allergies and lower tract allergies may be aggravated.

Tap water is safe to drink in Montevideo and in most urban areas; it does not have to be filtered or boiled. Occasional breaks in the city water lines do occur. Since the water is low in fluoride, children under age 12 should take fluoride supplements.

Montevideo is located on the River Plate, and there are beaches along the river from the city to the Atlantic Ocean, about 45 miles up the coast. Beaches within the city limits are polluted. Most sports clubs have swimming pools that are usually well cared for and safe.

Except for seasonal mosquitoes, few insects are of concern in Montevideo. Parents should caution children against touching the "bicho peludo" (green or black hairy caterpillar) which inhabits gardens, trees, and plants. This caterpillar may be poisonous, causing an allergic skin reaction when touched.

Good dental care is available in the city of Montevideo and currently costs about one-third less than in the U.S.

Most Uruguayan doctors are graduates of the local medical school, although many have received further training in the U.S. and in countries in Europe. Many speak English.

Well-trained, qualified nurses usually have attended at least 3 years of nursing school. Nurses aides, who have on-the-job training, handle most of the floor duty. Hospitals. The British Hospital is adequate for routine medical care. Advanced procedures may involve medical evacuation to the U.S. Pharmacies. Most drugs, except tranquilizers and stimulants, certain antibiotics, hormones, and cardiac drugs are available without a prescription. One can usually find American drugs or good-quality equivalents. Bring special prescriptions from the U.S.

Thousands of babies are born each year in Montevideo without incident. Because of adequate hospital care and facilities, Uruguay has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the Hemisphere. State Department policy, however, now recommends medical evacuation to Miami, Florida, for labor and delivery.

In an emergency, call the Servicio de Emergencia Medico Movil (SEMM). This service dispatches an ambulance and physician to anywhere within the limits of Montevideo. Their care extends to accident victims as well as to people with chronic illnesses.

The British Hospital has an emergency room.

For children: Vaccines standard in the U.S. are recommended for Uruguay.

Adults: The only recommended immunization is tetanus-diphtheria (every 10 years). Yellow fever, typhoid, and cholera vaccines are neither required nor recommended. Adults born after 1956 may need a measles vaccination. Although not absolutely necessary, Hepatitis A and B vaccinations should be considered.


Passage. Customs & Duties

Carrasco Airport is about 13 miles from downtown Montevideo. The airport building has a currency exchange booth that is open during business hours only. The port where oceangoing vessels dock is near downtown Montevideo, just a few minutes from the better hotels.

A passport is required. U.S. citizens do not need a visa for a visit of less than three months. For further information on entry requirements, contact the Embassy of Uruguay at 2715 M Street, N.W. Third Floor, Washington, D.C. 20007, tel. (202) 331-1313; E-mail:[email protected]; Embassy home page: Travelers may also contact the Consulate of Uruguay or the Honorary Consul in: Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Reno, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, San Juan, Puerto Rico or Seattle.

Americans living in or visiting Uruguay are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Montevideo and obtain updated information on travel and security within Uruguay. The U.S. Embassy is located at Lauro Muller 1776; telephone (598)(2) 408-7777; fax (598)(2)408-4110 or-8611. Internet: Section hours are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.


Pets with a certificate of good health may be imported into Uruguay. Dogs and cats require also a certificate of rabies vaccinations. These certificates should be endorsed and authenticated by an Uruguayan consul in the U.S. or other point of departure before shipment.

Travelers with pets may find it more convenient to fly to Montevideo via Brazil rather than Argentina, since a delay in Buenos Aires may be experienced if they must change airports to take a connecting flight. Pets leaving the area of the Buenos Aires international airport (Ezeiza) are considered as having entered Argentina and must be examined by an Argentine veterinarian. If a veterinarian is not immediately available, long delays may result. Since U.S. health and rabies certificates are valid in Argentina, travelers with pets should continue on to Montevideo on the same plane or change to a connecting flight that departs only from Ezeiza Airport.

Another consideration is the requirement that no pets are allowed in the cabin of any plane departing from Argentina. All pets are placed in the freight compartment. Since some planes do not have pressurized freight compartments, you may have to spend a number of hours in Ezeiza Airport waiting for a suitable plane.

Firearms and Ammunition

Only the following nonautomatic firearms and ammunitions may be brought to Uruguay:

Semiautomatic Pistol or Revolver, 1; Rifle, 1; Shotguns, 2. Ammunition for above firearms, 1,000 rounds. Uruguayan Government approval of a revolver may be more easily obtained than for semiautomatic pistols, as the latter are generally reserved for police and military use.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

Since March 1, 1993, the basic currency unit in Uruguay is the Uruguayan peso. The current rate of exchange is $11.84 as of March 31, 2000.

Uruguay has many banks, some with numerous branches throughout the country. Some foreign banks, including Citibank, First National City Bank of New York, American Express Bank, and Bank of Boston, have branches in Montevideo. Travelers checks may be purchased through banking facilities at the Chancery. Please note that they are not readily accepted at local retail facilities, which prefer cash.

Adequate banking facilities exist in Montevideo, but long lines and short banking hours make it impractical to have peso checking accounts. The metric system of weights and measures is used.


Jan 1 New Year's Day

Feb/Mar. Carnaval*

Mar/Apr. Holy Week

Apr. 19 Desembarco De Los 33 Orientales

May 1 Uruguayan Labor Day

June 18 Natalicio De Artigas

July 18 Jura De La Constitucion

Nov. 5 Dia De Los Difuntos

Oct 12 Discovery of America

Nov 1 All Saints' Day

Nov 2 All Soul's Day

Dec. 8 Blessing of the

Waters Dec. 25 Christmas



These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country.

Alinsky, Marvin. Uruguay: A Contemporary Survey. Frederick A. Praeger: New York, 1969.

American University. Area Handbook for Uruguay. Government Printing Office: Washington, D.C., 1971.

De Skerkinin, Betty. The River Plate Republics: Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay. Corvard-McCann: New York, 1947.

Dobler, Lavinia G. The Land and People of Uruguay. Lippincott Philadelphia, 1965.

Ferguson, J. Halcro. The River Plate Republics-Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. Time-Life Books, New York,: 1965.

Greenbie, Syndey. Republics of the Pampas, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay. Tow Peterson and Company: Evanston, IL, 1943.

J. D. Holzhauer. West From Montevideo, Uruguay by Bike. Cassell Publishers: London, 1989. Available from Sterling Publishing Co., 2 Park Avenue, New York, New York 10016.

Jackson, Sir Geoffrey. People's Prison. Faber and Faber: London, 1973.

Pan American Union. Uruguay. Washington, D.C. 1966.

Pender, George. Uruguay. Oxford University Press: London, 1965.

Street, John. Artigas and the Emancipation of Uruguay. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1959.

Vangor, Milton Isadore. Jose Batalle y Ordonez of Uruguay: The Creator of His Time, 1902-1907. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA, 1963.

Weinstein, Martin. Uruguay: The Politics of Failure. Greenwood Press: Westport, CT, 1975.

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Oriental Republic of Uruguay

República Oriental del Uruguay



Uruguay is located in the southern region of South America. It is bordered by Argentina on the west and Brazil on the north and east. Its southern coastline of 660 kilometers (410 miles) is formed by the Rio de la Plata, which separates Uruguay from Argentina and opens into the Atlantic Ocean. The nation's total area is 176,220 square kilometers (68,038 square miles), including 2,600 square kilometers (1,004 square miles) of water. The country is slightly smaller than the state of Washington. The nation's capital, Montevideo, is located on the southern coast, where the Rio de la Plata meets the Atlantic Ocean. The capital is also the nation's largest city, with a population of 1.4 million.


The population of Uruguay was estimated at 3,334,074 in July 2000. The country has a very stable population, with a low growth rate of 0.77 percent. By 2010, the population is expected to be 3.6 million. Uruguay's birth rate is 17.42 per 1,000 people; its fertility rate is 2.37 births per woman. The infant mortality rate is 15.14 deaths per 1,000 live births. This rate is high when compared with nations such as Canada (which has a rate of 5.08 deaths per 1,000 live births), but is average when compared with most Latin American countries. The nation's overall mortality rate is 17.42 deaths per 1,000. Uruguay loses a small portion of its population to emigration (0.63 emigrants for every 1,000 people). Since 1980, about 500,000 Uruguayans, mostly younger people, have emigrated, mainly to Argentina and Brazil. The life expectancy is 71.9 years for males and 78.75 years for females. The elderly population is small, with only 13 percent of Uruguayans over the age of 65. This segment of the population is growing rapidly and is expected to increase by 40 percent by 2010.

The majority of the Uruguayan population is urban. Almost 80 percent live in towns or cities. About half of the population lives in the greater Montevideo urban area and the rest of the urban population is concentrated in about 20 towns. Population density is 19 people per square kilometer, one of the lowest rates in the Western Hemisphere. (By comparison, U.S. density is 29 per square kilometer and Mexico's is 50.) However, the high urban concentration makes the figure misleading, since density in major urban areas is 55 per square kilometer.

Uruguayans are generally well-educated, and the nation's literacy rate is 97.3 percent. While Spanish is the official language, a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish known as Portunol or Brazilero, is commonly spoken in the border regions between Uruguay and Brazil. Some 88 percent of the population is white and of Spanish or other European descent. Mestizos (people of mixed ethnic backgrounds, mainly Spanish and Native American) make up 8 percent of the population, and blacks make up 4 percent. During the colonial period, the Native American population was nearly eradicated. Although 66 percent of the nation professes to be Roman Catholic, only about half the population attends church. About 2 percent of Uruguayans are Protestant, and another 2 percent are Jewish. About 30 percent have no religious affiliation.


Uruguay has a strong domestic economy which provides a high standard of living and moderately high GDP per capita of US$8,500. The country is small, with limited markets, and geographical and historical factors have made Uruguay dependent on trade with its larger neighbors, Argentina and Brazil. These trade linkages were formalized in 1991 through the creation of the MERCOSUR free-trade area that links Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay (Chile and Bolivia are associate members). Montevideo is the administrative capital of MERCOSUR.

While MERCOSUR has lowered tariffs and increased trade, it has also furthered the dependence of Uruguay on its trade partners. Almost half of the nation's imports and exports are with other members of the group. Hence, when Argentina and Brazil underwent economic downturns in 1998 (including the devaluation of the Brazilian currency), the impact was significant in Uruguay. In 1999, after 8 years of positive growth, the Uruguayan economy declined by 3.4 percent. In 2000, the economy continued its stagnation with a decline in GDP of 0.5 percent. This decline is significant because it marked the end of the longest, sustained period of economic growth since the 1970s. In 1999, exports declined by 20 percent and imports dropped by 12 percent. The economic slowdown led to an increase in unemployment, from 10.1 percent in 1998 to 11.2 percent in 1999. In August of 2000, it reached its highest level in 15 years, a peak of 12.4 percent.

During the 1970s, the nation underwent a period of dramatic economic reform. In response to a deep recession and declining economic performance, the government began to restructure the economy by reducing inflation and decreasing government's role in business. However, after the peso declined in value against the U.S. dollar by 140 percent, the nation's GDP fell by 16 percent. This led to another recession in 1982-83. Although there was positive economic growth for the rest of the 1980s, inflation continued to be a problem. By lifting price controls and privatizing government-controlled companies, Uruguay was eventually able to reduce inflation from 130 percent in 1990 to 44.1 percent in 1995 and to 4 percent in 1999.

By 1995, the government had privatized numerous companies and sectors, including the national airline, the national gas company, all seaport services, the insurance industry, and home-mortgage services. At the same time, the size of the civil service was drastically reduced, as was government spending. Even so, the government still plays a major role in the economy and continues to operate the nation's telecommunications services, electric-power industry, and railway freight services.

Uruguay has a prosperous and developed economy that includes agriculture, industry, and a diversified service sector. While agriculture accounts for only 7 percent of the country's GDP, it continues to dominate the economy in several ways. Agriculture is responsible for more than half of exports, and many of the country's industries and services are related to or dependent on the agricultural sector. The main industries include meat processing, leather production (including footwear, accessories, and apparel), and textiles. Services are a growing part of the nation's economy, but efforts to improve the financial-services sector have yet to succeed since foreign investment remains low.

In an effort to attract more foreign companies and investment, successive governments have established a number of free-trade zones in the country. In these areas, foreign firms are offered tax incentives and reduced tariffs in exchange for locating new factories and businesses there and employing a workforce that is at least 75 percent Uruguayan. The nation benefits from foreign direct investments totaling US$5.4 billion. The United States is the single largest investor, contributing 32 percent (US$1.72 billion) of the total.

Despite recent economic problems, the Uruguayan economy is recognized as one of the most solid in Latin America. Uruguay is the only nation in MERCOSUR and one of only two countries in all of Latin America to have investment-grade status. This means that major international financial registries, such as Standard & Poor's or Moody's, recommend the country's government bonds to financiers. Following a slight decline in 2000, GDP growth is expected to resume in 2001.

Uruguay's economic stability is based in part on the high usage of the U.S. dollar in financial transactions. More than 90 percent of private savings in Uruguay is dollar-denominated, as is more than 81 percent of credit granted to the private sector . Many consumers use dollars for their purchases of expensive products.

Beginning in 1988, successive governments worked to lower the nation's debt as a percentage of GDP. The economic downturn in 1998 reversed this trend, and the debt-to-GDP ratio increased by 5 percent to 15 percent of GDP, or US$3.1 billion for the year. About 90 percent of the total debt ($8 billion in U.S. dollars) is owned by private investors. Uruguay receives no formal foreign aid, although the European Union (EU) and the United States do help underwrite specific economic projects. In 1996, the EU provided 6.68 million euros for vocational-training centers and 147,000 euros for the development of tourist programs. In 1997, the United States provided US$8 million in aid to train the military for peacekeeping missions and purchase equipment for such missions.


Uruguay become independent from Spain after a revolt that began in 1811, but the nation then joined a federation with Argentina. In 1821, Brazil annexed Uruguay, but the country achieved full independence in 1828 after an Argentine-backed revolt. In the early 20th century, President José Batlle Y Ordonez led the creation of the first welfare state in Latin America, with broad government participation in the economy and the social system. This tradition continues to influence Uruguay.

Political turmoil led to a new constitution in 1967, and in 1973, the military took control of the government, remaining in power until 1984, when Maria Sanguinetti was elected president. Under the Sanguinetti administration, the government carried out reforms that stabilized the economy and reinforced democracy. Luis Alberto Lacalle succeeded Sanguinetti in 1989. It was he who negotiated inclusion of Uruguay in MERCOSUR and began efforts to curb inflation and cut government involvement in the economy. His economic reform efforts were curtailed in 1992, when voters rejected a plan to privatize ANTEL, the national telephone company. Sanguinetti was reelected in 1994 and oversaw constitutional changes in 1996. In 1999, Jorge Batlle was elected president on a platform that promised to increase international trade and expand economic reforms, including reducing the size and scope of government.

