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Uruguay - GOVERNMENT
ON MARCH 1, 1990, Uruguayans and representatives of many foreign governments witnessed the reaffirmation of Uruguay's revived democratic tradition: the transfer of power from one elected president to another. Having completed a full five-year term in office, Julio María Sanguinetti Cairolo (1985-90) of the liberal Colorado Party (Partido Colorado) transferred the presidential sash to Luis Alberto Lacalle de Herrera of the rival conservative National Party (Partido Nacional, usually referred to as the Blancos). Lacalle was elected to serve for the 1990-95 period as the country's fiftieth president.
An urbane lawyer, rancher, and senator, Lacalle was only the third National Party candidate ever to be elected president. After only five years as a National Party leader, he achieved what his legendary grandfather, Luis Alberto de Herrera, the National Party's dominant caudillo during the first half of the twentieth century, attained after a half-century of political battles: the defeat of the Colorados and the ascension of the Blancos to power. Technically, Lacalle became the first National Party president because Uruguay was formally ruled by a ninemember collegial executive (colegiado) when his party won its previous victories.
Uruguayan democracy had been reinstated five years earlier-- after the 1973-85 period of military rule--as a result of Sanguinetti's victory in the November 25, 1984, election and referendum. Those national polls were held in accordance with the Naval Club Pact of 1984, a political agreement between the armed forces and four political parties: the Colorado Party, the National Party, the Broad Front (Frente Amplio, a leftist alliance), and the Civic Union (Unión Cívica--UC). The military regime, however, blocked the proposed presidential candidacies of the National Party's Wilson Ferreira Aldunate and the Broad Front's Líber Seregni Mosquera. Running, in effect, unopposed, Sanguinetti won approximately 41 percent of the votes, followed by the National Party's 34 percent, the Broad Front's 21 percent, and the UC's 2.5 percent.
Sanguinetti was the first Uruguayan president to be elected, albeit in a semidemocratic election, after the period of repressive military rule. He had been a lawyer, journalist, representative, minister of education and culture, and minister of labor and social welfare. During his term of office, Sanguinetti consolidated Uruguay's multiparty democracy, restored the country's prestige and respect abroad, increased its export markets, and avoided financial disorder. He symbolized Uruguay's political opening by visiting the Soviet Union and China in 1989.
In what proved to be its most active electoral year, Uruguay held two national elections in 1989. The first was a referendum on the government's amnesty law for abuses committed by the military regime. The second, the November 26 poll--the first totally free presidential elections to be held in Uruguay since 1971--demonstrated the country's return to its democratic tradition of free and honest elections.
Although voting was compulsory in Uruguay, the turnout in the November 26, 1989, elections was nonetheless impressive: 88 percent of the electorate of 2.3 million people participated. The high turnout did not necessarily mean that Uruguayan voters were among the most politically sophisticated in the world, although Uruguayans usually discussed and debated political issues exhaustively at all levels of society. The high voter turnout in 1989 demonstrated, however--as it had in 1984 when 88.5 percent participated--that Uruguay was a very politicized country and that it had one of Latin America's longest democratic traditions.
Despite Sanguinetti's accomplishments, his party's historic and decisive defeat reflected widespread dissatisfaction with two years of economic stagnation. The elections also challenged Uruguay's traditional two-party system of the Colorado and National parties. For the first time, a third party, the Broad Front, reached important levels by winning the country's second most powerful post (after president of the republic): the mayorship of Montevideo, which had over 40 percent of the country's population and more than two-thirds of its economic activity. The new Marxist mayor, Tabaré Vázquez, immediately began pressing Lacalle for greater municipal autonomy. The prospects for the success of a "co-habitation arrangement," i.e., harmonious cooperation, however, were doubtful because Uruguayans continued to support a strong presidential system and because Lacalle was assertive of his executive powers. Thus, in addition to the challenges posed by a resurgent political left, labor unrest, and economic crisis, the Lacalle government faced the possibility of political clashes with the municipal government.
<"73.htm">DEMOCRATIC CONSOLIDATION, 1985-90
Since achieving independence in 1828, Uruguay has promulgated five constitutions: in 1830, 1917, 1934, 1952, and 1967. When it became independent on August 27, 1828, the Oriental Republic of Uruguay (República Oriental del Uruguay) drew up its first constitution, which was promulgated on July 18, 1830.
The 1830 constitution has been regarded as Uruguay's most technically perfect charter. Heavily influenced by the thinking of the French and American revolutions, it divided the government among the executive, legislative, and judicial powers and established Uruguay as a unitary republic with a centralized form of government. The bicameral General Assembly (Asamblea General) was empowered to elect a president with considerable powers to head the executive branch for a four-year term. The president was given control over all of his ministers of government and was empowered to make decisions with the agreement of at least one of the three ministers recognized by the 1830 constitution.
Like all of Uruguay's charters since then, the 1830 constitution provided for a General Assembly composed of a Chamber of Senators (Cámara de Senadores), or Senate (Senado), elected nationally, and a Chamber of Representatives (Cámara de Representantes), elected from the departments. Members of the General Assembly were empowered to pass laws but lacked the authority to dismiss the president or his ministers or to issue votes of no confidence. An 1834 amendment, however, provided for juicio político, or impeachment, of the ministers for "unacceptable conduct."
As established by the 1830 constitution, the Supreme Court of Justice (Corte Suprema de Justicia), and lesser courts, exercised the judicial power. The General Assembly appointed the members of the high court. The latter--with the consent of the Senate in the case of the appellate courts--appointed the members of the lesser courts. The constitution also divided the country into departments, each headed by a governor appointed by the president and each having an advisory body called a Neighbors' Council (Consejo de Vecinos).
Although the 1830 constitution remained in effect for eighty- seven years, de facto governments violated it repeatedly. In the 1878-90 period, the Blancos and Colorados initiated the framework for a more stable system through understandings called "pacts between the parties." This governing principle, called coparticipation (coparticipación), meaning the sharing of formal political and informal bureaucratic power, has been formally practiced since 1872.
In 1913 President José Batlle y Ordóñez (1903-07, 1911-15), the father of modern Uruguay, proposed a constitutional reform involving the creation of a Swiss-style collegial executive system to be called the colegiado. A strong opponent of the one-person, powerful presidency, Batlle y Ordóñez believed that a collective executive power would neutralize the dictatorial intentions of political leaders. It met intense opposition, however, not only from the Blancos but also from members of his own Colorado Party. The proposal was defeated in 1916, but Batlle y Ordóñez worked out a deal with a faction of the Blancos whereby a compromise system was provided for in the second constitution, which was approved by plebiscite on November 25, 1917.
In addition to separating church and state, the new charter, which did not become effective until 1919, introduced substantial changes in the powers of the presidency. The executive power consisted of the president, who controlled foreign relations, national security, and agriculture, and the National Council of Administration (Consejo Nacional de Administración), or colegiado, which administered all other executive governmental functions (industrial relations, health, public works, industry and labor, livestock and agriculture, education, and the preparation of the budget). The colegiado, embodying the political mechanism of coparticipation, consisted of nine members: six from the majority party and three from the minority party. The first colegiado (1919-33) was thereby established without eliminating the office of president.
The history of successive constitutions is one of a lengthy struggle between advocates of the collegial system and those of the presidential system. Although the 1917 constitution worked well during the prosperous time after World War I, recurring conflicts between the president and the colegiado members made the executive power ineffective in coping with the economic and social crises wracking the country. These conflicts eventually led to the presidential coup of 1933. The ad hoc government suspended the constitution and appointed a constituent assembly to draw up a new one.
The 1934 constitution abolished the colegiado and transferred its power to the president. Nevertheless, presidential powers remained somewhat limited. The executive power once again was exercised by a president who had to make decisions together with the ministers. The 1934 charter established the Council of Ministers (Consejo de Ministros) as the body in which these decisions were to be made. This council consisted of the president and the cabinet ministers. The constitution required the chief executive to appoint three of the nine cabinet ministers from among the members of the political party that received the second largest number of votes in the presidential election. The General Assembly, for its part, could issue votes of no confidence in cabinet ministers, with the approval of two-thirds of its members.
The constitution divided the Senate between the Blancos and the Colorados or, as political scientist Martin Weinstein has pointed out, between the Herrerist faction of the Blancos (named after Luis Alberto de Herrera) and the Terrist wing of the Colorados (named after Gabriel Terra; president, 1931-38). The party that garnered the second largest number of votes automatically received 50 percent of the Senate seats. In addition, the 1934 charter empowered the Supreme Court of Justice to rule on the constitutionality of the laws. This system, which lasted eighteen years, further limited the power of the president and his government.
