U.S. Department of State 
Background Notes: Uruguay, December 1995 
Bureau of Public Affairs 
 
December 1995 
Official Name: Oriental Republic of Uruguay 
 
PROFILE 
 
Geography 
 
Area:  176,000 sq. km. (68,000 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than 
Oklahoma. 
Cities:  Capital--Montevideo (est. pop. 1.4 million). 
Terrain:  Plains and low hills, 84% agricultural. 
Climate:  Temperate. 
 
People 
  
Nationality:  Noun and adjective--Uruguayan(s). 
Population (1994):  3.2 million. 
Annual growth rate:  0.6%. 
Ethnic groups (est.):  European descent 90%, mestizo 7%, African 
descent 3%. 
Religions:  Roman Catholic 66%, Protestant 2%, Jewish 2%, non-
professing or other 30%. 
Language:  Spanish. 
Education:  Literacy--96%. 
Health:  Life expectancy-- 75 yrs. (female); 69 yrs. (male).  Infant 
mortality rate--24/1,000. 
Work force (1994):  1.4 million.  Manufacturing--21%.  Government--
19%.  Commerce--19%.  Utilities, construction, transport, and 
communications--14%.  Agriculture--12%.  Banking and finance--8%.  
Other--7%. 
 
Government 
 
Type:  Republic. 
Independence:  1828. 
Constitution:  February 1967.  
Branches:  Executive--president (chief of state and head of 
government).  Legislative--General Assembly consisting of a 99-seat 
Chamber of Deputies and a 30-seat Senate.  Judicial--Supreme Court of 
Justice. 
Administrative subdivisions:  19 departments with limited autonomy. 
Political parties/coalitions:  Colorado Party, Blanco (National Party), 
Progressive Encounter Party, New Sector Coalition. 
Suffrage:  Universal at 18. 
 
Economy (1994) 
  
GDP:  $15.5 billion. 
Annual growth rate:  5.1%. 
Per capita GDP:  $4,900. 
Natural resources:  Arable land, hydroelectric potential, gold, granite, 
and marble. 
Agriculture (11% of GDP):  Products--beef, wool, grains, fruits, 
vegetables. 
Industry (21% of GDP):  Types--meat processing, wool and hides, 
textiles, shoes, handbags, leather apparel, tires, cement, fishing, food 
and beverages, petroleum refining. 
Trade:  Exports--$1.9 billion:  meat, wool, hides, leather and wool 
products, fish, rice, furs.  Major markets--Southern Cone Common 
Market (MERCOSUR) 47% (Argentina 20%, Brazil 26%, Paraguay 
1%); EU 20% (Germany 6%); U.S. 7%.  Imports--$2.8 billion:  fuels, 
chemicals, machinery, metals, vehicles.  Major suppliers--
MERCOSUR 50% (Argentina 24%, Brazil 26%, Paraguay less than 
1%); EU 19% (Italy 5%); U.S. 9%. 
Exchange rate (1995):  6.44 Uruguayan pesos = U.S. $1. 
 
PEOPLE 
 
Uruguayans share a Spanish linguistic and cultural background, even 
though 25% of the population is of Italian origin.  Most are Roman 
Catholic.  Church and state are officially separated.  Uruguay is 
distinguished by its high literacy rate and large urban middle class.  
The overall drop in real income since the 1960s has increased poverty, 
but the average Uruguayan standard of living still compares favorably 
with that of most other Latin Americans.  Metropolitan Montevideo, 
with about 1.4 million inhabitants, is the only large city.  The rest of 
the urban population lives in about 20 towns.  During the past two 
decades, an estimated 500,000 Uruguayans have emigrated, principally 
to Argentina and Brazil.  As a result of the low birth rate and relatively 
high rate of emigration of younger people, Uruguay's population is 
quite mature. 
 
HISTORY 
 
The only inhabitants of Uruguay before European colonization of the 
area were the Charrua Indians, a small tribe driven south by the 
Guarani Indians of Paraguay.  The Spanish discovered the territory of 
present-day Uruguay in 1516, but the Indians' fierce resistance to 
conquest, combined with the absence of gold and silver, limited 
settlement in the region during the 16th and 17th centuries.  The 
Spanish introduced cattle, which became a source of wealth in the 
region.  Spanish colonization increased as Spain sought to limit 
Portugal's expansion of Brazil's frontiers.  Montevideo was founded by 
the Spanish in the early 18th century as a military stronghold; its 
natural harbor soon developed into a commercial center competing 
with Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires. 
 