Uruguay is a constitutional democracy with a political system similar to that of the United States. Elected for a 5-year term, the president is the head of state and chief of the government. If no presidential candidate receives an absolute majority of 51 percent of the vote, there is a runoff election in which only the top 2 candidates compete. The president chooses the cabinet and generally sets government policy, subject to oversight from the nation's legislature. The legislative branch of government is the bicameral (2-chamber) General Assembly. The upper house, the Chamber of Senators, has 30 members who serve 5-year terms. The lower house, the Chamber of Representatives, has 99 members who also serve 5-year terms. The judicial branch of government is headed by a national Supreme Court. The country is organized into 19 regional departments or states, each headed by an elected governor.

All of Uruguay's major political parties support economic reforms and free trade. There are 3 main political parties. The Colorado Party, which traditionally represented the urban areas and the working class, is led by President Batlle and ex-President Sanguinetti. In the 1990s, this party increased its support for smaller government and less state control. The National Party, or Blanco, is the main party of rural voters, and is generally regarded as the most conservative of the nation's parties and a staunch supporter of free enterprise. Ex-President Lacalle belonged to Blanco. Encuentro Progresista-Frente Amplio (EP-FA) is a leftist coalition that supports limited free trade and private enterprise, but favors the implementation of an income tax as a means to redistribute wealth and increase social spending.

In 1998, the government's budget amounted to US$4.6 billion, while its revenues were US$4.4 billion. Because of the economic downturn in 1999, government revenues fell and the nation's deficit increased 4-fold to 3.9 percent of GDP. The government projects a reduction of the deficit to 1 percent by the end of 2001. Uruguay has made commitments to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) not to raise taxes in its effort to reduce the deficit and to pay down the debt in exchange for a short-term credit line of US$200 million to be used in fighting inflation. Uruguay has one of the proportionally lowest defense budgets of all of the Latin American nations, spending just US$172 million, or 0.9 percent of GDP, on defense.

Since the late 1980s, successive administrations have tried to reduce the role of government in the economy by privatizing government-owned businesses, such as PLUNA, the national airline, Montevideo Gas Company, and most port services. Government-owned enterprises account for 18 percent of GDP and the same percentage of total employment. The government continues to own a variety of businesses, including those engaged in insurance, water supply, telecommunications, electricity, railways, banking, and petroleum refining. The nation's social security system, which prior to 1996 had a deficit equal to 6 percent of GDP, was successfully privatized. By allowing individuals to join private pension plans, privatization has reduced the social security deficit to 1 percent of GDP. Nationwide, 550,000 people, one-third of the workforce, have opted for the private plans that now manage $700 million.


Uruguay is situated in the middle of a corridor that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and is the gateway to the Panama-Paraguay River transportation system. The corridor is inhabited by 40 million people and covers an area of 3.1 million square kilometers (1.2 million square miles). To take full advantage of its geographic position, Uruguay needs to make significant improvement to its transportation infrastructure . This would reduce Uruguay's freight costs, which are among the highest in South America.

The nation has 8,983 kilometers (5,582 miles) of roads, almost all paved. There are plans to build a combination passenger railway and underground subway system for Montevideo and its suburbs. Uruguay and Argentina are constructing a 35-kilometer (22-mile) bridge between Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Colonia, Uruguay. This bridge, the longest of its kind in the world, will greatly expand direct trade between the 2 nations. Uruguay has 2,073 kilometers (1,288 miles) of railways and 1,600 kilometers (994 miles) of navigable waterways, many of which are used to transport small quantities of goods. Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil have announced plans to develop the 4,022 kilometer (2,500 miles) Panama-Paraguay-Uruguay rivers in order to transport goods to ports on the Atlantic Ocean. The plans call for a combination of construction, dredging, and port development that will ultimately cost US$935 million. Uruguay's main port is Montevideo; other ports include Fray Bentos, Nueva Palmira, Paysandu, Punta del Este, Colonia, and Piriapolis. The nation's merchant marine consists of only 1 ship, a petroleum tanker.

Uruguay has 65 airports, but only 15 have paved runways, served by 10 international airlines and the national carrier, PLUNA. Carrasco International Airport in Montevideo is the nation's main international airport. It is undergoing a $60 million renovation that will significantly expand capacity. The nation is also building a $40 million airport at the resort town of Punta del Este.

There are 27 telephones per 100 people in Uruguay. Plans to privatize the telecommunications industry may dramatically lower costs and expand service, especially in the mobile phone market. In 1998, there were 100,000 mobile phones in the country, and 5 Internet service providers for the 12 percent of the population with access.

Uruguay has no fossil-fuel resources. More than 50 percent of its energy needs are met through imported oil (an average of 38,000 barrels per day). While natural gas currently does not contribute to the nation's energy needs, an $8 million, 19-kilometer (12-mile) pipeline was constructed in 1998 to provide natural gas from Argentina. A more substantial 213-kilometer (133-mile) pipeline is being constructed by British Gas and Pan American Energy (a joint venture between BP, Amoco, and ANCAP). These pipelines will eventually supply natural gas to over 70 Uruguayan towns and cities. In 1998, the nation's

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Uruguay 293 607 241 N/A 60 N/A 91.2 38.34 300
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Brazil 40 444 316 16.3 47 3.1 30.1 18.45 3,500
Paraguay 43 182 101 N/A 41 N/A 9.6 2.43 20
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

power plants produced 9.474 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity, 95.62 percent of which was provided by water power. In 1998, electricity consumption in Uruguay was 6.526 billion kWh. The nation has one of the highest rates of electrification, 96 percent, in the Western Hemisphere.


While agriculture accounted for only 4 percent of the nation's workforce, it provided 10 percent of Uruguay's GDP and more than half of the country's exports. More significantly, agricultural products provided the main raw materials for the nation's largest industries. Among the main agricultural products are beef, wool, grains, fruits, and vegetables. Agriculture is also one of the few areas of the economy in which there is little government interference. A late 1990s devaluation of the Brazilian currency hurt Uruguayan agriculture by making Brazilian products cheaper and Uruguayan goods more expensive. As a result, agricultural output declined by 8 percent in 1999. For the 3-year period prior to 1999, agriculture experienced little or no growth.

Industry accounts for 28 percent of the nation's GDP and 30 percent of the workforce. The nation's main industries include food processing, construction, and leather production. In the late 1990s, Uruguayan industry has had mixed performance. In 1999, manufacturing fell by 8.4 percent, but construction grew by 6 percent.

Services make up the largest segment of the Uruguayan economy, accounting for 62 percent of GDP (1999) and 66 percent of the workforce. While much of the Uruguayan economy declined in 1999, services experienced 2 percent growth (even though general commerce, including the retail trade, declined by 3 percent). The major elements of the service sector include banking and financial services, tourism, and commerce.


The geography of Uruguay makes the nation well-suited to pastoral agriculture, including raising cattle and sheep. As a result, much of the countryside (90 percent) is used for such agriculture. After experiencing a period of substantial growth in the 1990s, Uruguay's agricultural sector experienced a period of stagnation in the late 1990s. In 1996, the last year of significant growth, agricultural production grew by 8.6 percent. In 1997, agricultural production declined by 1.3 percent, and continued to decline, by 1 percent in 1998 and 8 percent in 1999. These declines resulted from increased competition in foreign markets and contractions in the economies of Uruguay's main trade partners, Argentina and Brazil. In 1998, the total value of agricultural exports was $1.49 billion, but the nation also imported $458.2 million in agricultural goods. Employment in agriculture has remained relatively constant since the mid-1990s, at approximately 50,000.

While the overall agricultural sector has been stagnant, crop production has increased. After 2 years of decline, in 1999 crop harvests grew by 10.5 percent and total output was 2.4 million tons. The main food crops are rice, wheat, corn, potatoes, barley, sugarcane, and soybeans. Production of rice in 1999 was 1.3 million tons, wheat 377,200 tons, and corn 242,500 tons. Barley harvests dropped significantly as a result of reduced demand, falling from 340,000 tons in 1996 to 111,000 in 1999.

Total livestock exports were worth US$1 billion in 2000. The primary livestock products are beef, veal, horse, chicken, duck, goose, lamb, pork, and turkey. There were 10.5 million head of cattle in Uruguay in 1999, and 14.4 million sheep. An outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in 1999 led several nations to ban the import of Uruguayan beef and lamb, but efforts to eradicate the disease were successful and in 2000 there were record exports. Beef, the main livestock export, accounted for 58.6 percent of exports in 2000, followed by lamb (4.12 percent) and horsemeat (1.4 percent). Mixed meat byproducts accounted for 30.8 percent of exports. Israel was the number-one market for Uruguayan beef, taking 25.09 percent of exports, although the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) countriesthe United States, Canada and Mexicowere the main overall market with 33.4 percent of exports. MERCOSUR accounted for 16 percent of livestock exports and the EU 10.8 percent.

The fishing sector employs about 12,000 people. Uruguay has substantial stocks of a variety of fish species, but fishing accounts for only 0.1 percent of GDP. Pollution from Uruguayan ports, such as the 1997 oil spill by the Argentine ship San Jorge off the coastal resort of Punta del Este, has significantly impacted fish stocks. This spill affected 20 miles of Uruguayan coastline and did significant damage to a variety of species ranging from sea lions to croaker. Currently, hake accounts for about 70 percent of catches, followed by croaker (14 percent) and striped weakfish (5 percent). There are increasing efforts to develop the industry to catch deep-water species such as swordfish, squid, and anchovy. In 1998, swordfish catches surpassed 930 tons and the nation exceeded its quota under international fishing regulations. The United States is the major destination for fish exports.


Manufacturing and refining employ some 250,000 people in Uruguay. Much of the country's industrial sector is linked to agriculture. About half of all industrial production is based on food processing or the refining of agricultural products such as leather. Food and beverage production are the largest single manufacturing sectors, with food processing accounting for 25 percent of production and beverages accounting for 11 percent. Exports of processed foods were valued at US$1.06 billion in 1997, or 40 percent of all exports. Prepared rice, chocolate, meat, cookies, and pasta were the main exports, although frozen foods have been growing steadily in value. This sector of industry has been the recipient of almost 50 percent of all new foreign investment in Uruguay. The main markets for processed foods and beverages are Uruguay's MERCOSUR partners. The nation's principal food processing plants are concentrated in the towns of Fray Bentos and Paysanduu.

Since 1997, most other industries in Uruguay have experienced declines in production and value. Industries such as textiles, clothing, chemicals, and metallic products have suffered the largest declines, with mining and oil refining the main exceptions. After 3 years with annual growth of more than 6.5 percent, mining grew by 2.6 percent in 1999. It still accounted for only 0.2 percent of GDP and employed about 2,000 people. Gold is the major mineral produced by the mining sector; in 1998, 2000 kilograms were mined from the nation's proven gold reserves of 5.06 metric tons. Marble, stone, granite, and bauxite are also produced. The nation's crude-oil imports are refined at the La Teja refinery in Montevideo. The refinery is owned by the state-owned oil company, ANCAP, and has a capacity of 37,000 barrels per day.

The construction industry, which employs about 80,000 people, has also continued to grow, although the growth rate has slowed, especially in private construction. The average growth rate for the sector has been 4.6 percent since 1996. Government infrastructure programs and the construction of tourist-related facilities have been leading segments in the construction industry.


Services in Uruguay account for the highest level of GDP and the greatest employment, with almost 80,000 Uruguayans working in some segment of the service sector. Financial services and tourism are among the best performing sectors of the economy, and services also account for a significant proportion of foreign investment.


The financial sector employs about 60,000 Uruguayans. The country's private banking sector has 21 banks, 9 financial institutions, and 10 savings and loan organizations. There are also 11 offshore banks . These banks and institutions account for about 50 percent of the financial sector. Major foreign-owned banks include American Express Bank, Citibank, Bankboston, and Republic National Bank. The rest of the financial sector is controlled by 3 government-owned banks, including the Central Bank. The largest bank is the government-owned Banco de la Republica Oriental del Uruguay, which has 30 percent of the nation's total savings. Total banking assets in Uruguay were US$7.1 billion in 1999 (including US$600 million from foreign sources). In 1996, the government deregulated the insurance and mortgage sectors and opened them to private investment. The government-owned Banco Hipotecario del Uruguay (BHU) remains the largest mortgage lender. The nation has 2 small stock markets, but both are under-valued. U.S. investment in Uruguayan financial services totals US$37 million.


Hotels, restaurants, retail, and wholesale trade employ 200,000 Uruguayans. The franchising of stores and restaurants has produced dramatic growth in many areas of Latin America, but in Uruguay there are only a limited number of food, hotel, car-rental, and some clothing outlets. This is mainly the result of the small size of Uruguay's domestic market. Increased Internet use and the potential deregulation of the telecommunications industry have fueled growth in the sale of electronic equipment, though most of these products have to be imported.


Tourism has become the main source of foreign currency earnings for Uruguay and the third-largest component of GDP. It provides an average of $800 million per year to the economy. Since 1998, the number of foreign visitors has declined by 5 percent because of contractions in the Brazilian and Argentine economies that have reduced the number of tourists from these countries. Since 1997, the average number of tourists has been 2.3 million per year. Argentina is the number-one source of foreign visitors (78 percent in 1998). American hotel chains, such as Sheraton, Radisson, Holiday Inn, and

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Uruguay
Exports Imports
1975 .384 .556
1980 1.059 1.680
1985 .909 .708
1990 1.693 1.343
1995 2.106 2.867
1998 2.769 3.808
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

Days Inn, have a presence in Uruguay. The main tourist destination is the coastal resort area of Punta del Este.


Uruguay is a member of a variety of international organizations that promote free trade. In addition to membership in MERCOSUR, Uruguay also belongs to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI). Membership in these organizations has dramatically lowered the tariffs Uruguay places on imported goods. Tariffs on raw materials have been reduced to 2-6 percent of the value of the imports and now average 8-10 percent on all goods. MERCOSUR rules still allow for tariff rates as high as 23 percent on certain goods, and tariffs of 20 percent are common on some consumer goods .

Uruguay has also sought to develop bilateral (oneon-one) free trade agreements, such as the one signed with Mexico in 1999, with major European and Asian nations. Uruguay does not have such a treaty with the United States, although the United States is a major trading partner and the largest foreign investor in Uruguay (with 32 percent of all foreign investment).

