Uruguay - Tips

Uruguay Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
June 2007

Background Note: Uruguay

Flag of Uruguay is nine equal horizontal stripes of white (top and bottom)
alternating with blue; there is a white square in the upper hoist-side corner
with a yellow sun bearing a human face known as the Sun of May and 16 rays
alternately triangular and wavy.


Oriental Republic of Uruguay

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.

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Uruguayan(s).
Population (2006): 3.3 million.
Annual growth rate: 0.3%.
Ethnic groups (est.): European descent 93%, African descent 6%, mestizo 1%.
Religions: Roman Catholic 52%, Protestant and other Christian 16%, Jewish 2%,
non-professing or other 30%.
Language: Spanish.
Education: Literacy (2004)--97.7%.
Health (2005): Life expectancy--75.6 yrs. (79.4 yrs females; 72.0 yrs.
males). Infant mortality rate--14.3/1,000.
Work force (1.3 million, 2006): Manufacturing--16%; agriculture--7%;
commerce, restaurants & hotels--23%; other services--43%.

Type: Republic.
Independence: 1825.
Constitution: First 1830, current 1967, most recently amended December 1996.
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,
Encuentro Progresista-Frente Amplio, Nuevo Espacio.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Gross domestic product (GDP): $19.3 billion; $16.8 billion (2005); $13.2
billion (2004).
Annual growth rate: +7.0% (2006); +6.6% (2005); +12.3% (2004); +2.5% (2003);
-11.0% (2002).
Per capita GDP: $5,828; $5,200 (2005); $4,100 (2004).
Natural resources: Arable land, pastures, hydroelectric power, granite,
Agriculture (8.9% of GDP): Products--beef, wool, rice, wheat, barley, corn.
Industry (22.2% of GDP): Types--meat processing, wool, textiles, leather,
leather apparel, beverages and tobacco, chemicals, cement, petroleum
Services: About 60% of GDP.
Trade: Exports (f.o.b.)--$4.0 billion: meat, wool, hides, leather, wool
products, fish, rice, furs. Major markets--United States (22%), Brazil (13%),
Argentina (8%), Germany (4%). Imports (c.i.f.)--$3.9 billion: machinery,
chemicals, fuel, vehicles. Major suppliers--Brazil (26%); Argentina (25%),
United States (8%), China (8%), Germany (3%).

Uruguayans share a Spanish linguistic and cultural background, even though
about one-quarter of the population is of Italian origin. Most are nominally
Roman Catholic although the majority of Uruguayans do not actively practice a
religion. Church and state are officially separated.

Uruguay is distinguished by its high literacy rate, large urban middle class,
and relatively even income distribution. The average Uruguayan standard of
living 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 Spain. Emigration to the United States also rose
significantly. As a result of the low birth rate, high life expectancy, and
relatively high rate of emigration of younger people, Uruguay's population is
quite mature.

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 conflicts between the British, Spanish,
Portuguese, and colonial forces for dominance in the Argentina-Brazil-Uruguay
region. In 1811, Jose Gervasio Artigas, who became Uruguay´s national hero,
launched a successful revolt against Spain. In 1821, the Provincia Oriental
del Rio de la Plata, present-day Uruguay, was annexed to Brazil by Portugal.
The Provincia declared independence from Brazil in August 25, 1825 (after
numerous revolts in 1821, 1823, and 1825) but decided to adhere to a regional
federation with Argentina.

The regional federation defeated Brazil after a 3-year war. The 1828 Treaty
of Montevideo, fostered by the United Kingdom, gave birth to Uruguay as an
independent state. The 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 neighboring states, political and economic
fluctuations, and large inflows of immigrants, mostly from Europe. Jose
Batlle y Ordoñez, 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 a 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, characterized by
repression and widespread human rights abuses. 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 served from 1985 to 1990. The first
Sanguinetti administration implemented economic reforms and consolidated
democracy 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 public approval by plebiscite of a
controversial general amnesty for military leaders accused of committing
human rights violations under the military regime, and sped the release of
former guerrillas.