Although Uruguay returned to a more democratic system in 1942, the failure of political sectors to reach an agreement on the proposed constitution drafted that year resulted in the postponement of constitutional reform. On July 31, 1951, a formal pact between the rightist Batllist faction of the Colorados--the Colorado and Batllist Union (Unión Colorada y Batllista--UCB)-- and the Herrerist Movement (Movimiento Herrerista) of the Blancos called for a plebiscite on constitutional reform. The plebiscite the following December 16 drew less than half of the 1.1 million voters to the polls, but the collegial system was approved by a small margin.
As the culmination of an effort to reestablish the colegiado and the plural executive power, a fourth constitution was promulgated on January 25, 1952. It readopted Batlle y Ordóñez's original proposal for coparticipation by creating a nine-member colegiado, this time called the National Council of Government (Consejo Nacional de Gobierno), with six majority-party seats and three minority-party seats. The presidency of the council rotated among the six members of the majority party. The chief executive could nominate only four of the nine ministers from his own party faction; the General Assembly selected the other five through separate votes in both chambers. An absolute majority (more than two-thirds), however, of the full membership of the two legislative chambers had to support the appointments. It thereby ensured that either the Colorados or the Blancos would get the minority seats on the colegiado. The 1952 constitution also provided for impeachment of the president by the General Assembly.
This nine-member colegiado, which headed the executive branch from 1954 to 1967, was ineffective because the president lacked control over the ministers and because the majority was seldom united. During most of this period, the National Party held power, having been elected in 1958 for the first time in over ninety years and again in 1962 when a different faction of the party was elected. The ineffectiveness of these governments caused the public to turn against the colegiado arrangement.
In the elections of November 27, 1966, nearly 59 percent of Uruguayans voted to amend the 1952 constitution and to reestablish a presidential system of government, thus ending a fifteen-year experiment with the colegiado. The new constitution, which became operative on February 15, 1967, and has remained in effect since then, created a strong one-person presidency, subject to legislative and judicial checks. In free and fair elections held in 1968, Uruguayans approved the new charter and elected the Colorado Party to power again.
The 1967 constitution contained many of the provisions of the 1952 charter. However, it removed some of the General Assembly's power to initiate legislation and provided for automatic approval of bills under certain conditions if the legislature failed to act. If, on receiving a bill, the president had objections or comments to make, the bill had to be returned to the General Assembly within ten days. If sixty days elapsed without a decision by the General Assembly, the president's objections had to be considered as accepted. The 1967 document also established the Permanent Commission, composed of four senators and seven representatives, which exercised certain legislative functions while the General Assembly was in recess.
The 1967 charter could be amended by any of four different methods. First, 10 percent of the citizens who were registered to vote could initiate an amendment if they presented a detailed proposal to the president of the General Assembly. Second, two- fifths of the full membership of the General Assembly could approve a proposal presented to the president of the General Assembly and submitted to a plebiscite at the next election (a yes vote of an absolute majority of the full membership of the General Assembly was required, and this majority had to represent at least 35 percent of all registered voters). Third, senators, representatives, and the president of the republic could present proposed amendments, which had to be approved by an absolute majority of the full membership of the General Assembly. And finally, amendments could be made by constitutional laws requiring the approval of two-thirds of the full membership of each chamber of the General Assembly in the same legislative period.
In 1976, however, the military government issued a series of constitutional decrees that amended the 1967 constitution by creating the Council of the Nation (Consejo de la Nación) to serve as the supreme governmental body, with executive and legislative functions. It consisted of the thirty members of the Council of State (Consejo de Estado, the body created by the regime in June 1973 to act in lieu of the General Assembly, which was dissolved by the regime and the twenty-eight senior officers of the armed forces (sixteen from the army, six from the navy, and six from the air force). The Council of the Nation appointed the president of the republic and the members of the Council of State, the Supreme Court of Justice, and the Tribunal of Administrative Claims, which was later dissolved in 1985. Eight institutional acts substituted for many of the functional provisions and guarantees of the 1967 constitution. For example, in addition to giving the Council of the Nation the power to appoint the president of the republic and to set general policy for the country, institutional acts deprived previous officeholders and candidates of their political rights and permitted the arbitrary dismissal of public employees.
Under the 1976 constitutional amendments, the president exercised executive power, acting with the concurrence of one or more ministers as appropriate or with the National Security Council (Consejo de Seguridad Nacional--Cosena). The Cosena was formed in 1973 and consisted of the commanders of the army, navy, and air force, plus an additional senior military officer, and the ministers of national defense, interior, and foreign affairs. It participated in any decision related to the "national security" or in any formulation of overall plans or objectives.
The constitutional decrees declared generally that the maintenance of the national security was of "exclusive competence," i.e., the sole prerogative, of the armed forces. These decrees deprived local governments of all budgetary powers. The Council of State continued to pass laws that the executive normally would have submitted for approval. Only the executive could initiate the procedure for approval of legislation on budgetary or other matters that could be related in any way to national security. The decrees also created the Ministry of Justice, responsible for relations between the executive and judicial powers.
In 1980 the military regime drew up a charter that would have provided for a strong, continuing role for the military along the lines of the 1976 constitutional decrees, including legitimizing the Cosena's new role. The document also would have greatly reduced the roles of the General Assembly and political parties. In a plebiscite held November 30, 1980, however, Uruguayans, by a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent of the popular vote, rejected the new military-drafted constitution. Nevertheless, a new thirty-five-member Council of State was installed on August 20, 1981, before President Gregorio Alvarez Armelino (1981-85) took office. Its powers were expanded to include responsibility for calling a constitutional assembly, a plebiscite, and general elections.
In discussions held during 1983, the military commanders and the leaders of the Colorado and National parties prepared a new text of the 1967 constitution. Accords negotiated by the military, the Colorados (but not the Blancos), and most of the Broad Front in July and August 1984 provided for a return to democracy without the Cosena.
Following the return to civilian rule in 1985, Uruguay's human rights record quickly improved. One of the Sanguinetti government's first acts in this area was--with the approval of the newly restored General Assembly--to grant amnesty to all political prisoners, who consisted chiefly of members of the National Liberation Movement-Tupamaros (Movimiento de Liberación Nacional-Tupamaros--MLN-T). In the late 1980s, there were no credible reports of human rights violations, according to the United States Department of State.
Since 1985 Uruguay's democratic governments have respected the sixty-five articles in the 1967 constitution concerned primarily with the rights of citizens. The document provided for freedom of religion, thought, speech and press, peaceful assembly and association, collective bargaining, movement within the country, foreign travel, emigration and repatriation, respect for political rights, and the inviolability of property and privacy. The constitution did not provide for a state religion, although Roman Catholicism predominated, or for capital punishment (that was abolished during Batlle y Ordóñez's second term). There were two forms of citizenship: natural (persons born in Uruguay or those who were of Uruguayan parents and were registered residents) and legal (individuals established in Uruguay with at least three years' residence in the case of those with family in Uruguay or five years' residence for those without family there). Primary and secondary education was both free and compulsory. Every citizen eighteen years of age or older had the right and obligation to vote, which was compulsory.
Uruguay has long been one of the most egalitarian countries in the world. Women's suffrage was enacted in 1932. In 1946 a statute was passed repealing all laws that established legal differences in the rights of women. Uruguayan women, who constituted one-third of the work force in the 1980s, enjoyed complete equality under the law. Nevertheless, some barriers still existed in practice because of traditional social patterns and restricted employment opportunities. Women often received less pay than men, especially in less skilled jobs. By early 1990, very few women held high political positions, but women had served in the cabinet, the Supreme Court of Justice, and the diplomatic corps, including at the ambassadorial level, and a few had served as alternates in the General Assembly.
Uruguay was a republic with three separate branches of government. The 1967 constitution institutionalized a strong presidency, subject to legislative and judicial checks. The electorate exercised sovereignty directly through elections, initiatives, or referendums and indirectly through representative powers established by the constitution.
Executive power was exercised by the president of the republic, acting with the advice of the Council of Ministers. The vice president of the republic served as the president of the General Assembly and the Senate. The president and vice president were elected for five-year terms by a simple majority of the people through a unique voting system. Candidates had to be at least thirty-five years of age, native born, and in full possession of their civil rights. After a period following their election, the president and vice president were sworn in before both chambers of the General Assembly and took office on March 1. Neither could be reelected until five years after the completion of their terms.