The government actively seeks to attract foreign companies to Uruguay. In 1999, there were 756 foreign companies operating in Uruguay. Foreign investment in Uruguay was US$5.6 billion in 1999. There are no restrictions on foreign ownership of businesses, and the government offers certain tax breaks and other incentives to foreign companies that relocate to Uruguay. In the government-sponsored free-trade zones, companies may be exempt from all taxes except social-security taxes . Goods can be shipped to and from these zones without any tariffs or export duties .

In 2000, Uruguay imported US$3.4 billion in goods and services and exported US$2.1 billion. Uruguay's main export markets are its MERCOSUR partners (45 percent of exports), the EU (20 percent) and the United States (7 percent). The main import providers are the

Exchange rates: Uruguay
Uruguayan pesos per US$1
Jan 2001 12.5610
2000 12.0996
1999 11.3393
1998 10.4719
1997 9.4418
1996 7.9718
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

MERCOSUR nations (43 percent), the EU (20 percent), and the United States (11 percent).


The Uruguayan peso has declined in value since the 1990s, mainly due to inflation. In 1994, 5.0439 pesos equaled US$1; by 1999 the peso had declined to 11.3393 per dollar. In an effort to maintain the value of the peso, the Uruguayan Central Bank uses its reserves to purchase dollars.

Monetary policy is overseen by the nation's Central Bank, which also issues currency. The Central Bank is not independent, but is subject to control and influence by the government. Almost 90 percent of bank deposits and transactions in Uruguay are done in U.S. dollars. Uruguay's financial reserves declined in 1999 by US$13 million as a result of the government's deficit. In 2000, the reserves totaled US$2.4 billion, or enough to service the nation's debt for at least 2 years.


Uruguay has one of the most equal distributions of income and wealth in the world. Since 1986, taxation and social services have been used to redistribute income from the nation's wealthiest 10 percent to the less affluent members of society. The wealthiest 10 percent of Uruguay's population controls about 25 percent of the nation's

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Uruguay 4,092 4,962 3,964 4,611 6,029
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Brazil 3,464 4,253 4,039 4,078 4,509
Paraguay 1,297 1,871 1,754 1,816 1,781
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage
Share: Uruguay
Lowest 10% 2.1
Lowest 20% 5.4
Second 20% 10.0
Third 20% 14.8
Fourth 20% 21.5
Highest 20% 48.3
Highest 10% 32.7
Survey year: 1989
Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

wealth, which is still low by regional standards: comparable figures for the amount of wealth controlled by the richest 10 percent are 41.9 percent in Brazil, 39 percent in the United States, and 34.3 percent in Argentina.

In 2000, 8 percent of the population of Uruguay was considered to be living in poverty, not having enough income to pay for basic needs, including food, housing, and health care. In an effort to reduce poverty further, the government is engaged in a long-term program to improve education. Since the mid-1990s, it has spent an additional 0.1 percent of GDP on improvements to the educational system, including classroom renovations, teacher training, and programs to keep youths in school. The main impetus for these programs is the fact that 40 percent of all Uruguayan children under the age of 5 live in the poorest 20 percent of households.


The Uruguayan workforce is highly skilled and educated. The nation's literacy rate, 97 percent, is the highest in Latin America and comparable to that of the United States. There is some evidence of racial and gender disparity. The nation's blacks have an unemployment rate 1.5 times higher than that of the general population, and their average pay is 20 percent lower than their white counterparts in the same occupations. While women have full equality under the law, they face discrimination in hiring, promotion, and wages. A government study in 1999 found that women receive only 65 percent of the pay men receive in similar occupations.

There is little legislation concerning unions in Uruguay, although workers have the right to strike and to collective bargaining. About 15 percent of the work-force is unionized, mainly those employed in construction, industry, and banking. Union membership in the public sector is almost 80 percent, but the rate for private companies is 5 percent. All employees, including those who work for the government, may join unions. The government has the legal power to end a strike if it poses a threat to public welfare. Although workers may organize in the nation's free-trade zones, there are no unions in these areas. Foreign workers have the same rights and legal protections as Uruguayans.

The nation's minimum wage is equivalent to US$93 per month, not enough to support a family, though the overwhelming majority of workers earn more than the minimum. Uruguay's standard work week is 48 hours in industry and 44 hours in commerce. In both sectors, workers must have a minimum 36-hour rest period per week and they receive overtime pay for excess hours worked. All workers are entitled to a minimum of 20 days paid vacation per year. The national retirement age is 60. Because of the country's extensive social security system, employers must pay taxes that equal 50 percent of each worker's pay.

The government forbids forced labor and child labor under the age of 14. Children 16 and older may work if they have completed 9 years of compulsory education. Some children drop out of school and work illegally on the streets as vendors or beggars. The nation has started a program to pay parents $83 a month in exchange for taking these children off the streets and returning them to school. In order to encourage employers to hire more youths, the government provides tax reductions of 12-18

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Uruguay 22 7 14 11 30 12 3
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Brazil 22 13 18 15 34 4 -6
Paraguay N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
a Excludes energy used for transport.
b Includes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

percent on social security taxes for these employees. Unemployment in 2000 was 12 percent and about 0.5 to 2 percent higher in Montevideo and other urban areas. GDP per capita in Uruguay is equivalent to US$8,500.


10,000-20,000 B.C. Uruguay is settled by Native Americans.

1516. An indigenous tribe, the Charrua, kill the Spanish explorer Juan Diaz de Solis and members of his party as they explore the coast of Uruguay.

1600s. The Charrua develop trade relations with the Spanish.

1680. The Portuguese establish a settlement at Colonia on the Rio de la Plata in order to counterbalance the Spanish colony of Buenos Aires.

1811. Jose Gervasio Artigas launches a revolution against Spain that ultimately results in independence and a regional federation with Argentina.

1821. Uruguay is annexed to Brazil by Portugal.

1825. Rebels initiate an independence movement against Brazil.

1828. Uruguay becomes independent.

1830. The nation's first constitution is adopted.

1838-51. Supporters of a federal union with Argentina conduct a war against nationalist forces. The 2 groups ultimately form Uruguay's main political factions, the liberal Colorados and the conservative Blancos.

1903. Jose Batlle y Ordonez is elected president; during his 2 terms (1903-07 and 1911-15), he initiates a series of reforms that give Uruguay one of the most advanced social welfare systems in the hemisphere.

1960s. The nation's prosperity declines as state-owned companies become inefficient and corrupt and the nation's industries cannot compete on the world market.

1967. An urban guerrilla movement, the Tupamaros, initiates an armed struggle against the government. A new constitution is put in place.

1971. Because of the armed insurrection, the military is invited to join the government. As a result, the Tupamaros are effectively destroyed.

1973. Congress is suspended by the military.

1978. In an effort to control inflation, the government initiates a program of currency devaluation.

1982-84. Uruguay experiences a severe economic recession.

1984. After national elections, the military relinquishes power to a new civilian government.

1985. After a lengthy period of economic stagnation, Uruguay begin a modest period of recovery.

1991. Uruguay joins MERCOSUR.

1992. Voters reject a government proposal to privatize ANTEL, the nation's telecommunications company.

1999. Uruguay undergoes a significant recession.


Continuing economic problems in Argentina and Brazil will limit the Uruguayan economy since the majority of the nation's trade is with these countries. The country's continuing recession has made it less attractive to foreign investment. The inability of the government to enact further privatizations also reduces the attractiveness of the nation to foreign investors and prevents competition in certain sectors. The high level of unemployment has caused increased government spending that has itself led to increases in the government's operating deficit and the nation's total debt.

The nation's high standard of living and the high level of education and skill continue to make it attractive to foreign businesses. This is especially true as the Uruguayan government expands its system of free-trade areas. While the economic downturns in Argentina and Brazil have harmed Uruguayan trade, these conditions have also increased the flow of investments from these nations into Uruguay as investors have sought to protect their money. Uruguayan membership in international trade organizations will continue to expand trade as tariffs are reduced. As such, Uruguay has been a strong supporter of the establishment of a Free Trade Area of the Americas.

Uruguay's plans to continue economic liberalization will help the economy become more efficient and productive. The main goals of the government in the economic sphere are directed toward reductions in unemployment, inflation, and deficit spending. Programs to improve the nation's infrastructure, including renovations to airports and transport systems, are also designed to enhance the economic base. The government plans to continue privatization of state-owned industries and to reduce the size of government and the government's share of the nation's GDP.


Uruguay has no territories or colonies.


República Oriental del Uruguay. <>. Accessed July 2001.

Uruguay, The Uruguayan Economy. <>. Accessed March 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook, 2000. <>. Accessed January 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide: Uruguay. <>. Accessed March 2001.

U.S. Department of State. 1998 Country Report on Economic Policy and Trade Practices: Uruguay. <>. Accessed July 2001.

World Bank. Uruguay: The Private Sector. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 1994.

Tom Lansford




Uruguayan peso (UP). One peso equals 100 centésimos. There are notes of 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 pesos and coins of 1, 2, 5, and 10 pesos.


Meat, rice, leather products, vehicles, dairy products, wool, and electricity.


Road vehicles, electrical machinery, metal products, heavy industrial machinery, and crude petroleum.


US$28 billion (1999 est.).


Exports: US$2.1 billion (1999 est.). Imports: US$3.4 billion (1999 est.).

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Eastern Republic of Uruguay
Region: South America
Population: 3,334,074
Language(s): Spanish, Portunol, Brazilero
Literacy Rate: 97.3%
Academic Year: March-December
Number of Primary Schools: 2,415
Compulsory Schooling: 6 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 3.3%
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 345,573
  Secondary: 269,826
  Higher: 79,691
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 109%
  Secondary: 85%
Teachers: Primary: 16,868
  Higher: 9,907
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 20:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 108%

History & Background

Uruguay, the smallest country in South America, is located in the southern part of the continent, nestled between Brazil and Argentina along 220 kilometers of Atlantic coastline. The country is recognized as having one of the more eclectic societies in Latin America, showcasing a rich European heritage, a broad variety of artistic and cultural attractions, and one of the most progressive educational systems in the region. These characteristics, among others, have earned Uruguay the title, the "Switzerland of South America." Its mild climate, modest mountain ranges (Cuchilla de Haedo and Cuchilla Grande ), and inviting tourist attractions make Uruguay popular among travelers from the Western Hemisphere and Europe.

Although Uruguay's land mass is smallonly 187,000 square kilometers, compared to the much larger areas of Argentina and Brazilthe quality of life in this tiny nation is high. Approximately 90 percent of the country's 3.2 million people live in urban areas; most of these reside in the capital city of Montevideo. The country boasts one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world, a life expectancy rate paralleling that of the United States, and an impressive adult literacy rate of 97 percent among its relatively low population density. Although the country's economy has lagged behind its neighbors' occasionally in the past, its agricultural, hydropower, mineral, fishing, and tourism industries have sustained it through its slow times. Uruguay enjoys highly interactive economic and political relationships with its South American neighbors and with countries abroad, trading often with Brazil, Argentina, the United States, Germany and Italy. The national currency is the Uruguayan peso.

People of Uruguay (Uruguayans ) have a unique cultural history. While many of the citizens identify themselves as "white," their lineages can be traced to a number of origins, including Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, mestizo, Amerindian, and African-Uruguayan. Spanish is the official national language, although Portuguese, Brazilero (a Spanish-Portuguese mix), English, French, German, and Italian are spoken widely in the Montevideo metropolitan area. This linguistic diversity is reflected in the wide range of artistic outlets found in Uruguay, including theatre, the visual arts, music, literature, and poetry. About two-thirds of the population is Roman Catholic; Judaism, Protestantism, and other religions account for the country's other religious preferences.

Like many other areas of South America, the land that was to become known as Uruguay was once occupied by indigenous populations, most notably the Charruas. When Spanish explorers, seeking a water route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, initially cast anchor in Uruguay in the 1500s, they were attacked and killed by the Charruas. Later arrivals of Spanish settlers along Uruguay's coastline subdued the Charruas and established lucrative farming and ranching sites in the area. The expansion of the Portuguese from Brazil, however, posed a threat to Spain's commercial interests, and the next several years would witness a continued military struggle between Spanish and Portuguese forces.

Uruguay was under the influence of a number of governments in its early years, including Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Brazil, and Great Britain. It was not until 1828, at the signing of the Treaty of Montevideo at Rio de Janeiro, that Uruguay finally achieved lasting independence. This treaty, negotiated by Great Britain, called for the permanent removal of Brazilian and Argentine forces from the country, although both neighboring countries still retained limited rights to intervene in Uruguay's civil affairs. A constitution was drafted, naming the new country the Republica Oriental del Uruguay, or The Republic of Uruguay (the term "Oriental" referred to the country's eastern position on the continent, not to anything associated with Asia). Today, Uruguay retains this official name, although it is most commonly referred to as "The Republic of Uruguay," or just "Uruguay." Each year, August 25 is celebrated as independence day in memorial of the 1828 treaty.

During the remainder of the nineteenth century, ranching-related immigration from Europe increased and Uruguay's population grew. At the onset of the industrial revolution, Uruguay initiated a series of social reforms, many of which were unprecedented at the time, especially related to employment conditions. The government also included reforms that abolished the death penalty, instituted child care laws, allowed for women's suffrage, and provided for other issues related to human rights. But this time of progressive change was also characterized by numerous political upheavals, insurrections, and economic crises that lasted throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Then, in 1966, a new constitution was created, later suspended, and then reformed in 1997, under which the current government operates.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

The Republic of Uruguay follows a Democratic-Republic system of government, not unlike that of the United States. Three branches of the government operate separately from each other and are based on principles established by the Magna Carta. The executive branch is comprised of the president and vice president (who are elected by electoral and popular votes every five years) and the ministers of the Cabinet. The legislative branch consists of the General Assembly, which includes two bodies, the House of Representatives, and the Senate. The judicial branch consists of the Supreme Court, made up of five members, and by lower courts, which are called Tribunals and Courts of Law. There are 19 departmentos, or states, which maintain local, autonomous law enforcement. Voting is compulsory for all adult Uruguayans.

Several political parties exist in Uruguay, two of which are historically prominent: the Colorado Party and the Blanco (National) Party. Within each of these parties are groups characterized by special interests. Two other general parties, both of which tend to be more leftist in nature, have emerged since the 1967 constitution: the Frente Amplio ("Broad Front") and the Nuevo Espacio ("New Space") Party. All parties contain representation in the country's government.

Educational SystemOverview

Public education in Uruguay is free and compulsory for children aged 6 to 14. The country has traditionally boasted high levels of compliance with required education, as well as a large number of students who enroll in secondary school. As a result, Uruguay holds an impressive position in the Latin America community for its high literacy rate of approximately 96 percent.