Uruguay's early-19th-century history was shaped by ongoing fights 
between the British, Spanish, Portuguese, and colonists for dominance 
in the Argentina-Brazil-Uruguay region.  In 1811, Jose Gervasio 
Artigas--who became Uruguay's national hero--launched a revolt 
against Spain which resulted in the formation of a regional federation 
with Argentina.  In 1821, Uruguay was annexed to Brazil by Portugal, 
but Uruguayan patriots declared independence from Brazil in 1825.  
With the support of Argentine troops and after three years of fighting, 
they defeated Brazilian forces. 
 
The 1828 Treaty of Montevideo brought Uruguay independence, and 
the new nation's first constitution was adopted in 1830.  The remainder 
of the 19th century under a series of elected and appointed presidents 
saw interventions by and conflicts with neighboring states, political and 
economic fluctuations, and large inflows of immigrants, including from 
Europe. 
 
Jose Batlle y Ordonez, President from 1903 to 1907 and again from 
1911 to 1915, set the pattern for Uruguay's modern political 
development.  He established widespread political, social, and 
economic reforms, such as an extensive welfare program, government 
participation in many facets of the economy, and a plural executive.  
Some of these reforms were continued by his successors. 
 
By 1966, economic, political, and social difficulties led to 
constitutional amendments, and a new constitution was adopted in 
1967.  In 1973, amid increasing economic and political turmoil, the 
armed forces closed the Congress and established a civilian-military 
regime.  A new constitution drafted by the military was rejected in a 
November 1980 plebiscite.  Following the plebiscite, the armed forces 
announced a plan for return to civilian rule.  National elections were 
held in 1984; Colorado Party leader Julio Maria Sanguinetti won the 
presidency and took office in 1985. 
 
The Sanguinetti administration implemented economic reforms and 
consolidated democratization following the country's years under 
military rule.  Sanguinetti's economic reforms, focusing on the 
attraction of foreign trade and capital, achieved some success and 
stabilized the economy.  In order to promote national reconciliation and 
facilitate the return of democratic civilian rule, Sanguinetti secured 
popular approval of a controversial general amnesty for military 
leaders accused of committing human rights violations under the 
military regime. 
 
The National Party's Luis Alberto Lacalle de Herrera won the 1989 
presidential election.  President Lacalle executed major economic 
structural reforms--designed to reduce inflation and government 
spending--as well as social reform programs.  Lacalle also pursued 
further liberalization of trade regimes, including Uruguay's inclusion in 
the Southern Cone Common Market (MERCOSUR) in 1991.  
However, economic adjustment and privatization efforts provoked 
political opposition.  Thus, while the country achieved economic 
growth under the Lacalle administration, social problems and austerity 
measures combined to foster increasing popular discontent with the 
administration and further political polarization by 1992.  The result 
was the overturn of some Lacalle reforms by referendum.  In 
November 1994 presidential and legislative elections, Colorado Party 
candidate and former president Sanguinetti won a new term of office, 
which he began on March 1, 1995. 
 
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS 
 
Uruguay's 1967 constitution institutionalizes a strong presidency, 
subject to legislative and judicial checks.  The president's term is five 
years.  Twelve cabinet ministers, appointed by the president, head 
executive departments.   
 
The constitution also provides for a bicameral General Assembly 
responsible for enacting laws and regulating the administration of 
justice.  The General Assembly consists of a 30-member Senate, 
presided over by the vice president of the republic, and a 99-member 
Chamber of Deputies. 
 
The highest court is the Supreme Court; below it are appellate and 
lower courts and justices of the peace.  In addition, there are electoral 
and administrative ("contentious") courts, an accounts court, and a 
military judicial system. 
 
Following the 1994 elections, no single party had a majority in the 
General Assembly.  Distribution of seats was as follows:  Colorado 
Party 33%, National Party 33%, Progressive Encounter Party 30%, and 
New Sector Coalition 4%.  As a result, the National Party joined with 
the Colorado Party in a coalition government.  Working with this 
coalition during his first six months in office, President Sanguinetti 
secured important reforms aimed at improving the electoral system, 
education, social security, and public safety. 
 
National Security 
 
The armed forces are constitutionally subordinate to the president 
through the minister of defense.  By offering early retirement 
incentives, the government has trimmed the armed forces to about 
16,100 for the army, 4,200 for the navy, and 3,400 for the air force.  
Uruguay has about 1,000 soldiers deployed in UN peacekeeping 
missions in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.  The largest group 
currently is in Angola. 
 
