History


Colonization


During the colonial era the present-day territory of Uruguay was known as Banda Oriental (east bank of River Uruguay) and was a buffer territory between the competing colonial pretensions of Portuguese Brazil and Spanish Empire.
The Portuguese first explored the region of present-day Uruguay in 1512-1513. The first European explorer to land here was Juan Díaz de Solís in 1516, but he was killed and eaten by natives. Ferdinand Magellan anchored at the future site of Montevideo in 1520. Sebastian Cabot in 1526 explored Río de la Plata but no permanent settlements took root here. Absence of gold and silver limited settlement of the region during the 16th and 17th centuries.
In 1603 cattle and horses were introduced here by the order of Hernando Arias de Saavedra and by the mid-17th century their number had greatly multiplied.
The first permanent settlement on the territory of present-day Uruguay was founded by the Spanish Jesuits in 1624 at Villa Soriano on the Río Negro, where they tried to establish a Misiones Orientales system for the Charruas.
Portuguese colonists in 1680 established Colônia do Sacramento on the northern bank of La Plata river, on the opposite coast from Buenos Aires. Spanish colonial activity increased as Spain sought to limit Portugal’s expansion of Brazil’s frontiers. In 1726 Spanish established San Felipe de Montevideo on the northern bank and its natural harbor soon developed into a commercial center competing with Buenos Aires, they also moved to capture Colonia del Sacramento. Treaty of Madrid secured Spanish control over Banda Oriental, settlers were given land here and a local cabildo was created.
In 1776 the new Viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata was established with capital in Buenos Aires and it included territory of Banda Oriental. By this time the land was divided and used by cattle ranchers to raise cattle.[6] By 1800 more than 10,000 people lived in Montevideo and another 20,000 in the rest of the province. Out of these about 30% were African slaves.
Uruguay’s early 19th century history was shaped by ongoing fights between the British, Spanish, Portuguese, and local colonial forces for dominance of the La Plata basin. In 1806 and 1807, the British as a part of Anglo-Spanish War (1796–1808), launched the British invasions of the Río de la Plata. Buenos Aires was invaded in 1806, and then liberated by forces from Montevideo led by Santiago de Liniers. A new and stronger British attack in 1807 aimed to Montevideo, which was occupied by a 10,000-strong British force. The British forces were then unable to invade Buenos Aires for the second time, and Liniers demanded the liberation of Montevideo in the terms of capitulation. The British gave up their attacks when the Peninsular War turned Britain and Spain into allies against Napoleon.

Struggle for independence, 1811-28

May Revolution of 1810 in Buenos Aires marked the end of Spanish rule in the Viceroyalty and establishment of United Provinces of Rio de la Plata. Revolution divided inhabitants of Montevideo, many of whom remained royalists, loyal to the Spanish crown and revolutionaries who supported independence of provinces from Spain. This soon led to the First Banda Oriental campaign between Buenos Aires and Spanish viceroy. Local patriots under José Gervasio Artigas issued Proclamation of 26 February 1811 which called for a war against the Spanish rule. With the help from Buenos Aires, Artigas defeated Spaniards on May 18, 1811 at the Battle of Las Piedras and began Siege of Montevideo. At this point Spanish viceroy invited Portuguese from Brazil to launch a military invasion of Banda Oriental. Afraid to lose this province to the Portuguese, Buenos Aires made peace with the Spanish viceroy. Only British pressure persuaded Portuguese to withdraw in late 1811, leaving royalists in control of Montevideo. Angered by this betrayal from Buenos Aires, Artigas with some 4000 supporters retreated to Entre Ríos Province. During the Second Banda Oriental campaign in 1813 Artigas joined José Rondeau’s army from Buenos Aires and started the second siege of Montevideo.
Artigas participated in formation of League of the Free People, which united several provinces that wanted to be free from Buenos Aires dominance and centralized state, envisioned by the Congress of Tucumán. Artigas was proclaimed Protector of this League. Guided by his political ideas (Artiguism) he launched a land reform, dividing land to small farmers.

Uruguayan war, 1864-65

The Uruguayan War was fought between governing Blancos and alliance of Empire of Brazil, Colorados who were supported by Argentina. In 1863 the Colorado leader Venancio Flores launched the Liberating Crusade aimed at toppling President Bernardo Berro and his Colorado–Blanco coalition (Fusionist) government. Flores was aided by Argentina’s President Bartolomé Mitre. The Fusionist coalition collapsed as Colorados joined Flores’ ranks.
The Uruguayan civil developed into a crisis of international scope that destabilized the entire region. Even before the Colorado rebellion, the Blancos had sought an alliance with Paraguayan dictator Francisco Solano López. Berro’s now purely Blanco government also received support from Argentine Federalists, who opposed Mitre and his Unitarians. The situation deteriorated as the Empire of Brazil was drawn into the conflict. Brazil decided to intervene to reestablish the security of its southern frontiers and its influence regional affairs. In a combined offensive against Blanco strongholds, the Brazilian–Colorado troops advanced through Uruguayan territory, eventually surrounding Montevideo. Faced with certain defeat, the Blanco government capitulated on 20 February 1865.
The short-lived war would have been regarded as an outstanding success for Brazilian and Argentine interests, had Paraguayan intervention in support of the Blancos (with attacks upon Brazilian and Argentine provinces) not led to the long and costly Paraguayan War. In February 1868 former Presidents Bernardo Berro and Venancio Flores were assassinated.