All Uruguayan children are required by law to enter school at age six. From ages 6 to 12, they attend primary school. At age 12, they enter the first stage of secondary school, which lasts for 2 years. During this time, they are instructed in the "basics," such as language, mathematics, sciences, and history.

At age 15, students may opt for several advanced tracks, depending on their choice of vocation. For the next three to four years, students complete the bachellerito, which is similar to a high school diploma in the United States. Following completion of the bachellerito, graduates may proceed either to one of the country's three universities or attend special institutes related to their specific interests. All instruction in Uruguayan schools is delivered in Spanish, although English and Portuguese are often taught at the secondary levels, and students attending the universities may be trained in a number of international languages.

During the mid-1990s, a number of educational reforms were proposed by the Administracion Nacional de la Educacion Publica (National Administration of Public Education). These reforms, which had not been passed as of 2001, would provide for new school facilities, a broader curriculum including more science, math, critical thinking, and English and Portuguese language instruction, as well as more attention to technology. Additionally, the World Bank approved a $28 million (U.S.) loan to improve primary education for Uruguayan children. The monies from this loan were dedicated to improving educational facilities, hiring more teachers, integrating technology into the classroom, and other instructionbased student initiatives.

Another development that is seriously affecting education in Uruguayas in countries everywhereis Mercosur. Mercosur is a free trade market agreement among six South American countries, including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay, that was created in the 1990s. Its implications for the economy extend to the classroom since the agreement will impact political relations, globalization, and technology.

All aspects of education in Uruguay fall under the auspices of the Ministerio de Educacion y Cultura (The Ministry of Education and Culture). A substantial portion of government expenditures are allocated to secular education.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Children completing the first 6 years (ages 6 to 12) of compulsory education in Uruguay are awarded a Certificado de Suficiencia Escolar Para Continuar Estudios, which certifies their preparation for secondary education.

Secondary Education

Students completing secondary education may receive different types of certifications and diplomas, depending on the length of study and their choices of study. All students from ages 12 to 15 complete the Ciclo Basico, which offers general education courses. At age 15, students have three options. One is to study under the Circlo Diversificado, a program which leads to a Bachillerator Diversificado de Secundaria (similar to a high school diploma), and includes courses in humanities, science, law, business, and medicine, among other subjects. A second alternative is the Bachillerato Tecnico/Diversificado, which prepares students for careers in technical fields but also includes courses in the humanities. The Bachillerato in both areasCiclo Diversificado and Technico Diversificado requires three years of additional study. The third option for secondary students is the Bachillerato Tecnico, which focuses on technical skills only, and requires up to four years of study.

Secondary students are graded on a uniform scale of 1 to 12, on which 12 is the highest possible mark and 3 is a minimum passing grade. Approximately 70 percent of children enroll in secondary schools, one of the highest secondary school enrollment rates within Latin America.

Higher Education

There are three universities in Uruguay: the Universidad de la Republica, the only state institution of higher learning; the Universidad Catolica del Uruguay Damaso A. Larangaga, a Catholic university; and the Universidad ORT, a private secular university. There are also several postsecondary technical schools offering credentials in selected fields. Attendance at the Universidad de la Republica is free for Uruguayan citizens.

Instruction in Uruguayan universities is conducted in Spanish. The academic year begins in March and runs through December, with summer vacation in January and February. Programs of study are organized into different levels:

  1. An "Intermediate Diploma," similar to a bachelor's degree in the United States, is awarded after two to four years of study in fields such as business, health professions, engineering, and public administration.
  2. The Licenciatura is considered a higher level qualification and is given after a minimum of four years of study. A student may be awarded this credential for continued study in medicine, law, dentistry, psychology, sociology, and architecture. A licenciatura may take up to six years of full-time study to achieve, not unlike many similar programs at U.S. institutions.
  3. A student in Uruguay may also seek the equivalent of a graduate degree, or maestrias, which takes two years of study beyond the licenciatura. A related option is the especialzacione, or one-year specialization, which is offered as a level between the maestrias and the licenciatura.
  4. The highest level of study, the doctorado, is a research-based degree and requires a minimum of three years of study beyond the maestrias. The U.S. equivalent of this degree is the doctorate.

A number of existing bilateral agreements allow for the acceptance and exchange of students from recognized programs of study at institutions in other countries. Non-Uruguayan students wishing to study in the country are required to provide documentation of their previous course work and apply for a study visa.

Teaching Profession

Prospective Uruguayan teachers are required to complete one of several programs of study to receive their teaching credentials. To teach at the primary level, it is necessary to complete a three to four-year course of study, offered at an institute, leading to the title, Maestro de Educacion. Secondary teachers are trained at a separate institute specifically for secondary teachers. This training program lasts four years. University instructors complete their studies at the Instituto Superior de Docentes.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

Educational research in Uruguay focuses on many topics, which are reflected by projects at all three universities in the country. Because of the large number of Uruguayan students who study the various health professions, a great deal of research (investigacion ) is dedicated to medical and scientific study. Other current research projects address issues such as software engineering, sociology, communication, education, mathematics, labor relations, and other related topics.


Uruguay possesses one of the most educated, socially conscious cultures in Latin America and in the world. Its historical concern for human development, even in the face of political and military adversity, has enabled it to become an enlightened, open-minded center of learning and peaceful relations. Like most other countries, however, Uruguay's educational system is in need of continual upgrading, most notably in the areas of physical facilities and technology. No doubt its high literacy rate and its commitment to self-improvement will help it overcome problems presented by lack of resources.

In short, South America's smallest country leads its neighbors in progressive thinking and educational reform. The quality of life enjoyed by Uruguayans is a reflection of its classroom achievements and its diverse cultural heritage.


Bernhardson, Wayne. Argentina, Uruguay & Paraguay. Melbourne: Lonely Planet Publications, 1999.

"Destination Uruguay." In Lonely Planet's Worldguide. Available from

Devine, Elizabeth & Nancy L. Braganti. The Traveler's Guide to Latin American Customs & Manners. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000.

"Embassy of Uruguay Washington D.C." Embassy of Uruguay to the United States Website. Available from

"Mercosur and Its Origins." Embassy of Uruguay to the United States Webpage. Available from

Universidad ORT Uruguay website. Available from

Universidad de Catolica website. Available from

Universidad de la Republica website. Available from

"Uruguay." In The World Factbook 2000. Available from

"Uruguay: Education." In GeoCities. Available from

"Uruguay-Education System." In World Higher Education Database 2000. International Association of Universities. Available from

"World Bank Finances Second Education Project in Uruguay." The World Bank Group News Release, July 31, 1998. Available from

William Wardrope

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Eastern Republic of Uruguay
Region (Map name): South America
Population: 3,360,105
Language(s): Spanish, Portunol, or Brazilero
Literacy rate: 97.3%
Area: 176,220 sq km
GDP: 19,715 (US$ millions)
Number of Daily Newspapers: 78
Total Newspaper Ad Receipts: 34 (US$ millions)
As % of All Ad Expenditures: 20.00
Number of Television Stations: 26
Number of Television Sets: 782,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 232.7
Number of Cable Subscribers: 415,470
Cable Subscribers per 1,000: 125.9
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 586.3
Number of Individuals with Computers: 350,000
Computers per 1,000: 104.2
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 370,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 110.1

Background & General Characteristics

Generally speaking, Uruguayans enjoy a higher standard of living than people in most other Latin American countries. According to the tenth edition of Global Studies: Latin America, in the early 2000s, Uruguay had the third highest per capita income (US$8,500) in South America after Argentina and Chile. Both the adult literacy rate (97.3 percent) and life expectancy (72 years, male, and 79 years, female) demonstrate a political commitment to education and health care. Extreme poverty is unusual in Uruguay, and most of the population enjoy an adequate diet and at least a minimal standard of living. Health care is within the reach of all citizens, and women are granted equality before the law. This publication claims that high levels of literacy and a large middle class allows Uruguay an intellectual climate that is superior to many much larger nations.

Over 90 percent of the population of 3,335,000 live in urban areas (especially the capital city Montevideo, population 1.3 million). The major languages are Spanish, Portunol, and Brazilero. The ethnic makeup is 88 percent white, 8 percent mestizo (European and indigenous ancestry), and 4 percent black.

Uruguay emerged from the government censorship of the 1970s into what was generally considered a free press from the mid-1980s into the early 2000s. The World Press Freedom Review considers Uruguay to have a "vibrant media," citing the more than 100 daily and weekly newspapers, approximately 150 radio stations, 604 radio receivers per 1,000 population, 34 regular and cable television channels.

Montevideo supports five daily newspapers and 10 widely read weeklies. The capital city has one government-affiliated and three commercial television stations. Some 825,000 main telephone lines exist within the country. There are 232 televisions per 1,000 persons, and at least seven primary Internet providers as of the year 2000. The daily newspaper circulation is 241 per 1,000 persons. The newspaper with the largest circulation, El País (founded in 1918), has a circulation of approximately 130,000. Along with other papers and magazines, it has well-developed Internet sites. Most newsprint and broadcasts are in Spanish, but at least two newspapers, Uruguay Post and Penguin News, are in English. This fact is explained by Uruguay's proximity to the Falkland Islands and thus the British influence it feels.

Newspaper & Magazines

From the 1970s and continuing into the 2000s, the newspaper industry experienced an economic downturn, and dozens of newspapers and magazines were forced to close as a result. In part, the economic problems were brought about by the reduction in state companies' spending on advertising.

Newspapers and magazines from the interior of Uruguay were affected the most because they had fewer readers and hence less opportunity for profit than publications in Montevideo. Nine newspaper agencies closed in 2001: El Diario, La Mañana Guambia, the weekly El Día, the evening Primera Plana, Prensa de los Viernes, the weekly Causa Abierta and the weekly magazines Tres andPosdata. The most widely distributed papers in Uruguay are El País followed by El Observador and La República.

Economic Framework

Because of its sweeping social and economic changes in the early twentieth century, Uruguay was known as the "Switzerland of Latin America." The effects could be seen in an evenness of income distribution that is uncommon in developing countries. The 1960s and 1970s were times of social and military upheaval as in many Latin American countries. By 1980, however, there was a return to civilian rule after a national referendum. Uruguay has a unique law regarding change of power: the Constitution states that if 25 percent of the voting population signs a petition, a referendum will appear on the next voting ballot. As of 2002, Uruguay was a multi-party democratic republic and operated within a free-market economic framework. The economy of this small country is integrated with that of larger Argentina, Chile, and Brazil.

In March of 2000, Jorge Batlle assumed the presidency of Uruguay, as the country was confronting a serious economic and political crisis after the devaluation of the Brazilian real in January 1999. There had been a move to privatize some sectors of the economy in the late 1990s. The country has a mixture of private and state enterprises and is heavily dependent on agricultural exports and agro industry. Opinion polls, however, show that most Uruguayans support state ownership of critical industries, especially in the face of a sustained recession, a public debt of 45 percent of the gross domestic product, and neighboring Argentina's existing economic crisis. Batlle planned to leave state-owned firms untouched but allow private companies to compete with them or tender bids to operate their services under contract.

Press Laws

In the early 2000s the press was legally free and unrestricted, as was speech. The political process is open, and academic freedom is the norm in the national university. Publishing is generally confined to the private sector. Although legally free, however, Uruguay's press faces some real limitations. Still, no government censorship exists, and anyone can produce a newspaper by registering before an official at the Ministry of Education and Culture.

State-Press Relations

The International Journalists' Network uses three characteristics to evaluate a press system: 1) state advertising as a means of bargaining; 2) budget and personnel cuts; 3) information of low quality.

The politicians and military officers who took control in the 1970s used advertising as a way to leverage for positive media coverage. In 2002, a vicious cycle existed between the state and the press to such an extent that Uruguayan press systems basically depended on the state in order to cope with the high cost of publishing and the overall economic downturn throughout the country. Newspaper budgets are achieved, more or less, from the 35 percent coming in from sales and the 65 percent from advertising from both public and private sources. The 1997 economic crisis, however, resulted in a 39 percent decline in advertising. The situation worsened after 1997 when the government reduced its advertising budget by 50 percent, contributing to budget cuts and layoffs in the communications sector. One result of the regional economic downturn, according to the Association of the Uruguayan Press (APU), was that the communications sector lost about 300 jobs, and many professionals received salary cuts that in some cases reached 50 percent.

Other economic threats are connected to a proposed bill that would levy value-added tax (VAT) on the sale of newspapers and magazines. The bill proposes to broaden the VAT's scope and lower the existing rate of 23 percent, one of the world's highest. The resulting effect would be an increase in retail prices, the closure of small publications, and ultimately the restriction of freedom of expression in the country.

As of 2002, Uruguay had not developed any legislation regulating radio and television. Most radio stations obtain their "precarious and easily revocable operating licenses by executive decree" (Faraone and Fox 148).

Defamation, contempt, and libel continue to be considered criminal offenses, a holdover from the past. Article 173 of the criminal code lists two definitions of desacato (insult), which is considered to be the undermining of official authority. The concept of insult includes "offensive words and gestures," which might be punishable by 3 to 18 months in prison. The 1989 Press Law 16.099 also provides for prison sentences of three months to two years for "knowingly divulging false news that caused a grave disturbance to the public peace or a grave prejudice to economic interests of the State" or for "insulting the nation, the State, or their powers." The authorities did not use this law during 2001.

Journalists generally do not feel motivated to engage in investigative journalism in part because of low salaries and low morale. In some of the few instances where reporters do investigative work, they may censor themselves to avoid possible repercussions.

The country's highly secretive banking and tax laws severely hinder coverage of corruption. Many Uruguayans only learn about state-sponsored corruption allegations by watching Argentine cable channels. The Uruguayan Press Association denounced local TV channel 12 in September 2001 for censoring parts of an Argentine show in which an Argentine politician exposed alleged money-laundering involving Uruguayan companies.

As of 2002, a right-to-information bill remained stalled in the Uruguayan Congress. Introduced in 1998, the law would guarantee the right of access to public records kept in government archives and would give preferential treatment to media requests for such information.

Attitude toward Foreign Media

In the early 2000s, Uruguay was receiving more attention from global media giants. The most aggressive participant in Latin American television growth, Murdoch, started a Spanish version of the U.S. network Fox TV. The U.S.-based CBS network bought Tele Noticias in 1996, with service available for cable systems reaching over 20 million homes throughout the United States and Latin America. The primary reason for purchase was expansion into the Latin American market. The U.S. network NBC launched a Spanish language news service in March 1993, Canal de Noticias. It emphasized information from the Americas and was prepared by NBC in New York. CNN began its regular Spanish-language service in January 1997. Reuters has been in the region for decades and continues to be an important player in South American newsgathering.

