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Uruguay History

Uruguay - national flagUruguay - national flag

The flag was officially adopted in 1830. The colors and "Corn Sun" are derived from the Argentine flag; Uruguay was formerly part of Argentina. At the independence in 1828, a new flag was introduced, which also contained elements from the flag of the United States. The nine stripes represent the country's then nine departments. The corn sun stands for independence.

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Uruguay - history

Before the European colonization, the area was inhabited by a small population of semi-nomadic tribes, charrúa. In 1516, the Spaniards explored the territory, the Banda Oriental, which, however, remained uninhabited by non-Indians. Eventually it was also used by gauchos, who here hunted stray cattle, but lived elsewhere.

During the 17th century, Franciscan and Jesuit monks settled in the Banda Oriental and embarked on a mission. Portuguese from Brazil established in 1680 Colônia do Sacramento opposite the Spanish Buenos Aires on the other side of the Río de La Plata.

In order not to lose control of the estuary, the Spaniards founded Montevideo in 1726. From here, attacks were directed on the Portuguese settlement, which in 1777 was handed over to Spain; the year before, the entire Banda Oriental had become part of the Spanish Viceroyalty of La Plata.

In 1810, the independence struggle began in La Plata. In Banda Oriental, the battle against Spain was led by José Gervasio Artigas, who in 1815 gained control of the area. However, it was invaded by the Portuguese in 1816, and in 1820 Artigas went into exile. The independence struggle continued with Argentine support, and after British mediation, independent Uruguay was established in 1828 as a buffer state between Argentina and Brazil.

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The country was quickly thrown into a protracted civil war between the Liberal and Pro-Brazilian Colorado Party ('the Red Party') and the Conservative and Pro-Argentine Blanco Party ('the White Party') under the leadership of, respectively. José Fructuoso Rivera (1789-1854) and Manuel Oribe (1792-1857), Uruguay's first and second president.

The persistent conflict ruined the country and also triggered the extremely bloody war of 1865-1870 between Paraguay and the Triple Alliance (Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay). When the military then took power, the country achieved some stability and an economic development, based on exports of wool, leather and meat, was initiated.

The unpopular military government was replaced in 1890 by a civilian Colorado government; the controversy with the Blanco Party lived on, but to a less devastating extent. The José Batlle y Ordóñez of the Colorado Party (1856-1929) became the dominant political figure in the first quarter of the 20th century; his name is associated not least with the social reforms that made Uruguay one of the world's first welfare states.

Uruguay's economy was heavily dependent on exports and therefore vulnerable when the world crisis of the 1930's set in and ended the long period of prosperity. In the following years, Uruguay was at times ruled dictatorially. With World War II came demand for the country's exports, and new growth set in; but in the 1950's, the vulnerability of the economy reappeared as world market prices for export goods fell, resulting in a deep economic crisis.

For the first time in 93 years, the Blanco Party won government power in 1958, without the problems being resolved. The urban guerrilla Tupamaros' armed struggle against the regime came from the 1960's to dominate political life, under the Colorado Party's Jorge Pacheco Areco, who ruled the country with a heavy hand from 1967-1972. In 1973, the military seized power in Uruguay, where brutality and repression of political opponents now became the order of the day.

Extensive protests forced the regime to embark on a process of democratization; Julio María Sanguinetti (b. 1936) of the Colorado Party won the 1984 presidential election and took office the following year. He continued democratization while giving the military a general amnesty. From 1990, the Blanco Party held the presidency; the attempts to bring about an unpopular liberalization of the economy resulted in electoral defeat for Sanguinetti in the ensuing presidential election; since 1995, the Colorado Party has regained power.

In the 1999 presidential election, the Colorado Party regained the presidency, and Jorge Batlle took power. But the left-leaning Frente Amplio (FA, 'The Broad Front') made renewed progress and became the strongest political force in both chambers of Congress in front of the two major bourgeois parties, Colorado and Blanco. It came to a severe economic crisis in 2002, triggered by setbacks in Argentina and Brazil, which are Uruguay's main trading partners.

Uruguay History

In 2004, Tabaré Vázquez of the FA won the presidential election; he was installed the following year as Uruguay's first left-wing president. Programs were implemented to support the country's poor, and an investigation into murders and disappearances during the military dictatorship was launched. A period of economic prosperity began. Vázquez was replaced in 2010 by José Mujica, also from the FA. His government implemented several sensational measures: abortion was legalized, gay marriage was allowed, and in 2013, marijuana was decriminalized in an attempt to weaken the drug cartels.

 

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