The president's duties included publishing all laws and enforcing them, informing the General Assembly of the state of the republic and of proposed improvements and reforms, making objections to or observations on bills sent by the General Assembly, proposing bills to the chambers or amendments to laws previously enacted, conferring civilian and military offices, and removing civil servants (with the consent of the Senate) for "inefficiency, dereliction of duty, or malfeasance." The key civilian appointments made by the president were cabinet members.
A 1986 constitutional amendment returned to the presidency the power to command the armed forces and appoint the armed forces commander. The chief executive granted promotions to members of the armed forces, with the consent of the Senate for promotions to colonel or higher ranks. The president also was responsible for maintaining internal order and external security. Although the constitution did not give the president sweeping powers in cases of emergency, Article 168 empowered the chief executive "to take prompt measures of security in grave and unforeseen cases of foreign attack or internal disorder." In such an event, the president was required to explain his action to a joint session of the General Assembly or, if it was in recess, to the Permanent Commission within twenty-four hours.
Other presidential powers included decreeing the severance of diplomatic relations with another country and declaring war if arbitration or other pacific means to avoid it were unsuccessful. The president appointed ambassadors and other foreign service diplomatic personnel. The chief executive could not leave the country for more than forty-eight hours without authorization from the Senate. The president could not be impeached unless found guilty of violations of articles of the constitution or other serious offenses.
The Council of Ministers included the cabinet ministers (appointed by the president) and the president of the Central Bank of Uruguay. Each appointee had to be approved by a simple majority in each chamber of the General Assembly. Cabinet members had to be native-born citizens in full possession of their civil rights and at least thirty years of age. They could be removed from office by impeachment proceedings initiated by the Chamber of Representatives and approved by the Senate.
When all the cabinet ministers or their deputies met and acted jointly, the body was known as the Council of Ministers. Presided over by the president of the republic, who had a vote, the Council of Ministers was responsible for all acts of government and administration. In addition, a number of autonomous entities ( autonomous agencies or state enterprises) and decentralized services were important in government administration.
The principal duties of the cabinet members were to enforce the constitution, laws, decrees, and resolutions; to formulate and submit for the consideration of superior authority any laws, decrees, and resolutions they deemed appropriate; to effect-- within the limits of their functions--the payment of the national debt; to propose the appointment or discharge of employees of their ministries; and to perform any other functions entrusted to them by laws or by measures adopted by the executive power. They could attend the sessions of either chamber of the General Assembly and their respective standing committees, and they could take part in debate, but they could not vote.
<"68.htm">The Electoral Process
The bicameral General Assembly enacted laws and regulated the administration of justice. The General Assembly consisted of the thirty-member Senate--thirty senators and the vice president of the republic, who presided over it as well as the General Assembly and had both a voice and a vote in Senate deliberations- -and the ninety-nine-member Chamber of Representatives. If the vice president ever assumed the presidency, the senator heading the list of the party that received the most votes in the last election would succeed to the presidency of the Senate.
Members of both legislative bodies were directly elected every five years by a system of proportional representation. The Chamber of Representatives represented the nineteen administrative subdivisions of the country, with each department (intendencia) having at least two representatives. The members of the Senate were also elected by the people, but with the entire nation representing a single electoral district. Members of the General Assembly had to be natural citizens or legal citizens with seven years' exercise of their rights. Senators had to be at least thirty years of age, and representatives had to be at least twenty-five years of age. Uruguay did not have a residency requirement for election to the Senate or the Chamber of Representatives. Consequently, almost all of the country's politicians have lived and worked in Montevideo. Military and civil service personnel or public officials could not be candidates for either chamber of the General Assembly unless they resigned their positions at least three months before the election. In 1988 there were no female members of the General Assembly, but several served as alternates.
The Chamber of Representatives could impeach any member of either chamber, the president, the vice president, cabinet ministers, judges of the Supreme Court of Justice, and other judges. The Senate was responsible for trying these impeachment cases and could deprive a person of a post by a two-thirds vote of its membership. In addition, the Senate, in session from midMarch to mid-December, spent much time considering nominations for, appointments to, and removals from office submitted by the executive. In other respects, the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives had equal powers and duties. Members of either of the two chambers could initiate a bill. Both chambers had to approve a proposed bill before it could be sent to the executive power to be published. The latter branch, however, had ten days to make objections to or observations on the bill. If the president objected only to part of a bill, the General Assembly could enact the other part.
Among the most important duties of the Chamber of Representatives--in joint session with the Senate--were the election of the members of the Supreme Court of Justice and three quasi-judicial autonomous entities: the Accounts Tribunal, the Contentious-Administrative Tribunal, and the Electoral Court. These ordinary administrative courts heard cases involving the functioning of state administration. In addition, the Chamber of Representatives was empowered to grant pardons and settle disputes concerning legislation on which the two chambers disagreed. The Chamber of Representatives also had the exclusive right to impeach members of both chambers, the president and vice president of the republic, the cabinet ministers, and members of the courts for violations of the constitution or other serious offenses. Impeachment proceedings had to be tried before the Senate.
The Accounts Tribunal, which was a functionally autonomous appendage of the General Assembly, was responsible for determining taxes and reporting on the accounts and budgets of all the state organs. It was authorized to intervene in all matters relating to the financial activities of the state organs, departmental governments, and autonomous agencies, and it was authorized to report to the appropriate authority all irregularities in the management of public funds or infractions of budgetary and accounting laws. It was authorized to certify the legality of expenditures and payments and append pertinent objections whenever necessary. In the departmental governments and autonomous agencies, officials acting under the supervision of the tribunal performed the same duties. The tribunal's opinions covered all the organs of the state, including departmental governments. An annual report had to be submitted to the General Assembly. The Accounts Tribunal consisted of seven members appointed by a two-thirds vote of the full membership of the General Assembly. Their elective qualifications were the same as those of a senator. Their term of office ended when the succeeding General Assembly made new appointments, but they could be reelected.
The Contentious-Administrative Tribunal heard pleas for the nullification of final administrative acts that were considered contrary to law or an abuse of authority made by the administration, state organs, departmental governments, autonomous entities, and decentralized services. It also had jurisdiction over the final administrative acts of the governments of the departments and of the autonomous entities. Its functions were only to appraise the act itself and to confirm or annul it, without alteration. Its decisions had effect only in the cases before it. The Contentious-Administrative Tribunal could act in cases of conflict of jurisdiction based on legislation and on differences that arose among the executive, the departmental governments, and the autonomous entities.
The qualifications necessary for election to the ContentiousAdministrative Tribunal, the manner of appointment, the remuneration, and the term of office were the same as those established for the members of the Supreme Court of Justice. The tribunal was composed of five judges appointed by the General Assembly for ten-year terms. It also had an "attorney general for administrative claims" (appointed by the president), whose qualifications, remuneration, and term of office were decided by the tribunal. The attorney general was heard at the final hearing of all matters within the jurisdiction of the tribunal.
The Electoral Court, a quasi-judicial autonomous entity, supervised national, departmental, and municipal elections and had competence over all electoral acts and procedures. It ruled in the last instance on appeals and complaints; it also judged the election of all the elective posts and the holding of a plebiscite (on constitutional issues) or referendum (on political issues). Of the Electoral Court's nine members, the General Assembly appointed five and their alternates by a two-thirds vote in joint session and elected the other four members and their alternates equally from the two political parties having the highest number of votes. The court had eighteen alternates in addition to the nine full members. Members served four years until the succeeding legislature selected their replacements.
Like all previous charters, the 1967 constitution established the judicial branch as an independent power of the state. The Supreme Court of Justice headed the judiciary, both civilian and military. Lower civilian courts included six appellate courts (for civil matters, criminal matters, and labor matters), courts of first instance (sometimes referred to as lawyer courts [juzgados letrados]), and justice of the peace courts.
During the military regime (1973-85), the Ministry of Justice administered the courts, and military officers were appointed to the highest courts. As a result of the 1984 Naval Club Pact, which clipped the powers of the military courts, the judicial branch regained its autonomy when Sanguinetti assumed office on March 1, 1985. That May the General Assembly, despite the opposition of the Colorado Party, declared all posts of the Supreme Court of Justice vacant on the grounds that none of the justices had been legally appointed. Accordingly, all of the military officers appointed by the military regime to the high court or the appellate courts retired from their positions. Sanguinetti then formally abolished the Ministry of Justice, retaining only the minister of justice post. Nevertheless, there was a continuing public debate during his administration over the need to reform the legal and judicial systems.