Broadcast Media

Radio broadcasters have long been divided over the issue of community radio stations. In 2002, more than 20 of them operated without a permit in Uruguay. While commercial stations claim that community stations inter-fer with their frequencies, community stations argue that they could not afford to buy frequencies, which are at the time granted through auctions. In October 2001, representatives from both sides met with officials from the country's telecommunications regulatory agency, for preliminary negotiations on creating a legal framework for the operation of community station.

Radio and television receive their economic profits exclusively from public and private advertising. It is more difficult to start a radio station than a newspaper. In principle, the National Direction of Communications in Uruguay, an agency to which all electronic media are subject, depend on the Ministry of National Defense for permission to operate. The president grants final permission. The Uruguayan government established the office of radio diffusion (SODRE) as a public communications service. The electronic media dedicate considerable time to music, foreign soap operas, and other entertainment.

In the early 1990s cable television evolved in Montevideo. This communications medium has gained popularity in the rural areas before spreading to the capital. The three main companies that provided cable in Montevideo are Bahía Esmeralda, Tractoral, S.A., and Riselco, S.A.

The newspaper La República accused the cable companies of trying to impede the spread of satellite services such as DirecTV.

Electronic News Media

As of 2002 access to the Internet was available to anyone with a telephone line and enough money for a computer. There is no censorship of Internet sites by the government or other organizations. Several of the primary newspapers, magazines, and even radio stations have Internet sites. Online magazines address a variety of issues, for example, Charoná (the youth culture), Mujeres Prohibidasa (sexual orientation issues), and Tercer Mundo Económico (economics).

Education & Training

In the early 2000s, a college degree was not necessary for journalists. The universities that offer a degree in Communications are Universidad Católica, Universidad ORT, and Universidad de la República Oriental de Uruguay, all located in Montevideo.


In the early twenty-first century, while it was unclear if Uruguay would ever regain its moniker "Switzerland of Latin America," the healthy media industry there continues to play a role in presenting various viewpoints and voices to a generally literate, urban population. However, Article 173 of the criminal code and the 1989 Law 1.099 that discuss penalties for desacato (insult) to the State constitute a legal threat to freedom of the press and to journalists and broadcasters who address political and social issues. Self-censorship is still practiced by many broadcasters. Print media is experiencing a downturn as advertisers invest less, while the Internet, radio, and television continue to grow and to attract larger audiences. The primary factor in determining the future of Uruguay's press system continues to be the country's and region's economic condition.


Cole, Richard R., ed. Communication in Latin America: Journalism, Mass Media, and Society. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, Inc., 1996.

Committee to Protect Journalists. Attacks on the Press 2001Uruguay, 2002. .

El País. .

Faraone, Roque, and Elizabeth Fox. "Communication and Politics in Uruguay," Media and Politics in Latin America, ed. Elizabeth Fox. London: Sage Publications, 1988.

Goodwin, Paul. Global Studies: Latin America. 10th ed. Storrs, CT: University of Connecticut Press, 2003.

International Journalists' Network (IJNet). Uruguay: Press Overview, 2001. .

IPI World Press Freedom Review, 2001. .

Johnston, Carla Brooks. Global News Access. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998.

U.S. Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices2001. Uruguay.

Waisbord, Silvio. Status of Media in Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, n.d. üwaisbord/ENCYCLOP.html">üwaisbord/ENCYCLOP.html .

Cynthia K. Pope

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Uruguay (country, South America)

Uruguay (yŏŏ´rəgwā, gwī, Span. ōōrōōgwi´, ōōrōōwī´), officially Oriental Republic of Uruguay, republic (2005 est. pop. 3,416,000), 68,536 sq mi (177,508 sq km), SE South America. The second smallest country (after Suriname) in South America, Uruguay extends from a short Atlantic coastline along the north bank of the Río de la Plata to the Uruguay River, which separates it on the west from Argentina. To the north is Brazil. The capital and largest city is Montevideo.

Land and People

The land is an area of topographical transition from the humid Argentine Pampa to the uplands of S Brazil. North of the alluvial plain, known as the Banda Oriental [Span.,=east bank, i.e., of the Uruguay and the Río de la Plata], Uruguay generally has long, sweeping slopes and grasslands, wooded valleys with slow-moving rivers, and long ranges of low hills, with some huge granite blocks that stand out against the horizon. Although Uruguay is within the temperate zone, climatic variations are moderate; generally the climate is warm, with rainfall evenly distributed through the seasons, but in some years there are severe droughts.

Most of the population is concentrated in the south; over 40% live in Montevideo. Almost 90% of Uruguay's people are of European descent, Spanish and Italian predominating; there are few pure indigenous Uruguayans. The original inhabitants, the Charrúa, were absorbed into the Spanish and Portuguese populations after long resistance; today the mestizo element (less than 10% of the total population) is found principally in N Uruguay. Spanish is the official language, but a dialect containing elements of Spanish and Portuguese is spoken along the Brazilian frontier. The majority of the population is nominally Roman Catholic. The nation has long been remarkable for its contributions to literature and the arts (see Spanish American literature). The Univ. of the Republic is in Montevideo.


Uruguay's greatest natural resource is its rich agricultural land, almost 90% of which is devoted to livestock raising. Cattle, sheep, horses, and pigs are the major livestock animals. Grains for cattle fattening and human consumption make up the bulk of the harvested crops. Rice is the major food crop, followed by wheat and sugarcane. Corn is the principal feed concentrate. Barley, oats, and grain sorghums are also grown, and oil crops (flaxseed and sunflower seed) and sugar beets are important. In the vicinity of Salto there are many orchards and vineyards.

Despite Uruguay's basically agricultural-pastoral economy, its dependence upon imports for most raw materials, and its lack of fuel resources, there is considerable industrialization. The processing of agricultural and animal products accounts for about half of the manufacturing activity; Fray Bentos and Paysandú are noted for their meatpacking plants. Other industries manufacture electrical machinery, transportation equipment, petroleum products, textiles, and chemicals. A large refinery near Montevideo processes imported crude oil. Mineral resources include marble, stone, granite, and bauxite. There are important hydroelectric plants on the Uruguay and Negro rivers. Fishing and forestry add to the country's economy.

Uruguay's magnificent beaches, such as those at Punta del Este, are great economic assets; tourists, chiefly from Argentina, contribute much to the national income. The country's transportation facilities are extensively developed. Meat, wool, and hides and skins constitute the majority of Uruguay's exports; rice, fish, and dairy products are also exported. Machinery, chemicals, and vehicles are imported. Brazil, the United States, Argentina, and Russia are the main trading partners. Uruguay is a member of Mercosur.


Uruguay is governed under the constitution of 1967 as amended. Executive power is held by the president, who is both head of state and head of government. The president is popularly elected for a five-year term and may not serve consecutive terms. The bicameral legislature, the General Assembly, consists of a 30-seat Chamber of Senators and a 99-seat Chamber of Representatives. The members of the General Assembly are also elected for five-year terms. Administratively, Uruguay is divided into 19 departments.


European Involvement and the Struggle for Independence

Although the Río de la Plata was explored as early as 1515, it was not until 1624 that the Spanish established the first permanent settlement, at Soriano in SW Uruguay. The Portuguese founded (1680) a short-lived settlement at Colonia, and in 1717 they fortified a hill on the site of Montevideo. Fearing encroachment and competition, the Spanish drove them out (1724) and from then until the wars of independence controlled the Banda Oriental. Uruguay's position between Spanish and Portuguese settlements, and later between Argentina and Brazil, helped determine the emergence of Uruguay as an independent state. On the pampas stock raising spread; gradually the unbounded range gave way to huge estancias (cattle ranches) and small settlements concentrated about the ranch buildings.

It was the rough and hardy gaucho who fought for independence, and the traditions, personal loyalties, and rivalries of the gauchos helped to keep the nation in almost continual strife for three quarters of a century after independence was won. When the revolutionary banner was raised in the Argentine in 1810, the leaders of the Banda Oriental, notably Artigas, accepted the cause, but in 1814 Artigas broke with the military junta of Buenos Aires and began a struggle for Uruguayan independence that lasted until the Brazilian occupation of Montevideo in 1820. Five years later a small group, known as the Thirty-three Immortals, under the guidance of Lavalleja, declared Uruguay independent.

Independence and War

In 1827 at Ituzaingó Brazil was defeated. Great Britain, opposing Brazilian expansion south to the Río de la Plata, helped ultimately to create an independent Uruguay as a buffer state between Argentina and Brazil. The peace (1828) stipulated that the new Uruguayan constitution should be acceptable to both the larger nations. When it was adopted in 1830, Fructuoso Rivera was chosen as president. He was promptly faced with revolts led by his old rival, Lavalleja, and when he was succeeded in office by Manuel Oribe, he himself revolted against Oribe, who was in sympathy with Juan Manuel de Rosas of Argentina. In the long fratricidal struggle that ensued, the two dominant political parties of Uruguay emerged, Rivera's Colorados [reds] and Oribe's Blancos [whites].

Oribe was driven out in 1838, but later with the aid of Rosas returned to begin the long siege of Montevideo. The Italian patriot Garibaldi fought in the Uruguayan wars from 1842 to 1846. In 1851 the Argentine general Urquiza drove out Rosas and brought an end to the Uruguayan civil war. When in 1864 Brazil presented a claim for damages to property and nationals during the civil wars, Uruguay refused to accept it. Brazil invaded and, aided by the Uruguayan general Vanancio Flores (a Colorado), overthrew the Blanco president. Paraguay, under Francisco Solano López, came to the assistance of the Blancos, whereupon Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay formed a tripartite alliance against Paraguay (see Triple Alliance, War of the). During the 19th and 20th cent. waves of immigration, chiefly from Europe, augmented the Uruguayan population.

Government Reforms

Until the rise of José Batlle y Ordóñez early in the 20th cent., Uruguay experienced many revolutions and counterrevolutions. In Batlle's second term as president (1911–15), however, began the social and material progress that made Uruguay one of the more stable and prosperous nations of Latin America. By a coup in 1933, Gabriel Terra suspended the constitution of 1919, and his rule was strongly personalistic. Yet, under Terra's rule, which ended in 1938, the socialistic measures for public welfare were not reversed but forwarded; the labor code was broadened, social benefits increased, and industry further nationalized.

Batlle's influence on Uruguayan political practice did not end with his death; concerned lest the country again fall prey to dictatorial caudillos, he had advocated the creation of an executive governing council. This reform, inspired by the Swiss multiple-executive system of government, was adopted in 1951; the office of president was abolished and replaced by a nine-man council with a president, chosen from the majority party, to act as titular head of state. The plural executive, however, proved ineffectual; factionalism and apathy within the council hindered action on social and economic problems, which became pressing in the mid-1950s and acute during the 60s.

Civil Strife in Modern Uruguay

The increasing use of synthetics and the steadily declining price of wool cut deeply into Uruguay's exports of wool and leather. Inflation and unemployment grew, and the vast, inefficient bureaucracy became a burden to the economy. In 1958 the Colorados, who had been in power for over 93 years, were overwhelmingly defeated by the conservative Blancos, who won again in 1962 by a narrower margin. Throughout the 1960s and early 70s the economic decline continued, intensified by droughts and floods and accompanied by massive social unrest—riots, paralyzing strikes, and the emergence of a terrorist Marxist guerrilla group, the well-organized Tupamaro National Liberation Front (see Tupamaros).

In 1967 a new constitution abolished the plural executive and reinstated a powerful president. That same year the Colorado party returned to power, with Oscar Gestido as president. Gestido died after several months in office and was succeeded by his vice president, Jorge Pacheco. Pacheco and his hand-picked successor, Juan María Bordaberry (who was elected in 1972), ruled with increasingly dictatorial powers. As the Tupamaros increased their terrorist activities, kidnapping foreign diplomats and assassinating high officials, the army assumed tremendous power, even successfully pressuring President Bordaberry (June, 1973) to dissolve the congress and suspend the constitution. The military, which made Aparicio Méndez president in 1976, ruled Uruguay with brutal force, regularly disregarding human rights by kidnapping, imprisoning, torturing, or murdering citizens.

The government's repressive tactics caused a massive emigration of Uruguayans, mostly to Argentina. After a 1980 plebiscite to continue de facto military rule was voted down by the populace, the military government steadily lost power. General Gregorio Álvarez became president in 1981. In 1985, Julio María Sanguinetti of the centrist Colorado party became president, restoring civilian government but also granting amnesty (1986) to former leaders accused of human-rights violations (for crimes committed in Uruguay). Luis Alberto Lacalle Herrera of the conservative National (Blanco) party became president in 1990. He was forced to form a coalition government in order to secure a parliamentary majority, and his attempts to introduce free-market reforms were obstructed.

Sanguinetti was returned to the presidency by a slim margin in the 1994 elections, and also had to form a coalition; he sought cutbacks in Uruguay's bankrupt social security program and modest amounts of privatization. In 1999, Jorge Batlle Ibañez, also of the Colorado party, was elected president; during the election, he faced a strong challenge on the left from the Broad Front's Tabaré Vázquez, the former mayor of Montevideo. Since the late 1990s the country's economy has been hurt by crises in the economies of Brazil and Argentina, its principal trade partners, resulting in several years of recession that became particularly severe in 2002. In 2003, Batlle Ibañez announced that the government would compensate families of victims of the 1976–85 military dictatorship and of the guerrilla groups that opposed it.

Uruguay's economic difficulties enabled Tabaré Vázquez to win the presidency without a runoff in 2004; his Broad Front coalition also won majorities in both legislative houses. Vázquez became the first leftist to be elected president in Uruguay. The planned construction in Uruguay of two pulp mills on the Uruguay River along the Argentina border led to tensions between the two nations throughout 2006; fearful of possible pollution from the mills, Argentinians blockaded several bridges between the nations. The International Court of Justice agreed to hear Argentina's contention that the mills violated a treaty on the use of the river but allowed construction to proceed (Uruguay built just one mill) while the court considered the case; it also refused to order Argentina to stop the protests, which continued until June, 2010. In 2010 the court ruled that although Uruguay had failed to adhere to its procedural obligations under the treaty, it had not violated its environmental obligations and the mill could continue to operate. An accord establishing a joint environmental monitoring committee for the river was signed in Nov., 2010.

