Uruguay flag

PRESIDENT: Tabaré Vázquez (March 2005 - 2010)

POPULATION: 3.4 million

KEY EXPORTS: Meat, grains

Andrew Clem blog


Uruguay blog archives

Recent chronology

Nov. 1999Jorge Batlle won presidential election with 52%, defeating Tabare Vazquez. Colorado Party retains control of government.
Mar. 2000Jorge Batlle is inaugurated as president, pledging monetary and fiscal austerity to fight economic slump
Oct. 2001Tabare Vazquez prevailed over radicals in Broad Front internal dispute. Platform will exclude "class struggle" and "nonpayment of foreign debt."
Feb. 2002Leader of Broad Front, Tabare Vazquez, led a large protest demanding the resignation of Economy and Finance Minister Alberto Bension, and a radical change in economic policy. (TM)
Apr. 2002Uruguay breaks diplomatic relations with Cuba, which accuses it of being a U.S. lackey for sponsoring a U.N. resolution calling for human rights in Cuba.
Aug. 2002Financial panic spills over from Argentina; Government decreed a bank holiday for the first time since 1982, thus qualifying for a $1.5 million bridge loan from IMF to avoid a debt default. Hungry poor people are looting grocery stores as public order breaks down. Students stage a strike to protest the government's austerity measures.
Oct. 2002IMF loan of $1.5 million eases financial panic, but students went on strike again. Five cabinet members of the National Party withdrew from coalition with the governing Colorado Party.
Apr. 2003World Bank approves a package of loans worth more than $250 million, helping the economy to stabilize and recover.
Dec. 2003Voters reject a referendum proposal that would have opened the state oil monopoly to foreign investment.
May 2004Senate rejects a bill that would have legalized abortion.
Oct. 2004Tabare Vazquez won presidential election in first round, with 51%. He chose Danilo Astori as economics minister, pleasing Wall Street.
Mar. 2005 Tabare Vazquez, of the leftist Broad Front, was inaugurated as president, and signs a food-for-oil agreement with Hugo Chavez. He has sent moderate signals, however, and is expected to be a pragmatist.
Nov. 2005Fearing pollution in the Uruguay River, Argentines protest a $1.7 billion paper pulp mill project under construction in Uruguay, threatening to shut down the natural pipeline that would fuel the new plants. Metsa-Botnia (Finnish) and Ence (Spanish) are investing in the project.
Mar. 2006Presidents Nestor Kirchner and Tabare Vazquez agreed to commission an independent environment study before construction on pulp mills proceeds. Tensions with Argentina ease.
May 2006Argentine Pres. Kirchner joined protests against two foreign-owned pulp mills, increasing pressure on Uruguay to halt construction. Uruguay strongly defended the pulp mills.

SOURCE: Washington Post, CNN, BBC, etc.

External links

Uruguay & S. America map Uruguay & S. America map


Uruguay is an extension of the flatland "Pampas" region in Argentina, with rich soil that is ideal for grazing livestock -- mostly cattle, but some sheep as well. A greater proportion of the lowlands in the south and along the Uruguay River are cultivated for crops. Montivideo is the only big city. A hydroelectric dam on the Rio Negro built in 1949 creates a large reservoir in the middle of the country, where some hills are found. A large inland lagoon is found in the east, one of a chain of such lagoons stretching into Brazil, resembling the ones in North Carolina.


Uruguay was settled by the Spaniards in the 18th Century, much later than the rest of Latin America. The broad Uruguay River impeded travel to and from Argentina, and a distinct identity gradually formed as the wars of independence began. The "Orientales" (easterners) resisted incursions by Argentine and Brazilian armies, and with British help it gained independence as a "buffer state" between those giant neighbors in 1828. Much of the next three decades, the Blancos (Whites, or conservatives) fought against the Colorados (Reds, or liberals) in a civil war. When Paraguay tried to annex it in 1865, Uruguay joined with Brazil and Argentina in the War of the Triple Alliance, winning five years later. Like Argentina, Uruguay became wealthy in the late 19th century through cattle ranching. President Jorge Batlle (pronounced "BAHT-jay") was key liberal leader in the early 20th century who created the first real welfare state in Latin America, creating entitlements in health, pensions, and education that stabilized the country until the 1970s. The import substituting industrialization (ISI) strategy began to fail in the 1960s, as rising inflation led to discontent. Attempts at economic stabilization did not work. The leftist "Tupamaros" guerrilla movement terrorized the country in the early 1970s and kidnapped American businessman Daniel Mitrioni. President Bordaberry let the military take over in the "creeping coup" of 1973. Uruguay followed the lead of other Latin American countries and returned to democracy in 1984.


Uruguay is one of the most urbanized countries in Latin America, with 86 percent of the people living in cities. It is overwhelmingly European in its ethnic heritage, with a large number of Italians and a fondness for "tango" music, much like Argentina. Some Uruguayans even claim that the king of tango music, Carlos Gardel, was born in Uruguay. Soccer is extremely popular, and the country hosted the first World Cup in 1930, which it won. It also won in 1950, when Brazil was the host.


Like Colombia, politics in Uruguay has long been defined by a sharp rivalry between two major parties: the Colorados (Reds, or liberals) versus the Blancos (Whites, or conservatives). Unlike Argentina, Uruguay has had a relatively good record in terms of political stability and democracy since the late 19th Century, with the notable exception of a military dictatorship between 1973 and 1985. Uruguay abolished the presidency in 1951 and created a nine-member executive council. This unwieldy, rather utopian experiment was rescinded in 1966. The country's electoral system also has unique features. Within each major party there are several factions known as "lemmas" ("slogans"). Voting for congress takes place in a two-stage process in which voters first choose a lemma and then a major party. During the 1990s, leftist forces became much stronger, finally winning control of the government in the elections of 2005 under Tabaré Vázquez, who is considered a moderate within his "Broad Front."

Broad Front Liberal ("Colorado") National ("Blanco")
Tabare Vazquez Jorge Batlle Jorge Larranaga
S: 16 / CD: 52 S: 3 / CD: 10 S: 11 / CD: 36

NOTE: Width of each column shows each party's approximate strength. Colors and position (left to right) represent ideological leanings, which are often vague. Numbers show how many seats each party has in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. Minor parties are not shown.

SOURCE: CIA World Factbook, U.S. State Dept.