Located in Montevideo, the Supreme Court of Justice managed the entire judicial system. It prepared budgets for the judiciary and submitted them to the General Assembly for approval, proposed all legislation regarding the functioning of the courts, appointed judges to the appellate courts, and nominated all other judges and judicial officials. It had the power to modify any decisions made by the appellate courts and was the only court allowed to declare the unconstitutionality of laws passed by the General Assembly. It alone decided on conflicts affecting diplomats and international treaties, the execution of the rulings of foreign courts, and relations among agencies of the government. The president of the Supreme Court of Justice was empowered to attend meetings of the committees of both chambers of the General Assembly and had a voice in discussion but had no vote.
A conference of the two chambers of the General Assembly appointed the five members of the Supreme Court of Justice. The justices had to be between forty and seventy years of age, native-born citizens in full possession of their civil rights, or legal citizens with ten years' exercise of their rights and twenty-five years of residence in the country. They also had to have been a lawyer for ten years or to have been a judge or member of the Public Ministry for eight years. (The Public Ministry consisted of the public attorneys, headed by the "attorney general of the court and attorney of the country," who acted independently before the Supreme Court of Justice.) Members served for ten years and could be reelected after a break of five years. At the appointment of the president, two military justices served on the Supreme Court of Justice on an ad hoc basis and participated only in cases involving the military.
Each of the appellate courts, also located in Montevideo, had three judges appointed by the Supreme Court of Justice with the consent of the Senate. To be a member, one had to be at least thirty-five years of age, a native-born citizen or legal citizen for seven years, and a lawyer with at least eight years of experience or otherwise engaged in a law-related profession for at least six years. An appellate court judge was obliged to retire by age seventy. These courts did not have original jurisdiction but heard appeals from lower courts. The appellate courts divided responsibilities for civil matters (including matters concerning commerce, customs, and minors), as well as for criminal and labor affairs.
In Montevideo Department, the judges of first instance, sometimes referred to as lawyer judges (jueces letrados), decided on the appeals to lower-court rulings. In 1990 Montevideo Department had forty judges of first instance, including eighteen who decided on civil matters, four on minors, three on customs, ten on criminal cases, and five on labor cases.
Outside Montevideo Department, the first decision on all cases of civil, family, customs, criminal, or labor law was submitted to the municipal judges of first instance. Each department had up to five municipal judges of first instance, located in the major cities. They could rule on most minor cases, with the exception of those that were within the competence of the justices of the peace. Both municipal judges of first instance and the Montevideo Department judges of first instance had to have previously served as justices of the peace.
At the lowest level, each of the country's 224 judicial divisions had a justice of the peace court. The Supreme Court of Justice appointed the 224 justices of the peace for four-year terms. They had to be at least twenty-five years of age, nativeborn citizens or legal citizens for two years, and in full possession of their civil rights. Those who served in Montevideo Department and the capitals and major cities of other departments had to be lawyers; those in rural areas had to be either lawyers or notaries. Their jurisdiction was limited to cases involving eviction, breach of contract, collection of rent, and all smallclaims commercial and business cases.
The law recognized only one category of lawyer. In order to practice law, an individual had to first obtain the degree of law and social sciences from the Faculty of Law and Social Sciences of the University of the Republic (also known as the University of Montevideo). The degree was granted by the university after the successful completion of six years of studies. Candidates had to be at least twenty-one years of age, listed in the Register of Lawyers maintained by the Supreme Court of Justice, not be under indictment for a crime penalized by corporal punishment, and not have been convicted of a crime. A public defender system was established in 1980 with the placing of lawyers in all courts to assist those unable to pay for their services. Public defenders-- appointed jointly by the president and the minister of justice-- protected the society's interests.
Uruguay traditionally has had a sizable civil service organization. Civil service regulations determined conditions for admission to the service as a career. In accordance with these regulations for service in the national government, departmental governments adopted regulations for their own civil service personnel. Permanent career status was achieved after a fairly short probationary period.
The Sanguinetti government reestablished the National Office of the Civil Service (Oficina Nacional del Servicio Civil--ONSC), which the military regime had abolished, as the technical advisory organ specializing in administrative reform matters. The ONSC publicized its ideas on change and reform by sponsoring academic, public, and international seminars and roundtables.
The ONSC's duties included controlling the entrance of personnel into the public administration and streamlining public institutions. Under Sanguinetti, the ONSC also implemented course requirements for civil service managers and, with the assistance of France's National School of Public Administration (Ecole Nationale d'Administration Publique), created a "training course for high executives of the central administration." During the first twenty years since its creation in 1969, the ONSC trained or provided technical assistance to some 4,000 public employees, more than one-third of them between 1986 and 1988.
Following ONSC guidelines, the Sanguinetti government restructured the civil service and reassigned 1,787 workers. At the end of 1988, the state employed a total of 271,124 workers (approximately 20 percent of the labor force), who included 1,281 members of the legislative branch, 106,455 members of the executive branch, 5,132 members of the judicial branch, 117,423 members of the autonomous entities, and 40,833 members of the departmental governments.
Over twenty autonomous entities administered certain national industrial and commercial services. These agencies were divided into two general classifications: the first was concerned with education, welfare, and culture; the second, with industry and commerce.
Uruguay's administrative subdivisions consisted of nineteen departments (intendencias), which were subordinate to the central government and responsible for local administration. They enforced national laws and administered the nation's social and educational policies and institutions within their territories. These territories had limited taxing powers, but they could borrow funds and acquire property. They also had the power to establish unpaid five-member local boards or town councils in municipalities other than the departmental capital if the population was large enough to warrant such a body.
Executive authority was vested in a governor (intendente), who administered the department, and in a thirty-one-member departmental board (junta departmental), which carried out legislative functions. These functions included approval of the departmental budget and judicial actions, such as impeachment proceedings against departmental officials, including the governor. At the municipal level, a mayor (intendente municipal) assumed executive and administrative duties, carrying out resolutions made by the local board (whose members were appointed on the basis of proportional representation of the political parties). The governor was required to comply with and enforce the constitution and the laws and to promulgate the decrees enacted by the departmental board. The governor was authorized to prepare the budget, submit it for approval to the departmental board, appoint the board's employees, and, if necessary, discipline or suspend them. The governor represented the department in its relations with the national government and other departmental governments and in the negotiation of contracts with public or private agencies.
Like the governor, the members of the departmental board and the mayor were elected for five-year terms in direct, popular elections. A governor could be reelected only once, and candidates for the post had to meet the same requirements as those for a senator, in addition to being a native of the department or a resident therein for at least three years before assuming office. Departmental board members had to be at least twenty-three years of age, native born (or a legal citizen for at least three years), and a native of the department (or a resident for at least three years).
The board sat in the capital city of each department and exercised jurisdiction throughout the entire territory of the department. It could issue decrees and resolutions that it deemed necessary either on the suggestion of the governor or on its own initiative. It could approve budgets, fix the amount of taxes, request the intervention of the Accounts Tribunal for advice concerning departmental finances or administration, and remove from office--at the request of the governor--members of nonelective local departmental boards. The board also supervised local public services; public health; and primary, secondary, preparatory, industrial, and artistic education. Although Montevideo was the smallest department in terms of area (divided into twenty-three geographic zones that generally coincided with the electoral zones), its departmental board had sixty-five members in 1990; all other departments had thirty-one-member boards and a five-member executive council appointed by the departmental board, with proportional representation from the principal political parties.
Uruguayans have taken voting very seriously. Voting, which was obligatory, was not restricted by race, sex, religion, or economic status. Other rules governing suffrage included mandatory inscription in the Civil Register and a system of proportional representation. These rules also included prohibition of political activity (with the exception of voting) by judicial magistrates, directors of the autonomous entities, and members of the armed forces and police. In addition, the president of the republic and members of the Electoral Court were not permitted to serve as political party officials or engage in political election propaganda; all electoral boards had to be elected; a two-thirds vote of the full membership of each chamber was needed to adopt any new law concerning the Civil Register or elections; and all national and local elections were to be held on the last Sunday in November every five years.
Uruguay's electoral processes were among the most complicated known. The unusual Uruguayan electoral system combined primaries and a general election in one event. Primary and general elections combined proportional representation with a "double simultaneous vote" (doble voto simultáneo). This system, as established by the Elections Law of 1925, allowed each party's sub-lemas, or factions, to run rival lists of candidates.