Also in 2006, former president Bordaberry was charged and arrested in connection with the political murders of dissidents and others in 1976; he was convicted in 2010 of having violated the constitution during his presidency. In 2007 former president Álvarez was arrested on similar charges and was convicted in 2009. The supreme court in 2009 declared the 1986 amnesty law unconstitutional. In the Oct., 2009, elections the Broad Front won a narrow legislative majority, and after a runoff in November its presidential candidate, José "Pepe" Mujica, a former leftist guerrilla, also won. Legislation to overturn the amnesty law failed to pass in May, 2011. Although Mujica had not backed the legislation, he signed a decree in June that allowed as many as 80 human-rights cases to proceed, and in October a law revoking the amnesty was enacted. In 2013, however, the supreme ruled aspects of the law unconstitutional, effectively restoring the amnesty. The Broad Front's Vázquez won a second term as president in Nov., 2014, after a runoff; the coalition also narrowly retained control of the legislature.


See G. Pendle, Uruguay (3d ed. 1965); R. H. Brannon, The Agricultural Development of Uruguay (1968); J. H. Ferguson, The River Plata Republics (1968); T. E. Weil et al., Area Handbook for Uruguay (1971); M. E. Gilio, The Tupamaro Guerrillas (tr. 1973); M. H. Finch, A Political Economy of Uruguay Since 1890 (1981); M. Weinstein, Uruguay: Democracy at the Crossroads (1988).

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POPULATION: Over 3 million

LANGUAGE: Spanish; Portuñol dialect

RELIGION: Roman Catholicism; some Judaism; Afro-Brazilian churches; evangelical Protestantism


The Portuguese, based in Brazil, migrated south into Uruguay in 1680 where they founded a colony called Colonial de Sacramento. In 1726, Spain established a fort in nearby Montevideo (mohn-teh-vih-DAY-oh), the present-day capital of Uruguay. After a struggle between the two colonial powers, Uruguay fell under Portuguese control. It later became a province of Brazil. Uruguay was granted full independence in 1828, through an agreement between Argentina and Brazil. After independence, power alternated between two major political parties. They were called the Colorados (Reds) and the Blancos (Whites). A violent civil war lasted from the mid-1830s to 1851.

In the late 1960s, economic difficulties and the activities of a terrorist group known as the Tupamaros led to political instability. In 1973, a military dictatorship assumed control of the government. Democracy was restored in 1985.


Uruguay is located between Brazil and Argentina on the Atlantic coast of South America. Its terrain is characterized by gently rolling hills and natural grasslands. A high proportion of Uruguay's territory is suitable for agriculture. Most of Uruguay's grasslands are currently used for grazing.

The total population of Uruguay is over 3 million people. Uruguay does not have a native population. Since 1830 the Uruguayans have been ethnically European, descended mainly from Italians or Spaniards.


The official language of Uruguay is Spanish. In regions close to the Brazilian border, a Spanish-Portuguese dialect called Portuñol (or Portuniol) is spoken.


There are conflicting legends explaining the name given to Uruguay's capital, Montevideo. Both originate in Ferdinand Magellan's visit to the region in 1520. According to one legend, a sailor on Magellan's ship saw land and shouted, "Monte vide eu" "I see a hill." The other version is based on a Spanish phrase found on early maps: "Monte VI de E.O.," or "The sixth hill from east to west."


Most Uruguayans are Roman Catholic. There is a sharp separation between church and state. Many religious holidays have even been given secular names. Christmas, for instance, is widely referred to as Family Day. Similarly, Easter Week is known as Criollo Week.


Perhaps the most celebrated holiday in Uruguay is Carnival. This is a week-long celebration that marks the beginning of Lent (in February). There is a series of street parades, as well as drinking, feasting, and dancing.

Many of Uruguay's festivals celebrate its cattle-raising heritage. During Easter Week (in March or April), a Cowboy Festival (Fiesta Gaucha) is held in Montevideo. Rodeo competitions are the main event.


Major life transitions, such as birth, puberty, and death, are marked by rituals appropriate to each Uruguayan's religion.


To say goodbye, most Uruguayans have adopted the Italian ciao or addio in place of the Spanish adios. It is proper to kiss someone both when saying hello and upon departing.

When invited to an Uruguayan home, one may be offered mate, an herbal tea. Traditionally, mate is drunk through a silver straw, called a bombilla, from a carved gourd (hollow fruit).


Montevideo is a modern city, with high-rise apartments and office buildings. Many of the poorer residents, however, live in small homes or shacks on the outskirts of the city. In rural areas, Uruguayan cowboys, called gauchos, live in simple communal housing on farms where they work. Other rural dwellers live in adobe homes.


Marriage in Uruguay can be formalized through a civil ceremony. Families in Uruguay are relatively small compared with other countries in the region. Most urban families choose to limit the size of their families. In rural areas, however, there is less access to birth control, and women typically have more children.


Urban Uruguayans wear modern Western dress. Today's youths favor jeans and T-shirts. Suits and ties are appropriate attire for businessmen. Uruguay's gauchos (cow-boys) proudly wear the distinctive clothing of their ancestors. They sport baggy pants called bombachas. Wide-brimmed black hats offer protection from the midday sun. Woolen ponchos are used for warmth in the evenings.


Not surprisingly for a cattle-ranching country, beef figures prominently in Uruguayan cuisine. Churrasco, or grilled steak, can be said to be the national dish. Also very popular are chivitos: hot steak sandwiches, topped with bacon, eggs, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes.


(Uruguayan meat stew)


  • water
  • 4 pounds osso buco (veal shanks), cut into six pieces
  • 6 carrots, peeled
  • 1 onion
  • 1 pound green beans
  • 6 ears of sweet corn, husked
  • 1 squash (medium size), cut into 6 pieces, unpeeled
  • 1 cup chopped celery 6 white potatoes, peeled
  • 6 zucchini
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 4 teaspoons salt


  1. Fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.
  2. Add all ingredients to boiling water in the following order: the meat, then carrots, onion, green beans, corn, squash, and celery. Then add potatoes, zucchini, and corn. Add parsley and salt to season the stew.
  3. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
  4. Drain off most of the liquid.

Serve the meat and vegetable in bowls with a little of the broth. Mustard, mayonnaise, tomato, onion, or pepper sauce may be served as accompaniments.

Recipe courtesy of the Embassy of Uruguay.

The Uruguayans have also adapted traditional Spanish dishes. A Uruguayan version of puchero, Spanish meat stew, is sometimes cooked with blood sausage.


Uruguayans have a literacy rate (percentage of the population who can read and write) of over 97 percent. Children receive six required years of elementary education. These are followed by six years of secondary schooling, divided into two three-year stages.


Perhaps the most celebrated Uruguayan poet was Juan Zorrilla de San Martin (18551931). A more recent writer of international acclaim is Juan Carlos Onetti, a contemporary novelist. Uruguay's musical tradition reflects a historical Spanish influence. As in Argentina, the tango is a popular dance form. Candombe, an Afro-Brazilian music and dance form, is also popular.


Agriculture is the driving force behind the Uruguayan economy. Sheep and cattle ranching are the most important agricultural activities. Many urban dwellers find work in industries related to the processing of agricultural products. These including canning, brewing, and the leather industry. Montevideo businesses offer jobs as waiters, taxi drivers, and shopkeepers. Unemployment, however, is a major problem. Many Uruguayans resort to such jobs as street vending and tailoring.


Uruguayans love soccer (futbol), both as spectators and participants. They are equally passionate about horses. Rodeos are always well attended. Horse racing is also very popular. Like Argentina, Uruguay also has a passion for polo.


Many Uruguayan families flock to the beaches on weekends for rest and recreation. The coastal forests provide numerous sites for camping and fishing. Montevideo has a varied night life. Restaurants, cinemas, and musical shows are widely attended on weekends.


Uruguayans excel in producing handcrafted leather goods auch as belts, hats, boots, and purses. Montevideo has a well-known handicraft cooperative called Manos de Uruguay (Hands of Uruguay). Members of the cooperative spin and dye wool, knit sweaters, and also make ceramic crafts.


Unemployment is high, typically ranging from 10 to 15 percent. There is also a serious lack of housing.


Finch, Martin. Uruguay. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Clio, 1989.

Haverstock, Nathan A. Uruguay in Pictures. Minneapolis, Minn.: Lerner Publications Co., 1987.

Morrison, Marion. Uruguay. Enchantment of the World Series. Chicago: Children's Press, 1992.


Embassy of Uruguay, Washington, D.C. [Online] Available, 1998.

World Travel Guide. Uruguay. [Online] Available, 1998.

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The early days of psychoanalysis in Uruguay date back to the 1940s when Valentín Pérez Pastorini, a psychiatrist, began traveling to Buenos Aires to be analyzed by Pichon-Rivière. Pérez Pastorini trained with the Argentinean Psychoanalytic Association. Miguel Sesser then followed his example. Pérez Pastorini analyzed Roberto Agorio and Gilberto Koolhaas, and the group grew to include Jean Carlos Rey, Héctor Garbarino, Juan Pereira Anavitarte and professors Laura Achard, Marta Lacava, and Mercedes Freire de Garbarino. In 1950 it was proposed to form an institute, a project that required the presence of a training analyst.

In 1954 Willy and Madeleine Baranger, French teachers who were members of the Argentinean Psychoanalytic Association, set up in the country and began to work as training analysts. Argentinean analysts traveled each week for supervisions. The group began to take shape, and from 1955 to 1956 it established bylaws and acquired legal status. It was recognized as a study group at the Twentieth Congress of the International Psychoanalytical Association in Paris in 1957 and was admitted as an affiliate association of the International Psychoanalytical Association at the twenty-second congress, held in Edinburgh in 1961.

This expansion of psychoanalysis initially met with opposition from a group of physicians who accused the psychoanalysts of illegally practicing medicine. The Sindicato médico del Uruguay (Medical Association of Uruguay) finally ruled on the question in favor of the group of analysts. Psychoanalysis then experienced a period of rapid growth. It was taught at the graduate level as part of medical and psychiatric studies, as well as in bachelor courses in psychology in the faculty of arts and human sciences. Luis E. Prego Silva introduced psychoanalytic knowledge into pediatric departments in hospitals. In 1965 the Barangers returned to Buenos Aires after a ten-year stay in Montevideo, but by this time the Uruguay Psychoanalytic Association already had three training analysts: Héctor Garbarino, Laura Achard, and Mercedes Freire de Garbarino. In 1966 the Twelfth Congress of Latin American Psychoanalysis was held in Montevideo.

The psychoanalytic movement went into a noticeably slow period during the "de facto government" from 1973 to 1985, the period of military dictatorship that forced eminent analysts to emigrate, imposed rigorous controls on meetings of the Uruguay Psychoanalytic Association, restricted the appointment of its directors, and monitored publications. All the ground that had been gained at the level of universities, hospitals, and public health was lost. In 1985, with the advent of democracy, the Uruguay Psychoanalytic Association nevertheless rapidly made up for lost time.

Among the founding members of psychoanalysis in Uruguay the following stand out for their contributions to the field in terms of theory and practice: Rodolfo Agorio, Gilberto Koolhaas, Héctor Gabarino, Mercedes Freire de Gabarino, Laura Achard, Juan Carlos Rey, and Willy and Madeleine Baranger. Also worthy of note for their contributions are Luis E. Prego Silva, Vida Maberino de Prego, Marta Nieto, Carlos Mendilaharsu, Sélika Acevedo de Mendilaharsu, Gloria Mieres de Pizzolanti, Isabel Plosa, Alberto Pereda, Myrta Casas de Peredo, Ricardo Bernardi, Marcelo Viñar, Maren Ulriksen de Viñar, Fanny Schkolnik, and Marcos Lijtenstein.

The Uruguay Psychoanalytic Association is the only organization in the country that is a member of the International Psychoanalytical Association. It is also affiliated with the Latin American Psychoanalytic Federation. There have been no splits in the organization. The Executive Committee is elected every two years at a general assembly. The Training Commission is in charge of the study program. The Scientific Commission coordinates activities within and outside the association and organizes meetings, roundtables, and domestic and international conferences. The title "training analyst" has been replaced by "analyst in didactic function," a title that includes training, supervision, and teaching. Admission is by interview, since one of the criteria governing training is that personal analysis cannot be formally associated with the association in any way. To apply, candidates must have completed three and a half years of personal analysis. Supervised practice consists of three analyses of two years each, two of adults and one of a child. Various laboratories operate under the aegis of the Uruguay Psychoanalytic Association: laboratories that study children, adolescents, psychosis, couples and families, as well as laboratories that take research and group psychoanalytic approaches. The Centro de intercambio (Exchange Center) is responsible for spreading psychoanalysis to neighboring domains of knowledge and culture. It also provides psychoanalytic treatment for low-income patients. The Publications Commission, in addition to publishing books, has published the Revista uruguaya de psicoanálisis since 1956 and the journal Temas since 1983.

In July 2003 the president of the republic and the minister of education and culture approved the reform of the bylaws of the Uruguay Psychoanalytic Association and the foundation of the University Postgraduate Institute of Psychoanalysis under the auspices of the association. From then on, training by the association led to a university-level master's degree in psychoanalysis. In the same year a commission was set up whose goal it was to have the Uruguay Psychoanalytic Association recognized by the Graduate School of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of the Republic as an institution entitled to organize adult training programs.

SÉlika Acevedo de Mendilaharsu


Freire de Garbarino, Mercedes. (1988). Breve historia de la Asociación psicoanalítica del Uruguay. Revista uruguaya de psicoanálisis, 68, 3-10.

Freire de Garbarino, Mercedes, et al. (1995). Uruguay. In Peter Kutter (Ed.), Psychoanalysis international: A guide to psychoanalysis throughout the world, vol. 2 (pp. 174-185). Stuttgart, Germany: Frommann-Holzboog.

Prego Silva, Luis E. (1996). Notas y comentarios sobre los orígenes del psicoanálisis de niños en el Uruguay. In Psicoanálisis de niños y adolescentes en América latina (Vol. 2, pp. 51-56). Lima, Peru: Fe.P.A.L.

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Official name: Oriental Republic of Uruguay

Area: 176,220 square kilometers (68,039 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Cerro Catedral (514 meters/1,686 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Southern and Western

Time zone: 9 a.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 555 kilometers (345 miles) from north-northwest to south-southeast; 504 kilometers (313 miles) from east-northeast to west-southwest

Land boundaries: 1,564 kilometers (972 miles) total boundary length; Brazil 985 kilometers (612 miles); Argentina 579 kilometers (612 miles)

Coastline: 660 kilometers (410 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Small Uruguay forms a flat wedge between its giant neighbors, Brazil and Argentina. The great Río de la Plata estuary and the Atlantic Ocean border Uruguay's southern coast; on the west, the Río Uruguay separates it from Argentina. With an area of 176,220 square kilometers (68,039 square miles), Uruguay is almost as large as the state of Washington.


Uruguay has no territories or dependencies.