The National Party's Luis Alberto Lacalle won the 1989 presidential election
and served from 1990 to 1995. Lacalle executed major structural economic
reforms and pursued further liberalization of the trade regime. Uruguay
became a founding member of MERCOSUR in 1991 (the Southern Cone Common
Market, which includes Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay). Despite economic
growth during Lacalle's term, adjustment and privatization efforts provoked
political opposition, and some reforms were overturned by referendum.

In the 1994 elections, former President Sanguinetti won a new term, which ran
from 1995 until March 2000. As no single party had a majority in the General
Assembly, the National Party joined with Sanguinetti's Colorado Party in a
coalition government. The Sanguinetti government continued Uruguay's economic
reforms and integration into MERCOSUR. Other important reforms were aimed at
improving the electoral system, social security, education, and public
safety. The economy grew steadily for most of Sanguinetti's term, until low
commodity prices and economic difficulties in its main export markets caused
a recession in 1999, which continued into 2003.

The 1999 national elections were held under a new electoral system
established by constitutional amendment. Primaries in April decided single
presidential candidates for each party, and national elections on October 31
determined representation in the legislature. As no presidential candidate
received a majority in the October election, a runoff was held in November.
In the runoff, Colorado Party candidate Jorge Batlle, aided by the support of
the National Party, defeated Frente Amplio candidate Tabaré Vázquez.

The legislative coalition of the Colorado and National parties that held
during most of Batlle´s administration ended in November 2002, when the
Blancos withdrew their ministers from the cabinet. Throughout most of his
administration, President Batlle had to handle Uruguay´s largest economic
crisis in recent history, which impacted on poverty and led to increased
emigration. Aside from successfully addressing the crisis, Batlle increased
international trade, attracted foreign investment and tried to resolve issues
related to Uruguayans who disappeared during the military government.

The two traditional political parties, the National ("Blanco") and Colorado
parties, which were founded in the early 19th century, in the past garnered
about 90% of the vote but have seen their share decline over the past
decades. At the same time the share of the Frente Amplio, a coalition of
various left-of-center factions that became the largest political force in
1999, was on the rise. In October 2004 presidential elections, Tabare Vazquez
ran against the Blanco candidate Jorge Larranaga, a former state governor and
senator who got 34.3% of votes, and against the Colorado candidate, former
Interior Minister Stirling who got 10.4%. President Vazquez won the elections
in the first round, with 50.5% of ballots, and his party achieved
parliamentary majority. The Frente Amplio has ruled Montevideo since 1990.

During its first 27 months in power, the Vázquez administration made good on
its campaign promise to re-examine the human rights abuses committed during
the period of military dictatorship and uncovered important forensic
evidence. Bilateral relations with Argentina were strained by an ongoing
dispute over the construction in Uruguay of large wood pulp mills on a shared
river. Legislation tended to pass easily as the Frente Amplio enjoyed
majorities in both houses of congress.

Uruguay's 1967 constitution institutionalizes a strong presidency, subject to
legislative and judicial checks. The president's term is 5 years. Thirteen
cabinet ministers, appointed by the president, head executive departments.
The constitution 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. In the October 2004
general elections, the Frente Amplio won the presidency in the first round
with 50.7% and a majority of the seats in each chamber. The National (Blanco)
Party won 34.1%, the Colorado Party 10.3%, and the Independent Party 1.8%.

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.

Principal Government Officials
President--Tabaré Ramón Vázquez Rosas
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Reinaldo Apolo Gargano Ostuni
Ambassador to the United States--Carlos Alberto Gianelli Derois
Ambassador to the United Nations--Alejandro Artucio Rodriguez
Ambassador to the OAS--Dr. Lujan Flores

Uruguay maintains an Embassy in the United States at 1913 "I" Street NW,
Washington, DC 20006 (tel. 202-331-1313, fax 202-331-8142). Uruguay maintains
consulates in Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, New York and San Juan, Puerto

Uruguay's economy remains dependent on agriculture. Agriculture and
agri-industry account for 23% of GDP, and for over two-thirds of total
exports. Leading economic sectors include meat processing, agribusiness,
wood, wool, leather production and apparel, textiles, and chemicals. Though
still small, the information software industry is growing rapidly.

