Uruguay borders the two great South American powers, Brazil to the north and Argentina to the west. Argentina is part of the Martín García island, an enclave in Uruguayan waters. The Uruguay River, the largest course of the Uruguayan hydrographic network, forms the natural border with Argentina. Along the coasts of the estuary of the Río de la Plata, into which the Paraná and Uruguay rivers meet, rise the respective capitals, Montevideo and Buenos Aires. The river also causes Uruguay and Argentina, both founding members of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur), to share strong interests related to trade, safety and the environment. At the same time, the Uruguay River is a source of tension between the two countries, such as those that arose following the dispute, which began in 2005, over the pulp industries project, and the dispute over the joint management of the Río de la Plata estuary.
In December 2014, Tabaré Vázquez was elected in the second round, who, already president from 2004 to 2009, interrupted the supremacy of the Partido Colorado and the Partido Nacional de Uruguay or Partido Blanco (both right-wing), traditional holders of political power and sole forces of government since 1985, the year of Uruguayan democratic revival. Vázquez, head of the Frente Amplio (center-left), succeeded the charismatic José ‘Pepe’ Mujica Cordano, in office since 2009.
Mujica, using Brazilian President Lula as a model, during his mandate has carried out innovative and counter-current political reforms, the echo of which has spread globally. Vázquez, less charismatic and original than his predecessor, was elected on the basis of a continuity program of Mujica’s policies. The new president is reputed to be an excellent administrator and has already declared that he wants to improve the efficiency of the state apparatus and that he wants to adopt stricter policies towards public finances. While the large majority in parliament and the cooperative attitude of the opposition seem to favor the new government. For Uruguay government and politics, please check a2zgov.com.
In foreign policy Vázquez does not seem to be following in Mujica’s footsteps for now, returning to more traditional orientations. Reconciliation with Venezuela, with which relations had cracked due to criticism of human rights issues, marked the first year of government: in July 2015, Venezuela pledged to buy Uruguayan agricultural products in exchange for a early repayment of some debts related to the purchase of oil. At the same time, Montevideo proposed a reform of Mercosur, with the ultimate goal of creating a free trade area with the EU.. The proposal immediately found the support of the Brazilian government, while the Argentine response, with which relations are compromised by trade issues, was more lukewarm.
Relations with the United States, with which Uruguay was aligned at the beginning of the twenty-first century, maintain strategic relevance, thanks both to the economic agreements in force and to the Rose Garden agreement, agreed within Mercosur. Relations with the EU are good, also by virtue of the fact that 90% of the Uruguayan population is of European origin, especially Spanish and Italian. Uruguay is a member of other relevant regional organizations, such as the Latin American Integration Association (Aladi), based in Montevideo, and the Rio Group, which deals with security issues. On the level of international cooperation, however, the country is present in some of the most important peacekeeping missionsof ‘ A, including MONUC in the Democratic Republic of Congo and MINUSTAH in Haiti.
Population, society and rights
Uruguay has more than 3.4 million residents, of which more than a third reside in the capital Montevideo. The population density is low (19.5 residents per square kilometer), while the urbanization rate reaches 95.2%. In recent decades, the number of residents has remained virtually unchanged, due both to the low birth rate and to the strong emigration to Argentina and the European Union, which has increased due to the economic crises that have hit the country. The percentage of elderly people on the total population it is the highest in all of Latin America. Uruguay has a good democratic tradition: freedom of expression is respected and violations of the freedom of the press are rare. Women’s suffrage, divorce, free and compulsory education have often taken place well in advance of the countries of the region. Furthermore, since 2007, Uruguayan law recognizes civil unions between same-sex citizens.
However, the country still suffers from the consequences of the military dictatorship of the 1970s. Vázquez, at the time of his first term, reopened the question of the disappearances of political opponents and, between 2006 and 2007, numerous perpetrators of human rights violations were arrested, such as former president Juan María Bordaberry (later sentenced to thirty years in prison for the 1973 coup) and his predecessor and foreign minister, Jorge Pacheco Areco, both allegedly behind the assassination of four opposition politicians in 1976. Another progress in this direction was recorded on October 27, 2011, when the ruling center-left coalition approved a law preventing the statute of limitations of the dictatorship’s crimes.
Economy and energy
Tabaré Vázquez’s economic policy choices contributed to overcoming the 2002 economic crisis and mitigating the effects of the 2008 international crisis. Furthermore, they allowed his successor Mujica to take office in the government with bright prospects for growth and development. Vázquez has tripled inward foreign investment, reduced the incidence of poverty from 37% to 26%, halved unemployment rates and paid a billion dollars of public debt to the International Monetary Fund (Imf). The latter, in March 2010, praised Uruguayan economic policy and the reaction to the global recession. Among the factors that have encouraged economic growth is the ability of the management to reduce its dependence on the great South American powers, to diversify export markets and to strengthen the banking system. Thanks to these policies, the worsening of the economies of Brazil and Argentina has not yet had any particular repercussions on the country’s growth, which is expected to be around 3% in the coming years.
Uruguay manages to attract investments from neighboring countries such as Brazil, which invests in some strategic sectors such as agriculture, oil and banking, and Argentina, which plays an important role in river trade, as the routes of communication of the two countries are the same and constitute a strategic resource for both. In addition, 50% of tourists also come from Argentina, the first partner for imports. In February 2011, however, Buenos Aires drew up a list of 400 products on which it imposed entry restrictions. Although the measure was approved to stem the danger of an invasion of Chinese goods, Uruguayan companies were also affected.
The energy sector could present significant developments if the statement by the president of the national oil company Ancarp is confirmed that significant oil and gas fields have been found in seven departments of the country. The start of the works could increase foreign investments in the country which, thanks to an efficient legal system and the favorable national economic situation, are already very high. Furthermore, the new extractions would decrease the strong dependence on oil imports (which represents 55.9% of the energy mix).
On the environmental level, Uruguay monitors, through the Ministry of the Environment, established in 1990, on the pollution of rivers, with greater commitment after the Argentine demonstrations for the construction of paper mills on the Uruguay River, and on the problem of soil erosion.