Uruguay has a temperate climate with four seasons: spring, from September to November; summer, from December to March; autumn, from April to June; and winter, from July to August. Average temperatures are 17°C (63°F) in spring; 25°C (77°F) in summer; 18°C (64° F) in autumn; and 12°C (54°F) in winter. Winds often sweep across Uruguay from the Atlantic Ocean; the pampero is a cold winter wind from Argentina. Most of Uruguay's rain falls in the winter months of July and August. The yearly average precipitation is 105 centimeters (41 inches). Humidity averages 65 percent. Although freezing temperatures occur, snow is rare.


Well-watered grasslands predominate, with elevations rising into hills in the north. Swamps and lagoons mark eastern Uruguay.


Uruguay is bounded on the south and southwest by the South Atlantic Ocean.

Sea Inlets and Straits

The Río de la Plata estuary is located on an inlet of the South Atlantic Ocean.

Islands and Archipelagos

A few small islands lie off the coast of Uruguay. Isla de Lobos, with an area of 0.4 square kilometers (0.16 square miles), has one of the largest sea lion populations in the world. It is situated offshore from the mainland town of Punta del Este.

Coastal Features

Beaches and rocky headlands characterize Uruguay's coastline, and swamps and lagoons dot the eastern coast. It then curves west and leaves the open Atlantic, running for more than 322 kilometers (200 miles) along the Río de la Plata estuary to reach the mouth of the Rio Uruguay. At the center of the southern coastline, the city of Montevideo has nine beaches on the Atlantic. East of Montevideo is Punta del Este, a peninsular beach resort.


Lagoons appear along the eastern coast. The largest is Lagoa Mirím (Laguna Merín), which extends across the border into Brazil.


The largest of Uruguay's rivers is the Rio Uruguay itself, which flows for 435 kilometers (270 miles) through the country. It marks the entire western boundary with Argentina and extends farther to the north along the Argentina-Brazil frontier. The Uruguay merges with the Rio Parana to form the Río de la Plata, a vast estuary of the Atlantic Ocean. It is saline except at its western extremity, where the Parana and Uruguay gush enormous quantities of fresh water into it. The Río Negro rises in southern Brazil, then bisects Uruguay as it flows southwest-ward to join the Uruguay. Its principal tributaries are the Ríos Yi and Tacuarembó. Smaller rivers are found throughout the country, with the Cuareim and Yaguarón flowing along parts of the border with Brazil.


There are no deserts in Uruguay.


Uruguay's interior plateau features ranges of low hills that become more prominent in the north as they merge into the highlands of southern Brazil. The most important of Uruguay's cuchillas (hill ranges) are the Grande Range and the Haedo Hills. Only in these and in the Santa Ana Hills along the Brazilian frontier do altitudes exceed 183 meters (600 feet) with any frequency. Vast expanses of undulating grasslands cover more than 90 percent of the country.


Uruguay has no mountain ranges. Cerro Catedral (514 meters/1,686 feet in elevation), near the southern coast, is the country's highest point.


Uruguay has no significant canyons or caves.


The interior of Uruguay is a low, broken plateau, which is a transition from the pampas of Argentina to the hilly uplands of southern Brazil.


The Río Negro is the site of several major reservoirs. Embalse del Río Negro, formed by the Río Negro dam in the central part of the country, is the largest artificial lake in South America, with a surface area of more than 10,359 square kilometers (4,000 square miles). Other reservoirs are Lake Palmar, also on the Río Negro, and Lake Salto Grande on the Rio Uruguay.



Arrarte, Carlos Perez, and Guillermo Scarlato. "The Laguna Merín Basin of Uruguay: From Protecting Natural Heritage to Managing Sustainable Development." Cultivating Peace. Ottawa, Ontario: International Development Research Center, 1999.

Box, Ben. South American Handbook. Lincolnwood, IL: Passport Books, 1999.

Bridal, Tessa. The Tree of Red Stars. Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 1997.

Verdesio, Gustavo. Forgotten Conquests: Rereading New World History from the Margins. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001.

Web Sites

Lonely Planet: Destination Uruguay. (accessed April 16, 2003).

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177,410sq km (68,498 sq mi)



capital (population):

Montevideo (1,380,962)


Multiparty republic

ethnic groups:

White 86%, Mestizo 8%, Mulatto or Black 6%


Spanish (official)


Christianity (Roman Catholic 66%, Protestant 2%), Judaism 1%


Uruguay peso = 100 centésimos

Republic in South America; the capital is Montevideo.

Land and climate

Uruguay consists of low-lying plains and hills, rising to a highest point, Mirador Nacional, which is only 501m (1644 ft) above sea level. The main river in the interior is the Río Negro. The River Uruguay, which forms the country's w border, flows into the Río de la Plata, a large estuary leading into the South Atlantic Ocean. Uruguay has a mild climate, with rain throughout the year, although droughts sometimes occur. The summer months are pleasantly warm, especially near the coast. Grasslands cover 77% of Uruguay and arable land about 7%. Trees such as acacia, aloe, eucalyptus, and willow grow along the river valleys. Uruguay also has commercial tree plantations, including trees such as quebracho.


The original Native American inhabitants of Uruguay have largely disappeared. Many were killed by Europeans, others died of European diseases, while some fled into the interior. The first European to arrive in Uruguay was a Spanish navigator in 1516, but few Europeans settled there until the late 17th century. In 1726, Spanish settlers founded Montevideo in order to prevent the Portuguese gaining influence in the area. By the late 18th century, Spaniards had settled in most of the country, and Uruguay became part of a colony called the Viceroyalty of La Plata, which also included Argentina, Paraguay, and parts of Bolivia, Brazil, and Chile. In 1820 Brazil annexed Uruguay, ending Spanish rule. In 1825, Uruguayans, supported by Argentina, began a struggle for independence. Finally, Brazil and Argentina recognized Uruguay as an independent republic in 1828. Social and economic development was slow in the 19th century, with many revolutions and counter-revolutions. Following the election of Batlle y Ordóñez as president in 1903, however, Uruguay became a more democratic and stable country. From the 1950s, economic problems caused unrest. Terrorist groups, notably the Tupamaros, carried out murders and kidnappings. The army crushed the Tupamaros in 1972, and then took over the government in 1973. Repressive military rule continued until 1984, when civilian rule returned. Economic difficulties and high foreign debt continued to threaten stability, provoking massive emigration. Julio María Sanguinetti, who led Uruguay back to civilian rule in the 1980s, was re-elected president in 1994. In 2000, he was succeeded by Jorge Batlle.


Uruguay is an upper-middle-income developing country (2000 GDP per capita, US$ 9300). Agriculture employs only 5% of the workforce, but farm products, notably hides and leather goods, beef and wool, are the leading exports. The leading manufacturing industries, situated mainly in and around Montevideo, are concerned with processing farm produce. Other manufactures include beer, cement, textiles, and tyres. Tourism is important.

Political map

Physical map


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Culture Name



Identification. The name Oriental Republic of Uruguay República Oriental del Uruguay, derives from the fact that the country lies east of the Uruguay River, a major tributary of the Rio de la Plata estuary. Before independence, it was known as Banda Oriental del Uruguay. The name "Uruguay" is a Guaraní word meaning "river of shellfish," or "river the uru birds come from."

Uruguayans have a strong sense of national identity and patriotism. There are no alternative traditions or nationalities within the country.

Location and Geography. Uruguay is on the southeastern Atlantic coast of the Southern Cone of South America, bordering Argentina to the west and south and Brazil to the north. The Atlantic Ocean is on the east and the estuary of the Río de la Plata is on the south. The land area is about 68,020 square miles (176,220 kilometers).

Most of the country consists of gently rolling plains interrupted by two ridges of low hills. The remainder consists of fertile coastal and riverine lowlands, including a narrow sandy and marshy coastal plain. The many beaches are an important tourist attraction.

The climate is generally mild, and freezing temperatures are almost unknown. Because of the absence of mountains, all the regions are vulnerable to rapid changes in weather.

Grasslands and agricultural lands cover the majority of the country. There are also some limited extensions of gallery forests and palm tree savannas. The main cultural differences are related to rural (9 percent) versus urban populations (91 percent), and whether people live in the capital or the interior towns. The country is divided into nineteen administrative departamentos, each with a capital town. About half of the population lives in the capital, Montevideo, and its metropolitan area.

Demography. The total population is approximately 3.3 million. About half of the population lives in the capital, Montevideo, and its metropolitan area. The second largest city, Salto, has ninety thousand inhabitants. Much of the hinterland is very sparsely populated. As a result of emigration, there could be as many people of Uruguayan descent living outside as inside the country.

Most of the indigenous population was exterminated by the nineteenth century, and those who survived were assimilated. The ethnic composition of the population is 90 percent European (predominantly Spanish and Italian), and 6 percent of the people are partly of Native American descent. Africans, 4 percent of the population, mainly in Montevideo, were imported as slaves to work in the ports, in the processing of meat and hides, and as servants.

Linguistic Affiliation. The prevalent language is a variety of Spanish known as Rioplatense or Platellano. In rural areas, gauchesco/criollo, the creole dialect spoken by the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century gauchos, is still influential. Gauchesco has been preserved in literature, music, and jokes, and is part of the national identity. Along the Brazilian border, a local dialect called portuñol or brasilero is spoken. It is a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese. English has influenced the language of technology and the slang used by young people.

Symbolism. The color sky-blue (celeste ) is a powerful symbol that represents freedom and independence. It is present in the four horizontal stripes of the flag that alternate with five white ones (a sun with a face in the upper corner also symbolizes independence). It is also the color worn by the national soccer team.

Soccer is the national sport and occupies a central place in the life of the nation. The entire population is united behind the national combined team, but fans' allegiance is divided among the rival local teams (Peñarol and nacional are the most popular ones). Many figures of speech and cultural metaphors revolve around soccer.

Another central symbolic element is the figure of the gaucho. The original gauchos were an equestrian ethnic group similar to North American cowboys and Ukrainian Cossacks. Cattle and horses introduced by the Spanish in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries multiplied in the grasslands and roamed freely over the land. Some Spaniards became seminomadic exploiters of this resource, and local native residents also learned to ride horses and live off wild cattle.

Gauchos originated as mestizos in these prairies (pampas) of southern South America. Originally, they were equestrian hunters of cattle for hides, beef or salting, and horses for riding. Later they traded in contraband, worked on the cattle and sheep ranches, and served as militia during the struggle for independence and as mercenaries for post-independence caudillos. The gaucho image has become the embodiment of the national character. The idealized gaucho is strong, brave, loyal, proud but humble, honorable, generous, straightforward, clever, patient, wise but melancholic from hardship, and free and independent. The Charrúa, a dominant fierce and independent regional First Nation, although annihilated by the Europeans, is imagined to still live in the spirit of the gaucho mestizo and the Uruguayans (who sometimes called themselves "charruas").

The national flower is the ceibo and the most symbolically significant tree is the ombu. The terotero bird is a common literary symbol for the audacious, bold, attentive, and vivacious nature of the gaucho.

Another important symbol is the historical figure of José Gervasio Artigas, who is considered the father of independence and political nationalism. All political parties refer to Artigas in their platforms. Artigas' flag is still used as a patriotic symbol and was adopted by the Tupamaros. The number 33 has nationalistic connotations, being related to the 33 Patriots (Los 33 Orientales ), a group that fought for independence.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The colonial period from 1516 to 1810 was characterized by a struggle for control of the area by Spain and Portugal, with minor incursions by the British and French. It was during this time that Montevideo was founded (1726). Between 1811 and 1827, during the wars of independence, the formation of the national identity materialized around the epics of Artigas and the 33 Orientales. In 1828, Uruguay gained independence as a buffer state between Argentina and Brazil. Until the early twentieth century, the country engaged in an internal contest for political power through civil wars, dictatorships, and caudillismo. Polarization of the contending factions resulted in the formation of two opposing parties: the Blancos and Colorados.

In the early 1900s, under the leadership of President José Batlle y Ordóñez, the nation achieved political stability and implemented social reforms. A period of prosperity that lasted until about 1950 transformed the country into "the Switzerland of South America." Change in the international markets and an oversized government created economic hardship in the 1960s. Political instability ensued and, compounded by civil unrest and the appearance of the Tupamaro guerrilla movement, culminated in a coup and a military dictatorship in 1973. The new democratic period started with the 1984 presidential election. Since that time, the Blancos and Colorados have alternated in controlling the presidency.

National Identity. The national identity is a historical blend resulting from the struggle to maintain freedom from Spain and later from Argentina and Brazil, the gaucho culture, African slave roots, political caudillismo; and a European cultural and intellectual model.

Ethnic Relations. Uruguayans maintain harmonious ethnic relations internally and externally. They are well received in neighboring Argentina and Brazil as tourists and immigrants, and there are no ethnic tensions within the country.

Urbanism, Architecture and the Use of Space

Montevideo is a modern city with a European flavor. The character of the old part of the city, which was originally within a defensive stone wall, has been preserved to some extent. There are many parks, some very large. Public spaces follow the Spanish model and are open to everyone. Brick and mortar and concrete and stone are the dominant construction materials.

The urban centers in the interior are much less imposing and lively. Of note are the historic quarters of Colonia del Sacramento (founded in 1680 by the Portuguese), which UNESCO has declared a World Heritage City. The beach resort towns and cities are modern and active in the summer; Punta del Este has become a center for international meetings, golf tournaments, and film festivals. In remote rural areas, some gauchos still live in the traditional rancho, a simple adobe construction with a thatched roof.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Meat, particularly beef, is the mainstay of the diet. The national dish is the asado (barbecued meat). The parrillada (beef and entrails) is the most typical dish. It contains a varied assortment of parts, the most common being beef ribs, kidneys, salivary glands or sweetbreads (mollejas ), small intestine (chinchulines ) or large intestine (tripa gorda ), and sweet blood pudding sausage (morcilla dulce ). Pork sausage usually is served as an appetizer. Barbecued lamb is consumed in large quantities, particularly in rural areas. At rural banquets, entire cows are barbecued slowly with their hides.

As a result of Italian immigration in the late 1800s and early 1900s, pasta is a national food. Sunday is the preferred day for eating pasta. Most home cooking has a Spanish influence, and meals almost invariably include soup.

A standard fast food is chivito, a substantial steak sandwich. Another unique snack is wedges of fainá a chickpea flour pancake.

People eat a lot of bread and ship biscuits (galleta marina ), mostly made of white flour, and many consume dairy products, including the national dessert, dulce de leche. Other popular desserts are pastries, milk and egg pudding, and rice pudding.