In 2002, Uruguay went through the steepest economic and financial crisis in
recent history, which developed mostly from external factors. Devaluation in
Brazil in 1999 made Uruguayan goods less competitive, and an outbreak of foot
and mouth disease in 2001 curtailed beef exports to North America. Starting
in late 2001, an economic crisis in Argentina undermined Uruguay's economy,
with exports to Argentina and tourist revenues falling dramatically. In
mid-2002 Argentine withdrawals from Uruguayan banks started a bank run that
was overcome only by massive borrowing from international financial
institutions. This, in turn, led to serious debt sustainability problems. A
successful debt swap helped restore confidence and significantly reduced
country risk.

Uruguay's economy resumed growth in 2003--with a 2.5% rise in GDP--and surged
in 2004 and 2005 with growth rates of 12.3% and 6.6%, respectively. Growth
equaled 7.0% in 2006 and is expected to reach 4.5% in 2007.

Uruguay's spectacular recovery over the past couple of years has been based
on increased exports, especially to North America. The U.S. became Uruguay's
largest export market in 2004, thanks in large part to meat exports. Uruguay
enjoys a positive investment climate, with a strong legal system and open
financial markets. It grants equal treatment to national and foreign
investors and, aside from very few sectors, there is neither de jure nor de
facto discrimination toward investment by source or origin.

Uruguay has traditionally favored substantial state involvement in the
economy, and privatization is still widely opposed. Recent governments have
carried out cautious programs of economic liberalization similar to those in
many other Latin American countries. They included lowering tariffs,
controlling deficit spending, reducing inflation, and cutting the size of

Uruguay's economy is based on free enterprise and private ownership. In spite
of some de-monopolization and privatization over the past ten years, the
state continues to play a major role in the economy, owning either fully or
partially, companies in insurance, water supply, electricity, telephone
service, petroleum refining, airlines, postal service, railways, and banking.

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 14,500 for the army, 6,000
for the navy, and 3,000 for the air force. As of February 2005, Uruguay's
contributions amounted to 44% of the total UN peace keeping troops sent by
the region (2,486 soldiers and officers in 11 UN peacekeeping missions). As
of August 2006, Uruguay had nearly 1,150 military personnel deployed to Haiti
in support of MINUSTAH; its other major PKO troop deployment was in the

Uruguay traditionally has had strong political and cultural links with its
neighbors and Europe. With globalization and regional economic problems, its
links to North America have strengthened. Uruguay is a strong advocate of
constitutional democracy, political pluralism, and individual liberties. Its
international relations historically have been guided by the principles of
non-intervention, multilateralism, respect for national sovereignty, and
reliance on the rule of law to settle disputes. Uruguay's international
relations also reflect its drive to seek export markets and foreign
investment. It is a founding member of MERCOSUR, the Southern Cone Common
Market also composed of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. As of December 2006,
Venezuela was in the process of becoming MERCOSUR's fifth full member, and
Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru were associate members.

Uruguay is a member of the Rio 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. Usually considered a
neutral country and blessed with a professional diplomatic corps, Uruguay is
often called on to preside over international bodies. 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.

U.S.-Uruguayan relations traditionally have been based on a common outlook
and emphasis on democratic ideals. In 2002, Uruguay and the U.S. created a
Joint Commission on Trade and Investment (JCTI) to exchange ideas on a
variety of economic topics. In March 2003, the JCTI identified six areas of
concentration until the eventual signing of the Free Trade Area of the
Americas (FTAA): customs issues, intellectual property protection,
investment, labor, environment, and trade in goods. In late 2004, Uruguay and
the U.S. signed an Open Skies Agreement, which was ratified in May 2006. In
November 2005, they signed a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), which entered
into force on November 1, 2006. A Trade and Investment Framework Agreement
(TIFA) was signed in January 2007. More than 80 U.S.-owned companies operate
in Uruguay, and many more market U.S. goods and services.