Traditionally, under Uruguayan law the results of political elections were tabulated in an unusual fashion. Under the 1982 Political Parties Law, each party was allowed to present three tickets, or single candidates, each representing a different sub-lema, for executive and legislative posts, and these factions did not need the party's approval of their candidates. A voter selected a faction and a list of candidates within that sub-lema. The votes of all the factions were given to the party (lema) to which they belonged, and the presidency went to the candidate of the sub-lema that received the most votes within the winning party. Thus, even if a given ticket garnered more votes than any other slate running for election, it could not win unless its party also won. The governing party was actually the majority group within the party that won the last elections. The disadvantages of this system were that it discouraged intraparty selectivity in choosing presidential candidates, often allowed politicians who received only a minority of the vote to rise to power, blocked the rise of new parties and new leadership while encouraging fractionalization, and often resulted in a multiplicity of alliances or combinations of national and local candidates for office.
Election of members of the General Assembly was even more complicated. Election of the ninety-nine members of the Chamber of Representatives was based on the population in the country's nineteen departments, whereas the thirty members of the Senate were elected at large from the nation. Seats were allocated on the basis of each party's share of the total vote, but each party usually had various lists of candidates, among whom prior agreements had been made to unify or transfer votes. As a result, there have been frequent complaints that voters never knew for whom they were ultimately voting in the congressional races. Electoral fraud, however, was precluded by the traditional method of decentralized vote-counting at thousands of vote-counting tables.
In addition, the Electoral Court supervised the entire registration and voting process, registered parties and candidates, had final jurisdiction in all election disputes, and supervised the functioning of the various departmental electoral boards. It also supervised the National Electoral Office in Montevideo, which had the responsibility for organizing and maintaining the Civil Register of all eligible voters in the country. One Electoral Court existed at the national level and one in each department capital.
Before an election, the General Assembly allocated a sum of money for the Electoral Court to distribute among the political parties in proportion to the number of votes a party received in the last election. These funds helped to defray campaign costs. Party-proposed ballots had to be presented to the Electoral Court at least twenty days prior to an election. After making the final verification of ballots, the Electoral Court could annul an election, but only if gross irregularities were found.
The Colorado and National parties and, to a lesser extent, the Broad Front coalition, were the three major political entities in 1990. Until the 1971 elections, the Colorado and National parties together accounted for 90 percent of the votes cast; the remaining 10 percent of the votes were divided among various small parties. Some of the minor parties have followed the lead of the major parties and sought to enhance their electoral chances through coalitions, such as the Broad Front. The traditional two-party system was threatened for the first time by the Broad Front's victory in the Montevideo municipal elections in 1989, its first win on the national level.
As previously noted, a system of coparticipation (coparticipación) in the government between the ruling party and the principal opposition has characterized Uruguayan politics since 1872. According to Weinstein, this term best described Uruguay's unique political process and was still widely used among Uruguayans in the 1980s. Coparticipation meant that the two traditional parties and their members were entitled to divide and share the governing of the country. Indeed, in order to govern, the majority party had to make alliances with other parties because being the majority party in a proportional representation system did not necessarily mean that it had a simple majority in the General Assembly. For example, the Colorado Party almost always governed in alliance with a section of the National Party. During the first years of the Sanguinetti administration, the National Party refrained from systematic opposition, thereby helping to ease the legislative passage of government policies. The Colorado Party was expected to do the same for the Lacalle government. Sharing political power also has been determined by the principle of parity (paridad), meaning that the losing party's participation in the government was based on the relative electoral strength of the two parties.
Each party permitted internal ideological divisions because each party could run multiple presidential candidates and its own slate of legislative nominees. Factions, or sub-lemas, fielded different lists of candidates for general elections. Voters expressed a preference for a list rather than an individual candidate, and they voted for a party. The winning list of the party that received the most votes won the presidency and a percentage of the seats in the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives corresponding to the percentage of votes that the party as a whole received. National and departmental elections were held simultaneously every five years. Campaigns were funded in part by government subsidies given to the parties and factions in accordance with their voting strength in the previous election.
Uruguay was one of the few Latin American countries with two political groupings--the Colorado and National parties--as old as the country itself. Most Uruguayans considered themselves either Colorados or Blancos from birth, and affiliation with one of the two major parties or their major sub-lemas was a part of one's family heritage. The two parties traditionally maintained a rough equilibrium, and their factions had their own leaders, candidates, followers, policies, and organizational structures. These sub-lemas embraced persons of various political orientations and social backgrounds. In general, however, the Colorado Party traditionally was associated with the city, labor unions, and secularist and "progressive" movements, whereas the National Party identified with the interior farming groups and the more religious and conservative groups.
The cleavage between Montevideo and the rural interior influenced party affiliation and political attitudes to a greater extent than did differences in social status and income. (The coastal region often held the balance of power between Montevideo and the interior.) Although three-fourths of all voters remained loyal to the traditional parties in the 1984 elections, the support of these parties in Montevideo weakened gradually during the 1980s. The decline of the National Party in Montevideo was the most pronounced; it won none of the capital's twenty-three electoral zones in 1984 and made no headway against the Broad Front in 1989.
Despite internal fractionalization, both traditional parties maintained the structures typical of more cohesive modern parties, including conventions, general assemblies, party steering committees, and caucuses. The fundamental units of the factions of both parties were the neighborhood clubs, guided and controlled by professional politicians.
Vague ideological differences between the major parties still existed in the 1980s, but the differences involved not so much politics as allegiance to certain leaders and traditions. Although the Colorados traditionally were more liberal than the Blancos, both parties had liberal and conservative factions. In the General Assembly, the left wings of both parties often lined up in opposition to both right wings on important votes. The Colorados also were more anticlerical in the early twentieth century, but this distinction lost most of its significance as both parties broadened their bases of support. The urban-based Colorados were considered more cosmopolitan in outlook than the rural-based, tradition-oriented, and economically conservative Blancos. In general, the followers of Batlle y Ordóñez in the Colorado Party were more willing than the Blanco leadership to undertake political, social, and economic innovations.
The Colorado and National parties each had various sublemas in late 1990. The Colorado Party's factions included the right-of-center United Batllism (Batllismo Unido--BU), which was in the majority for thirty years until August 1990; the leftof -center BU sector, called the Social Action Movement (Movimiento de Acción Social--MAS), led by Hugo Fernández Faingold; Unity and Reform (Unidad y Reforma), or List 15, led by Jorge Batlle Ibáñez; the antimilitary Freedom and Change (Libertad y Cambio), or List 85, led by Enrique E. Tarigo, Sanguinetti's vice president; the Independent Batllist Faction (Corriente Batllista Independiente--CBI), led by Senator Manuel Flores Silva; Víctor Vaillant's "progressive" Batllist Reaffirmation Movement (Movimiento de Reafirmación Batllista-- MRB), a CBI splinter group; the rightist Colorado and Batllist Union (Unión Colorada y Batllista--UCB), or List 123; and Democratic Traditionalism (Tradicionalismo Democrático--Trademo), a sector of the National Republican Association (Asociación Nacional Republicana--ANR).
The UCB was subdivided into three main groups: the minority right-wing and promilitary Pachequist faction led by Jorge Pacheco Areco (president, 1967-72); the sector led by Pablo Millor Coccaro, Pacheco's principal rival; and the National Integrationist Movement (Movimiento Integracionista Nacional-- MIN), which was formed in early 1986 and led by Senator Pedro W. Cersósimo. Following the 1989 elections, Millor's sector caused a political storm within the UCB when it announced that it would henceforth operate autonomously, although still recognizing Pacheco's leadership. Pacheco's faction, for its part, founded the National Colorado Movement (Movimiento Nacional Colorado-- MNC) on May 11, 1990.
As a result of the primaries of the Colorado Party in early August 1990, Batlle Ibáñez's Unity and Reform sub-lema ousted the faction led by former President Sanguinetti from the leadership of the Colorado Party. Batlle Ibáñez's faction obtained five seats on the party's fifteen-member National Executive Committee, followed by Pacheco's four seats, Sanguinetti's three, and Millor's three.
The National Party was divided into at least five factions. The Herrerist Movement (Movimiento Herrerista), or faction, of the National Party emerged in the 1930s. Lacalle founded the Herrerist National Council (Consejo Nacional Herrerista--CNH) in 1961. The CNH joined with Senator Dando Ortiz's sector in 1987 to form the right-of-center Herrerist Movement. After Wilson Ferreira Aldunate's death in March 1988, Lacalle assumed the presidency of the Herrerist Movement.