Social and economic developments up to 1900

Colorado Rule
Colorados ruled without interruption from 1865 until 1958 despite internal conflicts, conflicts with neighboring states, political and economic fluctuations, and a wave of mass immigration from Europe.
1872 power-sharing agreement
The government of General Lorenzo Batlle y Grau (1868–72) suppressed the Revolution of the Lances with started in September 1872 under the leadership of Blancos leader Timoteo Aparacio. After two years of struggle, a peace agreement was signed on April 6, 1872 when a power-sharing agreement was signed giving Blancos control over four out of thirteen departments of Uruguay – Canelones, San Jose, Florida and Cerro Largo, and a guaranteed, if limited representation in Parliament. This establishment of the policy of co-participation represented the search for a new formula of compromise, based on the coexistence of the party in power and the party in opposition.
Despite this agreement, Colorado rule was threatened by the failed Tricolor Revolution in 1875 and Revolution of the Quebracho in 1886.
The Colorado effort to reduce Blancos to only three departments caused a Blanco uprising of 1897, that ended with creation of 16 departments out of which Blancos now had control over six. Blancos were given 1/3 of seats in Congress. This division of power lasted until the President Jose Batlle y Ordonez instituted his political reforms which caused the last uprising by Blancos in 1904 that ended with the Battle of Masoller and death of Blanco leader Aparicio Saravia.
Military in power, 1875-90
The power-sharing agreement of 1872 split Colorados in two factions – principistas, who were open to cooperation with Blancos and netos, who were against it. In 1873 Presidential election netos supported election of José Eugenio Ellauri, who was a surprise candidate with no political power-base. Five days of rioting in Montevideo between the two Colorado factions led to a military coup of January 15, 1875. Ellauri was exiled and neto representative Pedro Varela assumed Presidency.
In May 1875 principistas began the Tricolor Revolution, which was defeated by late 1875 by unexpected coalition of Blanco leader Aparicio Saravia and Army under the command of Lorenzo Latorre.
Between 1875 and 1890, the military became the center of political power.[14] Presidency was controlled by colonels Latorre, Santos and Tajes. This period lasted through Presidencies of Pedro Varela (January 1875 – March 1876), Lorenzo Latorre (March 1876 – March 1880), Francisco Antonino Vidal (March 1880 – March 1882), Maximo Santos (March 1882 – March 1886), Francisco Antonino Vidal (March 1886 – May 1886), Maximo Santos (May 1886 – November 1886), Maximo Tajes (November 1886 – March 1890).
In 1876 Colonel Lorenzo Latorre overthrew the government of President Pedro Varela and established a strong executive Presidency. Financial situation was stabilized and exports, mainly of Hereford beef and Merino wool, increased. Fray Bentos corned beef production started. Power of regional caudillos (mostly Blancos) was reduced and a modern state apparatus established.
Latorre was followed by Maximo Santos, during whose rule rebels from Argentina invaded on March 28, 1886 but were soon defeated by Maximo Tajes. On August 17, 1886 during an assassination atte
mpt President Santos was shot in the jaw, and faced with mounting health and economical problems he resigned on November 18, 1886. Maximo Tajes was then elected President.
During this authoritarian period, the government took steps toward the organization of the country as a modern state, encouraging its economic and social transformation. Pressure groups (consisting mainly of businessmen, hacendados, and industrialists) were organized and had a strong influence on government.[14] A transition period during Tajes Presidency (1886–90) followed, during which politicians began recovering lost ground and some civilian participation in government occurred.
Immigration
After the “Guerra Grande” there was a steady increase in the number of immigrants, which led to creation of large Italian Uruguayan and Spanish Uruguayan communities. Within a few decades population of Uruguay doubled, but Montevideo’s tripled, as most of the recent immigrants settled there. The number of immigrants rose from 48% of the population in 1860 to 68% in 1868. In the 1870s, a further 100,000 Europeans arrived, so that by 1879 about 438,000 people were living in Uruguay, a quarter of them in Montevideo. Due to immigration, Uruguay’s population reached 1 million in 1900.


