Uruguay History

Civil wars and the extermination of the indigenous

Since Independence, according to Bridgat, Uruguay has tried to join the Western world by expelling one of the surviving indigenous peoples, known as the Charruas, to keep their lands. The 18 of April of 1831, being President General Fructuoso Rivera and Minister of War General Manuel Oribe The Salsipuedes Massacre was carried out in which about thirty Charruas Indians die, the most important of a series of battles with the native peoples, which resulted in the emigration of many Charruas to Brazil and Argentina. This battle is the corollary of a war that precedes the arrival of the Spanish to the Río de la Plata, between the Charrúa and the Guaranitic Nation, the latter protected by General Rivera.

The first forty years of the new country witnessed great political instability: the continuous confrontations between whites and colorados gave rise to the so-called Great War and the long siege of Montevideo, with the country divided between two rival governments, and which witnessed serious interference in its internal affairs by Argentina and Brazil. That war was followed by a series of coups and revolutions, which even led Uruguay to participate in the long and costly War of the Triple Alliance against Paraguay. Only after the Revolution of the Spears, in 1872, began a stage of more peaceful resolution of political situations, although small civil wars continued to occur as late as 1904.

The Switzerland of America

At the end of the 19th century the country had completed its organization and during the Batllista era (Led by the president at that time, José Batlle y Ordóñez) it consolidated its institutional framework and reached high levels of well-being. Due to this, Uruguay began to be known internationally as “the Switzerland of America “. Uruguay was one of the first countries to establish by law the right to divorce (1917) and one of the first countries in the world to establish the right to suffrage for women. In addition, it was the second nation in the world that, following the postulates of José Pedro Varela, established by law a free, compulsory and secular educational system (1877).

During the period between 1940 – 1944 was the year that Uruguay entered the Second World War, the economy was overly dependent on foreign capital. One of Uruguay’s problems was that it depended 100% on the energy that came from abroad and therefore most of the benefits that were obtained went back out without giving any benefit to the country. For this reason, the growth and evolution of Uruguay were greatly diminished, since the capital outflow did not help national investment.

The export era

The engine of growth in Uruguay, as in many other Latin American countries, was exports. Uruguay’s fundamental difference with the others is that it does not depend excessively on a single destination country.

The main goods exported by Uruguay were wool with 42% of the total percentage and frozen meat with 24% in second place. Only with these two goods Uruguay reached 66% of exports, giving special importance to the agricultural sector. These products specifically targeted three markets; which were Belgium, France and Argentina. But the total of the exports that went to these three countries did not reach 70% of the total export.

Economic decline

Around 1955 an economic crisis began that also affected political institutions. During the 1960s there was a continuous process of social and economic deterioration with a notable increase in the agitation of left-wing union sectors that were attacked by far-right organizations, such as the Uruguayan Standing Youth (JUP) and the Death Squad. Revolutionary groups emerged, among which the “Tupamaros” stand out, who leaned towards the urban guerrilla.

The Armed Forces, with the support of the North American CIA, were assuming prominence and carried out a civil-military coup d’état. During this process of great political tension, several confrontations occurred between the Tupamaros guerrilla movements and the Armed Forces. Facts such as the Taking of Pando stand out.


The 27 of June of 1973 the then president Juan Maria Bordaberry dissolves parliament with the support of the Armed Forces and months later creates a Council of State with legislative, administrative comptroller and commissioned to design a constitutional reform ” reaffirm republican-democratic principles “, restricts freedom of expression of thought and empowers the Armed Forces. and police to ensure the uninterrupted provision of public services.

The coup d’état of June 1973 and its resulting Council of State was immediately resisted by a large part of the citizenry and by all the workers grouped in the National Convention of Workers (CNT), as well as by the Student Movement, Mainly represented by the Federation of University Students (FEUU) of the University of the Republic, who carried out a general strike lasting 15 days, the longest in history so far.

The Armed Forces arrested leftist leaders and other citizens without a political position, accusing them of sedition during the entire time that the military dictatorship lasted, that is, until 1985, as well as (for brief periods) notorious leaders of traditional political parties such as Jorge Batlle Ibáñez and Luis Alberto Lacalle de Herrera, who would later become Presidents of the Republic with the return to democracy, among others.

Members of parties considered “left-wing” were held almost completely incommunicado and suffered physical and psychological torture (later verified by organizations such as the International Red Cross), while those of traditional parties were released, without ceasing to be suspects. at all times and under permanent surveillance. About a hundred political prisoners died in Uruguayan prisons and another 140 people are still missing.

In 1976, when Bordaberry finished his constitutional mandate, before the conviction that the political chaos that the country had experienced was the responsibility of its political system, he proposed to the Board of Commanders-in-Chief of the Armed Forces a reform of the country’s institutional system. eliminating political parties and replacing them with “currents of opinion” in a corporatist system, an idea that is not shared by the military. Disagreements between Bordaberry and the military generated the political crisis of June of 1976, which culminated in the removal of the president and the interim appointment of Alberto Demicheli to occupy the presidency.

Demicheli, who until then had served as president of the Council of State, assumed the presidency of the Republic on July 12. As the first measures of his government, he proceeded to sign Institutional Acts 1 and 2, by which he suspended “until further pronouncement” the call for general elections (scheduled for November of that same year) and the “Council of the Nation” was created..

Finally, on September 1, Demichelli delegated the presidency to Aparicio Méndez (former Minister of Public Health), who took office for a period of five years.

Uruguay History