Principal Government Officials 
 
President--Julio Maria Sanguinetti 
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Alvaro Ramos 
Ambassador to the United States--Alvaro Diez de Medina 
Ambassador to the United Nations--Jorge Perez 
Ambassador to the OAS--Julio Cesar Jauregui 
 
Uruguay maintains an embassy in the United States at 1919 F Street, 
NW, Washington, DC 20006 (tel. 202-331-1313).  Consulates also are 
located in Miami, Los Angeles, and New York. 
 
ECONOMY 
 
Uruguay's economy remains dependent on agriculture.  Although 
agricultural production accounts for 11% of the gross domestic product 
(GDP), it comprises more than 50% of exports.  The industrial sector, 
which produces 21% of GDP, is largely based on the transformation of 
agricultural products.  Leading industrial sectors include meat 
processing, leather production, textiles, leather footwear, handbags, and 
leather apparel. 
 
The country's strategy to stimulate growth and meet its debt service 
obligations is based on exports.  The bulk of its trade is with its 
neighbors and partners in MERCOSUR.  Uruguay is committed to an 
open financial system and maintains a floating exchange rate; the 
government intervenes in the exchange market to maintain a peso 
devaluation rate of about 2% per month.  
 
Although it has the best-educated work force in Latin America and a 
long tradition of social and political stability, Uruguay has endured 
decades-long economic stagnation.  Excessive bureaucracy, inefficient 
state monopolies, persistent inflation, and frequent labor unrest have 
led to an overall drop in real income since the 1960s and a low level of 
investment. 
 
The government has tried to carry out a program of economic 
liberalization similar to that of many other Latin American countries 
but with only partial success.  The program has included lowering 
tariffs, eliminating deficit spending, controlling inflation--reduced from 
129% in 1990 to an estimated 1995 rate of 40%--and reducing the size 
of government.  But weak public support, the conservative nature of 
the Uruguayan people, and the fragmented political system--which has 
stymied the government's efforts--suggest continued slow 
modernization. 
 
The Lacalle administration failed to reform completely the bloated and 
inefficient public sector.  Privatization stalled when voters rejected by 
72% sale of the telephone company, ANTEL, in a December 1992 
referendum.  However, the government continued implementation of 
those parts of the 1991 state enterprise reform law not overturned in the 
1992 referendum. 
 
Port services were privatized, improving efficiency and reducing 
prices.  In May 1994, the state relinquished its monopoly on 
automobile insurance.  Other activities were transferred to the private 
sector either under contract, concession, or sale, including:  ground 
services and operation of the cargo terminal at Montevideo's Carrasco 
International Airport, domestic air service, construction and operation 
of the sewage and water supply systems for the zone east of Punta del 
Este, and operation of a mobile telephone system.  The Sanguinetti 
administration has continued with these reforms and has taken 
preliminary steps to privatize the social security system. 
 
FOREIGN RELATIONS 
 
Uruguay has strong political and cultural links with the democratic 
countries of the Americas and Europe.  Uruguay supports constitutional 
democracy, political pluralism, and individual liberties.  Its 
international relations historically have been guided by the principles 
of non-intervention, respect for national sovereignty, and reliance on 
the rule of law to settle disputes. 
 
The government seeks export markets and financial support.  Uruguay 
is a member of the Rio Group, an informal group of Latin American 
states which deals with multilateral regional issues.  It is a party to the 
Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty), the 
World Trade Organization (formerly the General Agreement on Tariffs 
and Trade), and the Latin American Nuclear Free Zone. 
 
Uruguay's location between Argentina and Brazil makes close relations 
with these two larger neighbors particularly desirable.  The three 
countries have been working closely on integrating their economic 
systems and improving relations.  Uruguay also has been working with 
Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Bolivia--under terms of the River 
Plate Basin Treaty--on an economic integration plan whose centerpiece 
is the development of the River Plate basin as a major shipping and 
commercial transportation link known as Hidrovia. 
 
U.S.-URUGUAYAN RELATIONS 
 
U.S.-Uruguayan relations traditionally have been based on a common 
outlook and emphasis on democratic ideals.  Uruguay works with the 
United States bilaterally and internationally to foster economic and 
political cooperation and to improve regional cooperation.  Seventy 
U.S.-owned companies operate in Uruguay, and many more market 
U.S. goods and services. 
 