Other National Party factions included Carlos Julio Pereyra's left-of-center La Rocha National Movement (Movimiento Nacional de La Rocha--MNR), the second largest National Party sublema ; the centrist For the Fatherland (Por la Patria--PLP), founded in 1969 by Ferreira as a personalist movement, reorganized into a more democratic party in 1985, and led by Senator Alberto Sáenz de Zumarán after Ferreira's death in 1988; Renovation and Victory (Renovación y Victoria--RV), led by Gonzalo Aguirre Ramírez, a constitutional lawyer; and the People's Blanco Union (Unión Blanca Popular--UBP), founded in the late 1980s by Oscar López Balestra, a member of the Chamber of Representatives. The CNH, MNR, and PLP were all antimilitary factions.
Additional minor parties included the White Emblem (Divisa Blanca), a conservative party led by Eduardo Pons Etcheverry; Juan Pivel Devoto's Nationalist Popular Faction (Corriente Popular Nacionalista--CPN), which broke away from the National Party in late 1986; the Barrán National Party (Partido NacionalBarrán ); the ultrarightist Society for the Defense of Family Tradition and Property (Sociedad de Defensa de la Tradición Familia y Propriedad--TFP); the Humanist Party (Partido Humanista), which appeared in 1985; and the Animal Welfare Ecological Green Party (Eto-Ecologista--Partido Verde--EE-PV), which emerged in 1989.
In February 1971, Colorado Party dissident senators Zelmar Michelini (who was later assassinated in 1976) and Hugo Batalla formed the left-of-center Broad Front coalition in a bid to break the historical two-party system of Colorados and Blancos. The Socialist Party of Uruguay (Partido Socialista del Uruguay--PSU), one of Uruguay's oldest left-wing parties (founded in 1910 by Emilio Frugoni), was one of its principal members.
Another core Broad Front member, founded in 1921, was the Communist Party of Uruguay (Partido Comunista del Uruguay--PCU). Rodney Arismendi, PCU general secretary since 1955, returned to Uruguay in November 1984 after many years as a resident of Moscow; he died in 1988 and was replaced by Jaime Pérez, a former union leader. One of Sanguinetti's first acts after taking office was to lift the restrictions on the PCU (which had been banned) and its Moscow-line newspaper El Popular. The PCU had only an estimated 7,500 members in early 1990, but its apparatus controlled the majority of the country's labor unions.
The Broad Front had a strong following in Montevideo, with a presence in all social classes and all generations. Under military rule (1973-85), the alliance's leader, General (Retired) Líber Seregni Mosquera, was arrested, the Broad Front was outlawed, and its activists were persecuted. When national elections were held in 1984, the military banned Seregni from running. Nevertheless, with Juan José Crottogini as its candidate, the Broad Front received slightly more than 21 percent of the total vote, compared with 18.5 percent in the 1971 national elections.
The Broad Front coalition generally agreed with the Sanguinetti government's foreign policy and political leadership stances, but it was fundamentally opposed to its economic policies. For example, the Broad Front favored increasing real incomes and opposed the government's export-oriented policy.
Internal power struggles between moderate and radical sectors weakened the Broad Front in the late 1980s. By late 1987, the Christian Democratic Party (Partido Demócrata Cristiano--PDC) and the People's Government Party (Partido por el Gobierno del Pueblo--PGP) were feuding with other coalition members over their demand that the alliance be redefined to give their own positions greater weight. The PDC and PGP wanted to reduce the hegemony of the Marxist groups and their undue influence on Seregni's public stances. In 1988 a PDC faction broke away and sought an understanding with one of the factions of the National Party. The PDC and PGP then proposed that the alliance should field two presidential candidates in the November 1989 elections: Seregni and PGP leader Batalla. The Broad Front's radical Marxist and communist sector, however, opposed the idea of running two candidates because they regarded the front as a party and not a coalition. In December 1988, therefore, the leftist parties of the alliance decided that Seregni would be the Broad Front's sole candidate; but the PGP backed Batalla. The PDC and PGP withdrew from the alliance in February and March 1989, respectively, over the issue of presidential candidacies and the leftist control of the organization. Batalla's PGP, which accounted for about 40 percent of the alliance's electoral votes in 1984, had been responsible for eleven of the Broad Front's twenty-one representatives and three of its six senators.
By May 1989, the Broad Front consisted of fourteen parties. Smaller ones included the People's Victory Party (Partido por la Victoria del Pueblo--PVP) and the Uruguayan Revolutionary Movement of Independents (Movimiento de Independientes Revolucionario Oriental--MRO), a pro-Cuban group founded in 1961. Five parties were accepted as members in May 1989: the National Liberation Movement-Tupamaros (Movimiento de Liberación NacionalTupamaros --MLN-T); the 26th of March Movement (Movimiento 26 de Marzo--26 M); the Trotskyite Socialist Workers' Party (Partido Socialista de los Trabajadores--PST); the Grito de Asencio Integration Movement (Movimiento de Integración Grito de Asencio); and a faction of the PDC.
The MLN-T--a former urban guerrilla organization established in 1962 and disbanded by the armed forces in 1972--was given amnesty by the General Assembly in March 1985. The MLN-T reorganized and appeared in the political arena in July 1986 but was not legally recognized until May 1989. With several hundred members, it was politically insignificant. In order to run candidates in the November 1989 elections, the MLN-T, together with other ultra-leftist forces--the PVP, PST, and MRO---created the People's Participation Movement (Movimiento de Participación Popular--MPP).
In 1989 the Broad Front also included a subcoalition called the Advanced Democracy Party (Partido de Democracia Avanzada), which served as a front for the PCU; the People's Broad Front Movement (Movimiento Popular Frenteamplista--MPF); the Broad Front Unity Faction (Corriente de Unidad Frenteamplista--CUFO); the Pregón Movement (Movimiento Pregón); Alba Roballo's left-wing Liberal Party (Partido Liberal), a sub-lema that joined in April 1989; the Nationalist Action Movement (Movimiento de Acción Nacionalista--MAN), a nationalist organization; the Popular and Progressive Blanco Movement (Movimiento Popular Blanco y Progresista--MBPP), a moderate left-wing party; and the Movement for the People's Government (Movimiento por el Gobierno del Pueblo--MGP), which became, in August 1986, the tenth political party of Uruguay to be created. The MGP subsequently merged with the PGP and adopted a social democratic program.
The Broad Front was organized like a communist party. It had a party congress with decision-making powers, under which was a central committee-like body called the national plenum. A president, Seregni, headed the 108-member national plenum, which met at least once every two months. A political bureau, which included the president, exercised day-to-day authority.
After breaking away from the Broad Front in early 1989, the PDC and PGP joined with the Civic Union (Unión Cívica--UC) to form a coalition called the Integration Movement (Movimiento de Integración--MI). The MI nominated the PGP leader, Batalla--a senator, journalist, and lawyer--as its 1989 presidential candidate. On July 24, these three social democratic parties comprising the MI--the PGP, PDC, and UC--formally created a leftof -center electoral alliance within the MI called the New Sector (Nuevo Espacio), which reaffirmed Batalla as its presidential candidate.
Juan Guillermo Young and Carlos Vassallo, dissidents from the conservative Civic Union of Uruguay (Unión Cívica del Uruguay-- UCU), a Catholic party founded in 1912, founded the PDC in 1962, when the UCU officially became the PDC. A left-of-center party, the PDC advocated social transformation through democratic means. The PDC soon fractionalized. In 1971, when the PDC joined with the PCU and PSU in the Broad Front, PDC dissidents, including former UCU members, broke away and formed the UC, an anti-Marxist social Christian party. The UC recognized a Christian democratic faction that also split from the PDC in 1980. From November 1982 to August 1984, the military regime banned the PDC for its policy of casting blank ballots.
In the second half of the 1980s, the UC was divided between its traditional sector, the Progressive Faction (Corriente Progresista), led by Humberto Ciganda and made up of other longtime leaders; the Renewal Faction (Corriente Renovadora), led by members of the Chamber of Representatives Julio Daverede and Heber Rossi Passina; the UC secretary general, Héctor Pérez Piera; and youth leaders. One leader of the UC's Progressive Faction, the late Juan Vicente Chiarino, served as Sanguinetti's defense minister. The withdrawal of the UC's presidential candidate, Ciganda, from the November 1989 elections widened the split within the party.