Uruguay cooperates with the U.S. on law enforcement matters such as regional
efforts to fight drug trafficking and terrorism. It has also been very active
in human rights issues.

From 1999 through early 2003 Uruguayan citizens were exempted from visas when
entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. This exemption was
withdrawn on April 16, 2003, based on the high overstay rates for Uruguayans
and worldwide national security concerns.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Frank E. Baxter
Deputy Chief of Mission--James D. Nealon
Political/Economic Counselor--Peter Harding
Economic/Commercial Section Chief--James Perez
Consul--Blossom Perry
Chief, Management Section--Theresa Stewart
Public Affairs Officer--Linda González
Defense Attaché--LTC Frank Wagdalt, USA
Chief, Office of Defense Cooperation--Col. Maria Cordero, USAF

The U.S. Embassy in Uruguay is located at Lauro Muller 1776, Montevideo (tel:
598-2 418-7777; fax: 598-2-410-0022). The mailing address for the embassy is
UNIT 4500, APO AA 34035. The Embassy also has an Internet web page at http://

Other Contact Information
U.S. Department of Commerce
Trade Information Center
International Trade Administration
14th and Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Tel: 800-USA-TRADE
Home page: http://www.export.gov/

American Chamber of Commerce in Uruguay
Plaza Independencia 831, Oficina 209
Edificio Plaza Mayor
11100 Montevideo, Uruguay
Tel: (5982) 908-9186
Fax: (5982) 908-9187
Home page: http://www.ccuruguayusa.com/
E-mail: info@ccuruguayusa.com

The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program advises Americans
traveling and residing abroad through Consular Information Sheets, Public
Announcements, and Travel Warnings. Consular Information Sheets exist for all
countries and include information on entry and exit requirements, currency
regulations, health conditions, safety and security, crime, political
disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.
Public Announcements are issued to disseminate information quickly about
terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas that
pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Travel Warnings
are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel
to a certain country because the situation is dangerous or unstable.

For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad
should regularly monitor the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet
web site at http://www.travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution,
Public Announcements, and Travel Warnings can be found. Consular Affairs
Publications, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a
safe trip abroad, are also available at http://www.travel.state.gov. For
additional information on international travel, see http://www.usa.gov/

The Department of State encourages all U.S citizens who traveling or residing
abroad to register via the State Department's travel registration website or
at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Registration will make your
presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an
emergency and will enable you to receive up-to-date information on security

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained
by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or the regular
toll line 1-202-501-4444 for callers outside the U.S. and Canada.

The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of
State's single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport
information. Telephone: 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778). Customer service
representatives and operators for TDD/TTY are available Monday-Friday, 7:00
a.m. to 12:00 midnight, Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 877-FYI-TRIP
(877-394-8747) and a web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm give 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-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government
Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Further Electronic Information
Department of State Web Site. Available on the Internet at http://
www.state.gov, the Department of State web site provides timely, global
access to official U.S. foreign policy information, including Background
Notes and daily press briefings along with the directory of key officers of
Foreign Service posts and more. The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC)
provides security information and regional news that impact U.S. companies
working abroad through its website http://www.osac.gov

Export.gov provides a portal to all export-related assistance and market
information offered by the federal government and provides trade leads, free
export counseling, help with the export process, and more.
STAT-USA/Internet, a service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides
authoritative economic, business, and international trade information from
the Federal government. The site includes current and historical
trade-related releases, international market research, trade opportunities,
and country analysis and provides access to the National Trade Data Bank. ***********************************************************
See http://www.state.gov/r/pa/bgn/ for all Background notes
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