Mate which is a strong tea-like beverage made by infusing coarsely ground leaves of Yerba Mate with hot water in a gourd and sipped through a metal straw with a terminal filter (bombilla ), is drunk at home, at work, at the beach, at soccer games and in public places. Coffee is drunk as espresso or with milk. Tea usually is drunk with milk.

Breakfast is a light meal. Traditionally, lunch and dinner are the main meals. Wine and beer commonly accompany the main meals.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. More elaborate meals are eaten at anniversaries, birthdays, promotions, and other special occasions. People take advantage of any event or occasion to eat their favorite dishes or have an outdoor barbecue. The most important special meal of the year is the Christmas Eve dinner.

Basic Economy. Services and export-oriented herding and agricultural production and industry, a relatively even distribution of income, and high levels of social spending characterize the economy. The main natural resources are pastures (more than 75 percent of the land), agriculture (10 percent of the land), hydro power, and fisheries. Mineral resources are scanty, and the country does not produce petroleum.

From the earliest period of settlement, the economy offered few employment opportunities, for it was dominated by the exploitation of grazing livestock. Large ranches (estancias), were overseen by a small number of herdsmen under the supervision of a steward. In many cases the landlord was absent most of the time, living in an urban center. Raw wool and beef still represent about a third of exports by value, but sheep and cattle products account for more than 90 percent of exports.

Three-fifths of the economic output is produced by a well-educated workforce in the service sector, mainly in public services and tourism. As a result of welfare state social policies and political favors in the past, there is a disproportionate number of public servants and retired citizens, and only around 32 percent of the population is economically active.

The government owns and operates the railroads, the national airline, a shipping fleet, the telephone and telegraph system, petroleum and alcohol refining and processing, and the cement industry. However, privatization has become more prevalent. The currency is the peso. The exchange rate fluctuates, sometimes markedly.

Land Tenure and Property. Most land is privately owned, and more than half the territory is divided into large landed ranches that belong to a few families. These properties began to be fenced after the introduction of wool-producing sheep. Historically, land was obtained through titles given by Spanish and Portuguese representatives, distributed by caudillos, or informally occupied. Legal land titles now are registered.

Commercial Activities. The major agricultural products are wheat, rice, barley, corn, sorghum, sugarcane, potatoes, and fruits. The bulk of livestock are cattle, sheep, and horses. Pigs, chickens, turkeys, and rabbits are also significant. Fishery is a major economic activity, and there is some mussel aquaculture and seal harvesting. The major exports are meat, leather products, wool, rice, dairy products, and hydroelectric power. The main imports are vehicles, electrical machinery, metals, heavy industrial machinery, and crude petroleum.

There is a good highway system and some railroads and waterways. There are ports and harbors at Montevideo, Colonia, Punta del Este, Fray Bentos, Nueva Palmira, Paysandu, and Piriapolis.

Major Industries. Industry became a significant factor in the economy in the second half of the twentieth century. This sector manufactures primarily food products, petroleum products, alcoholic (mainly beer and wine) and nonalcoholic beverages, chemicals and chemical products, textiles, clothing, hydraulic cement, gypsum, tobacco products, electrical appliances, and transportation equipment.

Trade. Uruguay is part of the Mercado Común del Sur (Mercosur) free-trade area. Almost half the country's exports go to Argentina and Brazil. Other significant export recipients are the European Union countries (20 percent) and the United States (7 percent). Imports come mainly from the Mercosur partners (43 percent), the European Union (20 percent) and the United States (11 percent).

Division of Labor. Among people 14 to 55 years old, 61 percent are economically active. Among those working, 12 percent are in the primary sector, 25 percent in the secondary sector, and 63 percent in the tertiary sector. Schooling is obligatory, and children are not in the workforce.

Jobs in rural areas often are obtained though historical connections among families or through the system of compadrazgo, in which the children of rural workers are given a godfather or godmother from the local elite when they are baptized. The father and the godfather become compadres, and the mother and godmother become comadres. This symbolic kinship system is intended to assure help later if the child becomes an orphan and for preferential treatment in employment. The obligations of the godchild include loyalty in disputes with neighbors and voting.

Industrial jobs are supposedly granted on the basis of qualifications, but since major industries are government-owned, many openings are filled through partisan connections with the political party in power. This practice is particularly important in appointments for public positions. This has resulted in an oversized government workforce.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Uruguay has long had a high standard of living, and its social, religious, political, and labor conditions are among the freest in South America. The state has provided universal free education since the late 1870s. However, there is social polarization; 13 percent of people in Montevideo and 16 percent in the interior live below the poverty line, and the unemployment rate is high. The relatively small upper class includes the ranching, business, professional, and political elites.

The two major minoritiesthe mestizos and the African-Uruguayansare overwhelmingly in the low and lower-middle classes. During the wars for independence and later struggles for power, those ethnic groups were recruited into the militias, and they still often join the armed forces. Many African-Uruguayans are employed in domestic service or work as musicians and entertainers. There is no overt bigotry against minorities.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Montevideans stress their closeness to Europeans in appearance and life styles. Upper-class and middle-class people are very conscious of grooming and dress. In rural areas, many people still wear gaucho-influenced clothing. There is an inverse correlation between social class and the use of slang and gauchesco words. Car ownership is still seen as a social class symbol, and being a fan of certain soccer clubs also is said to be related to social class. Belonging to exclusive clubs is a symbol of social status. Where people spend their summer vacations and the beaches they go to are also related to social status.

Political Life

Government. Uruguay is a republic characterized by the presence of representative democracy at all levels of government; elections are held every five years. People are generally well informed about politics, and voting is compulsory after the age of eighteen. The election for president is unique in that the primaries and the voting occur simultaneously. People vote for candidates on open lists from each party; those who receive the most votes are the official candidates, and the presidency goes to the party with an absolute majority of votes.

The executive branch consists of a president and twelve appointed ministers. The legislative branch consists of a bicameral general assembly with ninety-nine representatives and thirty senators and the vice president. The Supreme Court is the highest body in a judicial branch based on Spanish civil law.

Leadership and Political Officials. The major political forces are the mostly centrist Colorado Party (currently in power), the center to right Blanco or Nacional Party (strong in rural areas), and a coalition of leftist parties, the "Broad Front," which dominates the municipal government of the capital.

Social Problems and Control. Before the 1970s, Uruguay was known as the freest and safest South American country, with an exemplary judiciary system. During the military dictatorship (19731985), personal and human rights were suspended, and formal social control was directed at suppressing "subversive" activities. As a result, many thousands of people left the country as political refugees, and many who stayed were imprisoned, tortured, or killed by the police and the military. After democracy was reestablished, the country returned to the previous system of social control.

Military Activity. Military expenditures were high during the dictatorship of the 1970s and 1980s. At the present time, those expenditures are much lower (less than 1 percent of the GDP). The Navy and Air Force are very small and military service is not compulsory.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Because of its achievements in social security, public education, and health care in the first half of the twentieth century, Uruguay is known as Latin America's "first welfare nation." After the economy entered a period of decline, the growth of the government and public bureaucracy continued. The retirement of these public servants has created a disproportionate number of pensioners, and the country has gained the nickname El País de los Jubilados ("The Country of Pensioners").

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. There is a very high proportion of women in the labor force. Legally, men and women have equal rights to power, authority, and privileges. However, an overwhelming majority of the higher economic, professional, political, social, and religious positions are held by men.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Official marriages have been civil since 1837; marriages are not arranged and are monogamous. About 48 percent of persons older than 15 years old are married, 10 percent live together, 28 percent are single, 4 percent are divorced, 2 percent are separated, and 8 percent are widows and widowers. Serial polygamy is accepted but is not common.

Domestic Unit. Although the typical domestic unit is a nuclear family with one of two children plus the grandparents, extended family networks usually are preserved. Large family reunions are held at least once a year. Authority in the household is divided between the husband and the wife. Many couples live with the parents of the husband or wife, and it is not uncommon for a widowed grandmother to assume the role of a matriarch. Children stay at home until late in life, but older widows and widowers increasingly live alone, to the point where the government has identified old age isolation as a major social and health problem.

Inheritance. Inheritance follows the European ambilinear tradition.

Kin Groups. There are no other kin groups besides the nuclear and informal extended family, except for the symbolic kin system of compadrazgo.


Infant Care. Customary practices of infant care and child rearing are essentially identical to those of Europe. It is common for the mother to leave the work force in order to do dedicate more time to child rearing, frequently with the help of grandmothers. Day care centers (guarderias ) are not as widespread as in the United States.

Child Rearing and Education. Since the 1870s, primary education and secondary education have been based on the French model. Religion was banned from public schools in 1909. All public primary school children wear a white coat and a blue ribbon as a tie. Private school children wear uniforms, that are similar to those in British schools.

Public education is free at all levels, including the university level. This has resulted in an extremely high literacy rate; under 4 percent of males and 3 percent of females older than age ten are illiterate. The average number of years of study per adult is nine to ten.

Higher Education. A university education is highly valued. There are three universities. The Universidad de La República is public and free and specializes in the natural, physical, and medical sciences. The Universidad Católica, which is run privately by the Catholic Church, specializes in the social sciences. The Universidad ORT, associated with the Jewish ORT constructivist educational movement, specializes in technical studies. There are active links with Argentinean and Brazilian universities.


Uruguayans are quite traditional and do not welcome criticism from foreigners. They also do not appreciate being confused with Paraguayans or Argentineans. Otherwise, people are friendly and easygoing. Although tactful, people are frank and direct and maintain a close distance when speaking. Close acquaintances of the opposite sex greet each other with one kiss on the cheek.

A national behavioral particularity is the conspicuous "following gaze" that males direct to females to indicate that they are attractive. In many cases this is accompanied by verbal expressions called piropos, which are sometimes abusive and usually are ignored.


Religious Beliefs. The church and state have been officially separated since 1917. The constitution protects religious freedom, but people are not devout and daily life is highly secular. More than one-third of the people profess no religion. Approximately 60 percent of the population is nominally Catholic, but only a minority attend church regularly (mostly those in the upper classes). Recently, the Padre Pio revitalization movement has been a source of converts for the Catholic Church.

The Jewish community, which once constituted about 2 percent of the population, is dwindling because of emigration to Israel. There is also a small proportion of people who practice Africanderived religions. Protestants represent less than 4 percent of the population.

Medicine and Health Care

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death, and hypertension is among the primary causes for medical visits. Dietary factors are implicated in this pattern: fat consumption is very high, and fiber intake is low. A high prevalence of obesity is associated with a high incidence of diabetes. Cancer accounts for 23 percent of all deaths. The high rate of lung cancer is related to the prevalence of smoking, particularly among men. Alcoholism is a problem among men age twenty to forty-nine years, which is associated with a high prevalence of cirrhosis of the liver.

Approximately 60 percent of the population is covered by private nonprofit collective health care associations known as mutualistas. Free coverage through the Ministry of Public Health covers approximately 20 percent of the population, and military and/or police or private company insurance covers approximately 10 percent. The rest of the population has no formal coverage.

Complementary and alternative medicine has not been practiced traditionally. However, in recent years this pattern has been changing (e.g., acupuncture, homeopathy, and herbal medicine).

Secular Celebrations

Traditional Catholic holidays have been secularized and renamed. For example, Christmas is called Family Day and Holy Week is called Tourism Week.

Holidays also celebrated in other Latin American countries include New Year's Day, Carnaval, Worker's Day (1 May), the Day of the Americas (12 October), and the Day of the Deceased (2 November). Holidays related to the nation's history are the 33 Patriots Day (19 April), Battle of Las Piedras (18 May), José Artigas's Birthday (19 June), Constitution Day (18 July), and Independence Day (25 August).

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Artists are self-supporting, but receive some funding from the government and private institutions. The Ateneo de Montevideo is a meeting place for those involved in artistic and humanistic activities.

Literature. Among the most important writers are José Enrique Rodó, a philosophical essayist; Juan Zorrilla de San Martín, the author of Tabaré, an epic poem about a heroic Charrúa mestizo; Horacio Quiroga, a modernist short story writer; and José Alonso y Trelles, who wrote about the gauchos. Female poets include Delmira Agustini and Juana de Ibarbourou. More recent writers include Mario Benedetti, Eduardo Galeano, and Juan Carlos Onetti and Tessa Bridal (who wrote the novel The Tree of Red Stars, a depiction of the national culture in the 1960 and 1970s).

Graphic Arts. There are many museums and galleries. Some of the best known painters are Juan Manuel Blanes, a realist known for historical paintings and gaucho motifs; Pedro Figari, a postimpressionist who specialized in bucolic colonial and early twentieth-century scenes (including aspects of black Uruguayans' life); and Joaquín Torres Garcia, a constructivist. Renowned sculptors include José Belloni, José Luis Zorrilla de San Martín, and Edmundo Prati.

Performance Arts. The Teatro Solis and the El Galpón theater are important sites for theatrical and musical presentations. Among classical composers, Eduardo Fabini is the best known internationally. Many musical and dance traditions derive from Europe, with local variations. Others are native to Uruguay and Argentina, particularly the tango. Uruguay was the birthplace of Carlos Gardel, the most famous interpreter of the tango.

There are many folkloric musical styles and dances, such as Pericón (the national dance). Another important musical style is candombe. This is a typical Afro-Uruguayan musical style played with three kinds of drums. These drums are crafted individually, and each is said to have a unique sound. Candombe can be heard throughout Montevideo during the February Carnaval, when ensembles of marching drummers cruise the streets. Llamadas are parades of competing groups of dancers who move to the rhythm of the candombe (the public is also welcome to join the dancers). These events are typical of the neighborhoods where most Afro-Montevideans live. Carnaval includes other cultural expressions, such as murgas which are musical groups that make fun of the social and political events of the year.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Most research in the sciences and humanities is done in the universities, museums, and government institutions. Research budgets are clearly insufficient.


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Ferguson, J. Halcro. The River Plate Republics, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, 1965.

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Gilio, Maria E. The Tupamaro Guerrillas, 1972.

Hudson, Rex A., and Sandra W. Meditz, eds. Uruguay: A Country Study, 2nd ed., 1992.

Pan American Health Organization. Health in the Americas, 1998.

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Weinstein, Martin. Uruguay, the Politics of Failure, 1975.

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. Proceso Intelectual del Uruguay, Crítica de su Literatura, 1967.

Web Site

Kelly, Robert C., et al., eds. Country Review, Uruguay 2000,

Miguel Bombin

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The inhabitants of Uruguay are primarily (about 88 percent) white and of European origin, mostly Spanish and Italian; a small percentage is descended from Portuguese, English, and other Europeans. Mestizos (mixed white and Amerindian lineage) represent 8 percent of the population, and blacks and mulattoes (mixed black and white) about 4 percent.

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Uruguay •lapsus linguae • Paraguay • Uruguay

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