An early proponent of the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative, 
Uruguay also is a leader in the follow-up process to the 1994 Summit 
of the Americas.  It serves as a "Responsible Coordinator" for two 
summit action items:  tourism and invigorating society.  Uruguay 
hosted an Organization of American States seminar on corruption in 
November 1995.   
 
The Uruguayan Government cooperates with the United States on law 
enforcement matters, such as regional efforts to reduce drug trafficking 
and to limit the exploitation of Uruguay's strict bank secrecy 
regulations for money laundering. 
 
The country supported the international coalitions in Operations Desert 
Shield and Desert Storm and, as noted, has provided troops to several 
UN peacekeeping missions.  Also in the UN, Uruguay assisted in 
overturning that body's resolution equating Zionism with racism and 
voted with the U.S. at the UN Human Rights Commission in March 
1992 to name a special rapporteur on Cuba.  
 
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials 
 
Ambassador--Thomas J. Dodd 
Deputy Chief of Mission--Nancy M. Mason 
Political/Economic Counselor--John A. Ritchie 
Commercial Attache--Daniel A. Vernon 
Labor Counselor--Glenda Gaye Maris 
Consul--Daniel D. Darrach 
Chief, Administrative Section--Robert D. Goldberg 
Public Affairs Officer (USIS)--Cynthia F. Johnson 
Chief, Office of Defense Cooperation--Col. William A. Jordan, USAF 
 
The U.S. embassy in Uruguay is located at Lauro Muller 1776, 
Montevideo (tel: 598-2-23-60-61 or 598-2-48-77-77; fax: 598-2-
488611).  The mailing address for the embassy is APO AA 34035. 
 
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION 
 
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides 
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings 
are issued when the Department of State recommends that Americans 
avoid travel to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for 
all countries and include information on immigration practices, 
currency regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and 
security information, political disturbances, and the addresses of the 
U.S. embassies and consulates in the subject country. They can be 
obtained by telephone at (202) 647-5225 or by fax at (202) 647-3000. 
To access the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board by computer, dial (202) 
647-9225, via a modem with standard settings. Bureau of Consular 
Affairs' publications on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip 
abroad are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. 
Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-
1800. 
 
Emergency information concerning  Americans traveling abroad may 
be obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 
647-5225.  
 
While planning a trip, travelers can check the latest information on 
health requirements and conditions with the U.S. Centers for Disease 
Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at (404) 332-
4559 provides telephonic or fax information on the most recent health 
advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and 
advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A 
booklet entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS 
publication number CDC-94-8280, price $7.00) is available from the 
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, 
Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800. 
 
Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and 
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to 
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's 
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal 
Government Officials" listing in this publication). 
 
Upon their arrival in a country, U.S. citizens are encouraged to register 
with the U.S. embassy (see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing 
in this publication). Such information might assist family members in 
making contact en route in case of an emergency. 
 
Further Electronic Information: 
 
Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). Available by modem, the 
CABB provides Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and 
helpful information for travelers. Access at (202) 647-9225 is free of 
charge to anyone with a personal computer, modem, 
telecommunications software, and telephone line. 
 
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the 
Internet, DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. 
foreign policy information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes 
Background Notes; Dispatch, the official weekly magazine of U.S. 
foreign policy; daily press briefings; directories of key officers of 
foreign service posts; etc. DOSFAN is accessible three ways on the 
Internet: 
 
Gopher:  dosfan.lib.uic.edu 
URL:  gopher://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/ 
WWW:  http://www.state.gov 
 
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a quarterly 
basis by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on 
the Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an 
array of official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. 
Priced at $80 ($100 foreign), one-year subscriptions include four discs 
(MSDOS and Macintosh compatible) and are available from the 
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. 
Box 37194, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 
or fax (202) 512-2250. 
 
Federal Bulletin Board (BBS). A broad range of foreign policy 
information also is carried on the BBS, operated by the U.S. 
Government Printing Office (GPO). By modem, dial (202) 512-1387. 
For general BBS information, call (202) 512-1530. 
 
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department 
of Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related 
information, including Country Commercial Guides. It is available on 
the Internet (www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB 
Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information.  
 
======================================== 
Background Notes Series  --  Published by the United States 
Department of State  --  Bureau of Public Affairs  --  Office of Public 
Communication  --  Washington, DC  --  Series Editor:  Marilyn J. 
Bremner 
 
Uruguay  --  Department of State Publication 7857  --  December 1995 
 
This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without 
permission; citation of this source is appreciated.  For sale by the 
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, 
Washington, DC 20402. 
 

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