The coup of 1933

Batlle’s split executive model lasted until 1933, when during the economic crisis of the Great Depression, President Gabriel Terra assumed dictatorial powers.
The new welfare state was hit hard by the Great Depression, which also caused a growing political crisis. Terra blamed the ineffective collective leadership model and after securing agreement from the Blanco leader Luis Alberto de Herrera in March 1933 suspended the Congress, abolished the collective executive, established a dictatorial regime and introduced a new Constitution in 1934. The former President Brum committed suicide in protest against the coup. In 1938 Terra was succeeded by his close political follower and brother-in-law General Alfredo Baldomir. During this time state retained large control over nation’s economy and commerce, while pursuing free-market policies. After the new Constitution of 1942 was introduced, political freedoms were restored.
World War II
On January 25, 1942 Uruguay broke diplomatic relations with Nazi Germany, as 21 American nations did the same (except for Argentina), but did not participate in any actual fighting. In 1945 it formally joined the Declaration by United Nations.
Graf Spree
On December 13, 1939 the Battle of the River Plate took place off the coast of Uruguay between British forces and the German “pocket battleship” Admiral Graf Spee. After a 72-hour layover in port of Montevideo the captain of the Graf Spee, believing he was hopelessly outnumbered by the British, ordered the ship to be scuttled. Most of the surviving crew of 1,150 were interned in Uruguay and Argentina and many remained after the war. A German Embassy official in Uruguay said his government has sent an official letter stating its position as to whether Germany claims ownership of the vessel. The German claim would be invalid because early in 1940 the Nazi government sold salvaging rights to the vessel to a Uruguayan businessman who was acting on behalf of the British government. However, any salvaging rights would have expired under Uruguayan law. By 1940 Germany had threatened to break off diplomatic relations with Uruguay. Germany protested that Uruguay gave safe harbor to the HMS Carnarvon Castle after it was attacked by a Nazi raider. The ship was repaired with steel plate reportedly salvaged from the Graf Spee.


Military dictatorship, 1973-85


President Jorge Pacheco declared a state of emergency in 1968, and this was followed by a further suspension of civil liberties in 1972 by his successor, President Juan María Bordaberry. President Bordaberry brought the Army in to combat the guerrillas of the Movement of National Liberation (MLN), which was led by Raúl Sendic. After defeating the Tupamaros, the military seized power in 1973. Torture was effectively used to gather information needed to break up the MLN and also against trade union officers, members of the Communist Party and even regular citizens. Torture practices extended until the end of Uruguayan dictatorship in 1985. Uruguay soon had the highest per capita percentage of political prisoners in the world. The MLN heads were isolated in improvised prisons and subjected to repeated acts of torture. Emigration from Uruguay rose drastically, as large numbers of Uruguayans looked for political asylum throughout the world.
Bordaberry was finally removed from his “president charge” in 1976. He was first succeeded by Alberto Demicheli. Subsequently a national council chosen by the military government elected Aparicio Méndez. In 1980, in order to legitimize their position, the armed forces proposed a change in the constitution, to be subjected to a popular vote by a referendum. The “No” votes—against the constitutional changes totalled 57.2% of the votes, showing the unpopularity of the de facto government, that was later accelerated by an economic crisis.
In 1981, General Gregorio Álvarez assumed the presidency. Massive protests against the dictatorship broke out in 1984. After a 24-hour general strike, talks began and the armed forces announced a plan for return to civilian rule. National elections were held later in 1984. Colorado Party leader Julio María Sanguinetti won the presidency and, following the brief interim Presidency of Rafael Addiego Bruno, served from 1985 to 1990. The first Sanguinetti administration implemented economic reforms and consolidated democratization following the country’s years under military rule. Nonetheless, Sanguinetti never supported the human rights violations accusations, and his government did not prosecute the military officials who engaged in repression and torture against either the Tupamaros or the MLN. Instead, he opted for signing an amnesty treaty called in Spanish “Ley de Amnistia.”
Around 180 Uruguayans are known to have been killed during the 12-year military rule from 1973-1985.[28] Most were killed in Argentina and other neighbouring countries, with only 36 of them having been killed in Uruguay.[29] A large number of those killed, were never found and the missing people have been referred to as the “disappeared”, or “desaparecidos” in Spanish.

Recent History

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. President Lacalle executed major economic structural reforms and pursued further liberalization of trade regimes, including Uruguay’s inclusion in the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) in 1991. 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 2002.
The 1999 national elections were held under a new electoral system established by a 1996 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 Broad Front candidate Tabaré Vázquez.
The Colorado and National Parties continued their legislative coalition, as neither party by itself won as many seats as the 40% of each house won by the Broad Front coalition. The formal coalition ended in November 2002, when the Blancos withdrew their ministers from the cabinet, although the Blancos continued to support the Colorados on most issues.
Batlle’s five-year term was marked by economic recession and uncertainty, first with the 1999 devaluation of the Brazilian real, then with the outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease (aftosa) in Uruguay’s key beef sector in 2001, and finally with the political and economic collapse of Argentina. Unemployment rose to close to twenty percent, real wages fell, the peso was devalued and the percentage of Uruguayans in poverty reached almost forty percent.
These worsening economic conditions played a part in turning public opinion against the free market economic policies adopted by the Batlle administration and its predecessors, leading to popular rejection through plebiscites of proposals for privatization of the state petroleum company in 2003 and of the state water company in 2004. In 2004 Uruguayans elected Tabaré Vázquez as president, while giving the Broad Front coalition a majority in both houses of parliament. The newly elected government, while pledging to continue payments on Uruguay’s external debt, has also promised to undertake a crash jobs programs to attack the widespread problems of poverty and unemployment.
In 2009, former Tupamaro and agriculture minister José Mujica, was elected president, subsequently succeeding Vázquez on March 1, 2010.

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