Colonial times and the struggle for independence
The area of Uruguay was discovered in 1516 by the Spanish navigator Juan Díaz de Solís (* around 1470, † 1516), who was the first to sail the Río de la Plata. The Indians living there, the warlike Charrúa, offered resistance to the newcomers – Díaz de Solís and almost all of his companions were killed – and for a long time prevented a settlement in the country known as Banda Oriental de Uruguay (“East side of the Uruguay River”) from was used by the settlers on the south bank of the Río de la Plata for cattle breeding.
In an effort to gain access to the La Plata river system, which is important for traffic, the Portuguese, who were advancing on the Brazilian coast, founded Fort Colonia do Sacramento (today Colonia del Sacramento) in 1680. In return, the Spaniards, whose rule over the La Plata area was threatened, founded Montevideo in 1724. After eventful battles, the area came to Spain in 1777 (Peace of San Ildefonso). The Banda Oriental became part of the new viceroyalty Río de la Plata. After independence was proclaimed in Buenos Aires (May 25, 1810), the residents of Uruguay rose and defeated the groups loyal to Spain under J. Artigas (Las Piedras, May 18, 1811).
Montevideo was not conquered until June 23, 1814 with Argentine help. Artigas became the protector of the Banda Oriental. Another Brazilian advance led to the occupation of Montevideo in January 1817 and to the incorporation of Uruguay as the “Cisplatan Province” in Brazil. On April 19, 1825, a new struggle for independence against Brazil began. On August 25, 1825, a congress in Florida proclaimed the independence of Uruguay, which was finally secured by the victory at Ituzaingó (February 20, 1827) and the peace of Rio de Janeiro (August 27, 1828). In 1830 Montevideo became the capital.
The decades up to the turn of the century were dominated by internal political disputes, revolutions and conflicts similar to civil war; Tensions between town and country, Unitarians and federalists, liberals (“Colorados”) and conservatives (“Blancos”) were the reasons. According to usprivateschoolsfinder, the interference of Argentina and Brazil led to the war of the triple alliance Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay against Paraguay (1865–70; Paraguay, history).
In 1903, J. Batlle y Ordóñez, a “Colorado” was elected President who laid the foundations for today’s Uruguay. In two terms of office he implemented a program that included labor legislation, state welfare, state control of the construction of railways and roads, and nationalization, among others. the energy supply included. He first introduced the collegiate system with the creation of the State Council (1919–33), which involved the political opposition or minority in government. It was abandoned in favor of a strong executive during the Great Depression. After a referendum in 1952, the office of President was abolished in favor of the collegial National Council, but reintroduced at the end of 1966.
In the second half of the 20th century, Uruguay, which, thanks to its progressive social legislation and political stability, was known as the “Switzerland of South America”, was plagued by the usual problems in Latin America. A stagnant economy, social protests and political unrest resulted in a cruel military dictatorship that lasted eleven years in the 1970s. During the term of office (1967–72) of President Jorge Pacheco Areco (* 1920, † 1998), the fight against inflation and stagnation through restrictive measures (including price and wage freezes) met resistance from the trade unions and led to strikes. Social tensions fueled the Tupamaros terrorist attacksand the military countermeasures. Since 1970 the state has turned into a dictatorship (state of emergency since 1969). President Juan María Bordaberry Avocena (Partido Colorado; * 1928, † 2011) dissolved parliament after civil war-like unrest in a coup with the consent of the military in 1973 and replaced it with a council of state appointed by him. The Consejo de Seguridad Nacional, through which the military was directly involved in governing the state, became the most important government body. In 1976 Bordaberry was overthrown by the military, who were striving for a democratic-parliamentary development in the long term. The attempt of the new president Aparicio Méndez Manfredini (* 1904, † 1988) to hold parliamentary and presidential elections on the basis of a constitution drawn up by the military regime failed in a referendum in 1980 after this draft constitution was rejected. In September 1981 General Gregorio Álvarez Armellino (* 1925, † 2016) was appointed president by the military. The main political task remained the democratization process and the lifting of restrictions on political parties.
Return to democracy
Although the country was shaken by a general strike and a state of emergency in 1984, the first free parliamentary and presidential elections after eleven years of military rule took place on November 25, 1984 after negotiations between the military and political parties. The Partido Colorado, which started with a moderately social democratic program, narrowly won, with Julio María Sanguinetti becoming the new president. With the approval of a large number of parties and trade unions, the democratization process continued, at which Sanguinetti made a significant contribution. An economic stabilization program aimed to reduce unemployment and social tensions. The amnesty law introduced by the government in December 1986 for acts of violence by the accused military and police officers tried in vain to stop the opposition by means of a referendum (April 1989).
The 1989 election brought Luis Alberto Lacalle Herrera (* 1941) back to the highest government office (took office in 1990). This began with the privatization of the large state-owned companies against considerable resistance from the trade unions. The restructuring program also included a currency reform (1993), a reduction in the armed forces and the streamlining of the state apparatus. The 1994 election was again decided by Sanguinetti with a narrow majority for himself (took office in 1995). In 1996 he was able to push through a constitutional reform by referendum, the most important part of which, a change in the electoral law, enables a clear democratic decision-making process (in force since 1997). Under his reign the economy grew and inflation was reduced. J. Batlle Ibáñez (Partido Colorado, took office in 2000) won the presidential elections in 1999, and the left-wing alliance Frente Amplio won the majority in the parliamentary election that took place at the same time. As a result of the domestic political crisis in Argentina, a serious financial crisis occurred in Uruguay in 2002. Until the end of the Batlle government the number of the poor doubled and the unemployment rate rose to 15%. Nevertheless, even under the pressure of the economic crisis, the political institutions held out and democratic stability was never endangered.