The Sanguinetti government pursued a moderate and pragmatic approach to the nation's problems. Having inherited a US$4.9 billion foreign debt accrued almost entirely during the military regime, the Sanguinetti government focused on foreign trade. On April 1, 1986, after several months of negotiations among the principal parties--the ruling Colorados, the Blancos, the Broad Front, and the UC--the leaders signed an agreement to promote the country's economic and social development.
In August 1986, Sanguinetti, with the backing of his Colorado Party, submitted an unrestricted amnesty bill for the military and police to the General Assembly as an extension of the pardon granted to the Tupamaros. The government was able to obtain only fifty-five of the necessary sixty-six votes, however, so the proposal was rejected. The ruling Colorado Party then voted in favor of the bill sponsored by the National Party, which recommended trials only for those responsible for serious human rights violations. The Senate rejected the National Party bill as well, setting the stage for the worst political crisis in twenty months of democratic government. Lacking a majority in either of the two chambers, Sanguinetti met with opposition National Party leader Ferreira to attempt to reach a political solution on a number of points: the human rights issue; the extreme lack of expediency in General Assembly deliberations; interparty differences over the proposed national budget; and frequent clashes between the government and the opposition. In the first step leading to a resolution, the government and the National Party reached an agreement on the budget report, which the General Assembly subsequently approved.
In December 1986, after acrimonious debate (including fistfights in the Chamber of Representatives), the General Assembly approved the government's alternative to an amnesty, consisting of a "full stop" to the examination of human rights violations committed by 360 members of the armed forces and police during the military regime. According to Amnesty International, thirty-two Uruguayan citizens "disappeared," and thousands were victims of persecution and torture during that period. Groups opposed to what they called the "impunity" law-- including the MNR, the Broad Front, the Tupamaros, the UC, and the most important labor confederation--launched a campaign, spearheaded by the MNR, to force a referendum on the issue. Led by human rights activists, university professors, and artists, these groups laboriously collected the required 555,701 "recall" signatures, all of which had to be certified by the Electoral Court. The measure carried by only 230 signatures. According to the constitution, the signatures of at least 25 percent of the electorate were needed for the holding of a referendum to revoke a law passed by the General Assembly.
Those who favored keeping the full-stop law--including the ruling Colorado Party and the Ferreira-led For the Fatherland (the principal National Party faction)--argued that the amnesty had given the country four years of stability and military obedience to democratic rule. They warned that a repeal could spark an army revolt. Nevertheless, the MRB supported the call for a referendum on the full-stop law. In the obligatory April 16, 1989, referendum--in which 85 percent of the population participated--Uruguayans voted by a decisive 57 percent to 43 percent to keep the full-stop law in effect and thereby maintain a peaceful democratic transition. Although the referendum's aftermath was characterized by tranquillity and a spirit of reconciliation, it highlighted Uruguay's growing generation gap. Approximately 75 percent of Montevideo residents between eighteen and twenty-nine voted against the full-stop law.
<"74.htm">The November 1989 Elections
<"75.htm">The Lacalle Administration
Of the dozen candidates running for the presidency in the elections of November 26, 1989, the two front-runners were the National Party's Lacalle and the ruling Colorado Party's Batlle Ibáñez. Both were from political families and were grandsons of the founders of their respective parties. The tradition of public service went back even further for Lacalle; his great-grandfather, Juan José de Herrera, was minister of foreign affairs in Blanco governments in the nineteenth century. Batlle Ibáñez--a lawyer, senator, and leader of the Colorado Party's majority sector, United Batllism (Batllismo Unido--BU)--descended from three presidents: his great-grandfather Lorenzo Batlle y Grau (1868-72), his great- uncle José Batlle y Ordóñez (1903-07, 1911-15), and his father, Luis Batlle Berres (1947-51).
The personalities of Lacalle and Batlle Ibáñez, rather than policy differences, dominated the campaign, although the issues debated were the ones that traditionally distinguished the two parties. Whereas the Colorado Party emphasized the role of the government in promoting the national welfare, the National Party focused on Uruguay's people and society as being primarily responsible for their own destiny. The more controversial issues included "privatization" of state enterprises---such as the telephone company and ports--and the extension of university education to the interior. Both Batlle Ibáñez and Lacalle advocated reducing the state's economic role, seeking foreign investment, and taking on the leftist-led unions. One difference was that Batlle Ibáñez favored paying the country's foreign debt, whereas Lacalle favored renegotiating it. In a televised debate in October 1989, Batlle Ibáñez repeatedly noted their agreement on issues, while Lacalle distanced himself from his opponent, thereby apparently outscoring him. In general, the campaign was very respectful and lacking in "dirty tricks."
Other 1989 presidential candidates included, on the Blanco side: Carlos Julio Pereyra, leftist leader of the MNR; Alberto Sáenz de Zumarán, a strongly antimilitary centrist endorsed by the Social Christian Movement (Movimiento Social Cristiano--MSC); and the CNH's Francisco Ubilles. On the Colorado side, candidates included Sanguinetti's former minister of labor and social welfare, Hugo Fernández Faingold, the MAS leader; and Jorge Pacheco Areco, the former president (1967-72) and later ambassador to Paraguay, as well as leader of the Colorado and Batllist Union (Unión Colorada y Batllista--UCB), who ran on a ticket with Pablo Millor Coccaro, whom he selected late in the campaign. Pacheco's authoritarian and austere administration had been widely disliked, and Pacheco had spent his previous seventeen years out of the country--even serving as an ambassador for the military regime--but many Uruguayans still nostalgically identified him with a long-gone period of economic stability and security.
Of the National Party's three candidates--Pereyra, Zumarán, and Lacalle--Lacalle initially had the least support among party members (20 percent), as compared with Pereyra (28 percent) and Zumarán (46 percent), according to a poll commissioned by a weekly news magazine, Búsqueda, in July 1988. This standing was reversed, however, by September 1989 when, according to a poll in Montevideo published by Búsqueda, 52 percent of those questioned voted for Lacalle, 34 percent for Pereyra, and 10 percent for Zumarán.
The total number of people duly registered to vote in the November 26, 1989, presidential elections was 2.4 million, of which 47.3 percent were Montevideo city residents and 52.7 percent were from the country's nineteen departments. In an upset for the Colorado Party, Lacalle and his running mate, Gonzalo Aguirre Ramírez, won after their party garnered 37.7 percent of the 2 million votes cast, compared with the Colorado Party's 29.2 percent, the Broad Front's 20.6 percent, and the New Sector's meager 8.6 percent. Other parties, including the EE-PV, received a total of 3.9 percent.
The other big winner was the Broad Front, whose mayoral candidate, Tabaré Vázquez, captured Montevideo's municipal government. Vázquez, a cancer specialist and professor of oncology, as well as a member of the PSU's central committee, became the city's first Marxist mayor by obtaining 35 percent of the total vote.
The Colorado Party lost not only the elections but also ten departments and fifteen seats in the Chamber of Representatives. The National Party took seventeen departments, obtaining thirtynine of the ninety-nine seats in the Chamber of Representatives; the Colorado Party, thirty; the Broad Front, twenty-one; and the New Sector, nine. Of the thirty Senate seats, the Blancos won twelve, the Colorados nine, the Broad Front seven, and the New Sector two. Aguirre's own fledgling RV party overtook the veteran PLP and equaled the MNR by winning 112,000 votes, thereby winning two seats in the Senate and three in the Chamber of Representatives.
A climate of labor unrest, imminent economic crisis, and growing activism on the political left confronted Lacalle when he assumed office on March 1, 1990. Lacking a parliamentary majority, he formed a "European-style" coalition, called National Coincidence (Coincidencia Nacional), with the Colorado Party, the first such interparty sharing of power in a quarter-century. Nevertheless, the two parties were able to agree only on sharing four cabinet appointments and supporting the new government's fiscal-reform measures.
Lacalle gave the posts of ministers of housing and social promotion, industry and energy, public health, and tourism to the Colorado Party in exchange for the necessary support in the General Assembly for approving various controversial projects regarding education, the fiscal deficit, and the right to strike- -measures that labor unions and the left opposed. Lacalle chose Mariano Brito, a law professor with no previous government service, as his defense minister; Enrique Braga, one of his principal economic advisers, as his economy and finance minister; Héctor Gros Espiell, a lawyer-diplomat, as his foreign affairs minister; and Juan Andrés Ramírez, a lawyer-professor who had not previously occupied any key position, as his interior minister.
