Flag of Uruguay

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Montevideo, founded by the Spanish in 1726 as a military stronghold, soon took advantage of its natural harbor to become an important commercial center. Annexed by Brazil as a separate province in 1821, Uruguay declared its independence four years later and secured its freedom in 1828 after a three-year struggle. The administrations of President BATLLE in the early 20th century established widespread political, social, and economic reforms. A violent Marxist urban guerrilla movement named the Tupamaros, launched in the late 1960s, led Uruguay's president to agree to military control of his administration in 1973. By yearend, the rebels had been crushed, but the military continued to expand its hold throughout the government. Civilian rule was not restored until 1985. In 2004, the left-of-center EP-FA Coalition won national elections that effectively ended 170 years of political control previously held by the Colorado and Blanco parties. Uruguay's political and labor conditions are among the freest on the continent.


Southern South America, bordering the South Atlantic Ocean, between Argentina and Brazil

Geographic coordinates:

33 00 S, 56 00 W


total: 176,220 sq km
land: 173,620 sq km
water: 2,600 sq km

Land boundaries:

total: 1,564 km
border countries: Argentina 579 km, Brazil 985 km


660 km

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation


warm temperate; freezing temperatures almost unknown


mostly rolling plains and low hills; fertile coastal lowland

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Cerro Catedral 514 m

Natural resources:

arable land, hydropower, minor minerals, fisheries

Land use:

arable land: 7.77%
permanent crops: 0.24%
other: 91.99% (2005)

Irrigated land:

2,100 sq km (2003)

Natural hazards:

seasonally high winds (the pampero is a chilly and occasional violent wind that blows north from the Argentine pampas), droughts, floods; because of the absence of mountains, which act as weather barriers, all locations are particularly vulnerable to rapid changes from weather fronts

Environment - current issues:

water pollution from meat packing/tannery industry; inadequate solid/hazardous waste disposal

Geography - note:

second-smallest South American country (after Suriname); most of the low-lying landscape (three-quarters of the country) is grassland, ideal for cattle and sheep raising


3,431,932 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 22.9% (male 399,409/female 386,136)
15-64 years: 63.9% (male 1,087,180/female 1,104,465)
65 years and over: 13.3% (male 185,251/female 269,491) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 32.7 years
male: 31.3 years
female: 34.2 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

0.46% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

13.91 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

9.05 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

-0.25 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.69 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 11.61 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 12.9 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 10.27 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 76.33 years
male: 73.12 years
female: 79.65 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

1.89 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

0.3% (2001 est.)

people living with HIV/AIDS:

6,000 (2001 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

less than 500 (2003 est.)


noun: Uruguayan(s)
adjective: Uruguayan

Ethnic groups:

white 88%, mestizo 8%, black 4%, Amerindian (practically nonexistent)


Roman Catholic 66% (less than half of the adult population attends church regularly), Protestant 2%, Jewish 1%, nonprofessing or other 31%


Spanish, Portunol, or Brazilero (Portuguese-Spanish mix on the Brazilian frontier)


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 98%
male: 97.6%
female: 98.4% (2003 est.)

Country name:

conventional long form: Oriental Republic of Uruguay
conventional short form: Uruguay
local long form: Republica Oriental del Uruguay
local short form: Uruguay
former: Banda Oriental, Cisplatine Province

Government type:

constitutional republic



Administrative divisions:

19 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento); Artigas, Canelones, Cerro Largo, Colonia, Durazno, Flores, Florida, Lavalleja, Maldonado, Montevideo, Paysandu, Rio Negro, Rivera, Rocha, Salto, San Jose, Soriano, Tacuarembo, Treinta y Tres


25 August 1825 (from Brazil)

National holiday:

Independence Day, 25 August (1825)


27 November 1966, effective February 1967; suspended 27 June 1973, new constitution rejected by referendum 30 November 1980; two constitutional reforms approved by plebiscite 26 November 1989 and 7 January 1997

Legal system:

based on Spanish civil law system; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction


18 years of age; universal and compulsory

Legislative branch:

bicameral General Assembly or Asamblea General consists of Chamber of Senators or Camara de Senadores (30 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms; vice president has one vote in the Senate) and Chamber of Representatives or Camara de Representantes (99 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: Chamber of Senators - last held 31 October 2004 (next to be held October 2009); Chamber of Representatives - last held 31 October 2004 (next to be held October 2009)
election results: Chamber of Senators - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - EP-FA 16, Blanco 11, Colorado Party 3; Chamber of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - EP-FA 52, Blanco 36, Colorado Party 10, Independent Party 1

Judicial branch:

Supreme Court (judges are nominated by the president and elected for 10-year terms by the General Assembly)

Economy - overview:

Uruguay's well-to-do economy is characterized by an export-oriented agricultural sector, a well-educated work force, and high levels of social spending. After averaging growth of 5% annually during 1996-98, in 1999-2002 the economy suffered a major downturn, stemming largely from the spillover effects of the economic problems of its large neighbors, Argentina and Brazil. For instance, in 2001-02 Argentina made massive withdrawals of dollars deposited in Uruguayan banks, which led to a plunge in the Uruguayan peso and a massive rise in unemployment. Total GDP in these four years dropped by nearly 20%, with 2002 the worst year due to the banking crisis. The unemployment rate rose to nearly 20% in 2002, inflation surged, and the burden of external debt doubled. Cooperation with the IMF helped stem the damage. A debt swap with private-sector creditors in 2003 extended the maturity dates on nearly half of Uruguay's then $11.3 billion of public debt and helped restore public confidence. The economy grew about 10% in 2004 as a result of high commodity prices for Uruguayan exports, a competitive peso, growth in the region, and low international interest rates, but slowed to 6.1% in 2005.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$54.58 billion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$17.03 billion (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

6.1% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$16,000 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 7.1%
industry: 27.7%
services: 65.2% (2005 est.)

Labor force:

1.52 million (2005 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 14%
industry: 16%
services: 70%

Unemployment rate:

12.5% (2005 est.)

Population below poverty line:

22% of households (2004)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 3.7%
highest 10%: 25.8% (1997)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:

44.6 (2000)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

4.9% (2005 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):

12.2% of GDP (2005 est.)


revenues: $4.468 billion
expenditures: $4.845 billion; including capital expenditures of $193 million (2005 est.)

Public debt:

793.4% of GDP (June 2005 est.)

Agriculture - products:

rice, wheat, corn, barley; livestock; fish


food processing, electrical machinery, transportation equipment, petroleum products, textiles, chemicals, beverages

Industrial production growth rate:

5.1% (2005 est.)

Electricity - production:

8.611 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - consumption:

7.762 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - exports:

900 million kWh (2003)

Electricity - imports:

654 million kWh (2003)

Oil - production:

435 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Oil - consumption:

38,000 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Natural gas - consumption:

60 million cu m (2003 est.)

Natural gas - imports:

65 million cu m (2003 est.)

Current account balance:

-$19 million (2005 est.)


$3.55 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities:

meat, rice, leather products, wool, fish, dairy products

Exports - partners:

US 17.4%, Brazil 16%, Germany 6.3%, Argentina 6.2%, Mexico 4.2% (2004)


$3.54 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Imports - commodities:

machinery, chemicals, road vehicles, crude petroleum

Imports - partners:

Argentina 19.4%, Brazil 19%, Paraguay 12.9%, US 9.2%, China 6% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$2.654 billion (2005 est.)

Debt - external:

$11.22 billion (June 2005 est.)

Currency (code):

Uruguayan peso (UYU)

Fiscal year:

calendar year

Telephones - main lines in use:

1 million (2004)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

652,000 (2002)

Telephone system:

general assessment: fully digitalized
domestic: most modern facilities concentrated in Montevideo; new nationwide microwave radio relay network
international: country code - 598; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2002)

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 93, FM 191, shortwave 7 (2005)

Television broadcast stations:

62 (2005)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

112,968 (2005)

Internet users:

680,000 (2005)


64 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 9
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 2 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 55
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 21
under 914 m: 31 (2005)


gas 192 km (2004)


total: 2,073 km
standard gauge: 2,073 km 1.435-m gauge
note: 461 km have been taken out of service and 460 km are in partial use (2004)


total: 77,732 km
paved: 7,743 km
unpaved: 69,989 km (2004)


1,600 km (2005)

Merchant marine:

total: 13 ships (1000 GRT or over) 37,683 GRT/19,725 DWT
by type: cargo 2, chemical tanker 1, passenger/cargo 7, petroleum tanker 2, roll on/roll off 1
foreign-owned: 4 (Argentina 3, Greece 1)
registered in other countries: 7 (Argentina 1, The Bahamas 2, Liberia 3, Spain 1) (2005)

Ports and terminals:

Montevideo, Nueva Palmira, Fray Bentos, Colonia, Juan Lacaze

Military branches:

Army, Navy (includes Naval Air Arm, Marines, Maritime Prefecture in wartime), Air Force

Disputes - international:

uncontested dispute with Brazil over certain islands in the Quarai/Cuareim and Invernada streams and the resulting tripoint with Argentina