At the top of Lacalle's policy priorities were regional economic integration and moving Uruguay toward a market economy, largely through privatization of inefficient state enterprises and through free trade. Unlike his predecessor, however, Lacalle found himself confronted with a Marxist mayor of Montevideo, whose Broad Front coalition was opposed to economic restructuring. By mid-1990 the prospects for a "co-habitation arrangement" between the neoliberal, rightof -center president and Vázquez appeared poor. Shortly after taking their respective offices, the two leaders publicly clashed on departmental government prerogatives. Vázquez sought to pursue autonomous policies in areas such as transportation, public works, and health and to decentralize power in Montevideo Department. Lacalle opposed Vázquez's attempts to expand his departmental powers, arguing that a more powerful mayor of Montevideo would undermine the position of the executive branch. The confrontation that effectively ended the co-habitation arrangement took place over Montevideo's new budget, which Lacalle threatened to block.
Prior to the 1973 coup, the military exercised influence but had rarely intervened directly in the political system. The fact that all of the defense ministers who served between 1959 and 1971 were military men indicated a degree of military influence. By 1984, when the military negotiated with the political parties on a transition to democratic government, the armed forces were considered a de facto political force. As Uruguay returned formally to democratic rule in 1985, the armed forces continued to exercise a degree of tutelage over national affairs, despite their depoliticized role. Sanguinetti's defense minister was a retired lieutenant general, Hugo M. Medina (the only military defense minister to serve in the 1980s), who as army commander in chief had refused to serve subpoenas on military officers. A poll commissioned by Búsqueda in September 1986 found that an overwhelming majority of Montevideo's population believed, to varying degrees, that the military was still a factor in political power; only 10 percent believed that the military had no power.
Some observers and political party leaders commented on alleged military pressure to defeat a call for prosecution of military officers for human rights abuses. The issue arose in December 1986 after the General Assembly approved the full-stop amnesty law, which exonerated 360 members of the armed forces and the police accused of committing human rights abuses during the military regime. In one demonstration of possible continued military influence, Defense Minister Medina reflected military opinion in condemning the April 1989 referendum to decide the validity of the amnesty law. Medina emphasized that "the dignity of the national army" should not be violated. General Washington Varela, head of the Military Academy, warned that the army would "close ranks" if the amnesty were rescinded.
Amnesty appeared to be firm, but the question of whether or not the military would retain its traditionally apolitical role in the future was less certain. Stating that "the Pandora's box of military intervention has been opened in Uruguay," Martin Weinstein opined in 1989 that the military would continue to exercise a veto power over government action in human rights and military affairs and possibly assume a tutelary role in areas such as economic policy and labor relations. Military influence in the latter two areas, however, had not yet manifested itself in 1990. In order to demonstrate his authority over the military, Lacalle appointed a civilian as his defense minister and exercised his presidential prerogative to appoint armed forces commanders of his own choosing, regardless of seniority. His appointments of the air force and naval commanders were third and fourth in seniority, respectively, among serving officers.
<"78.htm">The Roman Catholic Church
In March 1985, Sanguinetti abrogated laws and decrees issued by the military regime that had banned the labor unions, the immunity of labor union leaders, and the right of public and private workers to strike. He also restored the legal status of the primarily communist-led National Convention of Workers (Convención Nacional de Trabajadores--CNT), dissolved by the military regime in 1973; in 1983 the Interunion Workers' Assembly (or Plenum) (Plenario Intersindical de Trabajadores--PIT) adopted the name PIT-CNT to show its link with the banned CNT. The longrepressed labor movement took advantage of its newly granted freedom by staging strikes and marches during the first six months of democracy.
The communist-led Uruguayan labor movement, which claimed to represent about 300,000 of the 1.3 million Uruguayan workers, also called general strikes in the late 1980s, as well as strikes in specific job areas, mostly involving civil service workers or those in state enterprises. In 1986 Sanguinetti's government and the Colorado Party signed a "nonaggression" pact with the PCU. Under the Colorado-Communist Pact (the "Co-Co Pact"), militant labor members of the Colorado Party and the PCU formed alliances whenever the National Party promoted a movement within a labor organization. Nevertheless, the powerful main labor organization, the PIT-CNT, staged three general strikes in 1986.
The attitudes of the leadership of the Moscow-oriented World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), which was affiliated with the PIT-CNT, were among the main issues discussed by candidates in the 1989 presidential campaign. The leading candidates endorsed proposals for legislation to require secret strike votes and other union regulation. Labor activity in Uruguay was virtually unregulated. The WFTU supported the PCU and other leftist political groups united in the Broad Front. In November 1989, the movement was preparing for a showdown with the mainstream political leaders over whether or not to espouse a more marketoriented economy with foreign investment. Although the PIT-CNT's leadership opposed increasing foreign investment, the organization was becoming fractionalized among those influenced by perestroika (restructuring) in the Soviet Union, those who rejected it, and non-Marxists seeking to challenge leftist domination of the movement.
Lacalle advocated regulating labor union activities, including the right to strike. In his view, the decision on whether or not to strike should be made by the workers in a secret vote, after the failure of obligatory reconciliation efforts. Shortly after Lacalle took office, Minister of Labor and Social Welfare Carlos Cat, who ran for mayor of Montevideo in the 1989 elections, met with representatives of business organizations and the PIT-CNT but failed to reach an agreement. The PIT-CNT demonstrated its right to strike with a six-hour general work stoppage on July 25, 1990, to protest the government's austerity and privatization programs.
Despite Lacalle's efforts to regulate the sector, Uruguay's labor movement in 1990 had significant clout as an interest group, mainly with regard to its highly disruptive strike tactics. Like leftist political organizations in general, however, the labor unions' continued use of the same rhetoric and methods that got results during the military regime were seen by some Uruguayan journalists and sociologists as major contributors to both emigration and apathy among young Uruguayans.
The Roman Catholic Church has had only a minimal role in Uruguay because of a strong anticlerical bias bequeathed by Batlle y Ordóñez. Unlike many other Latin American countries, religion has not interfered in politics to any significant extent. Although 66 percent of the population was nominally Roman Catholic in 1990, less than half were practicing Catholics. The church's main political wing was the PDC, which advocated social transformation through democratic means. In addition, there were numerous lay organizations engaged in enhancing the church's social relevance. These included the Catholic Workers' Circle, Catholic Action, the Christian Democratic Youth Movement, and the Catholic Family Movement. The conservatives had few representatives among the clergy.
The election of Lacalle, a devout Catholic, may have reflected ascending Catholic influence in the nation. Another indicator of rising Catholic influence was the establishment in 1984 of the Catholic University of Uruguay in Montevideo, the country's only private university. However, the limits of Catholic influence in Uruguay were highlighted in early 1986 by the failure of a proposal by Catholic conservatives in the Colorado and National parties to ban the film Hail Mary, which the church hierarchy regarded as "pornographic and blasphemous."
Student organizations have had little influence on their own, but they often supported the demands of labor unions and other groups. The University of the Republic, Uruguay's only public university, played a key role as an opposition force during the administrations of Pacheco (1967-72) and Juan María Bordaberry Arocena (1972-76). Shortly after taking office, Sanguinetti ordered the restoration of the legal status of the Federation of Uruguayan University Students (Federación de Estudiantes Universitarios del Uruguay--FEUU). The military regime, whose generals regarded the university as a center of leftist subversion, had banned the FEUU. University of the Republic student elections were held twice during the Sanguinetti administration, and student groups resumed campus political activities. As a result of the June 1989 university elections, leftists retained their dominance in 1990.
Uruguay's long tradition of freedom of the press was severely curtailed during the twelve years of military dictatorship, especially its final years under Lieutenant General Gregorio Alvarez Armelino (1981-85). During his administration, more than thirty news organizations, including radio stations, publications, and television stations, were closed. On his first day in office in March 1985, Sanguinetti reestablished complete freedom of the press. His government also abrogated a regulation that compelled all international news agencies to supply a copy of all disseminated political news to the Ministry of the Interior.
Although newspapers have played an important role in the evolution of Uruguayan party politics, they were generally affiliated with and dependent on one or the other of the traditional parties. This combination of party dependence before the military regime and censorship during it prevented the press and the media in general from developing into a Fourth Estate. After freedom of the press was restored in 1985, however, Montevideo's newspapers (which accounted for all of Uruguay's principal daily newspapers) greatly expanded their circulations and presumably increased their influence. Most of the twenty-five to thirty interior newspapers were biweekly, except for a couple of regional dailies.
Well over 100 periodicals were published in Uruguay. Búsqueda (Search) was Uruguay's most important weekly news magazine. Founded in 1971, Búsqueda had close links to civilian economic officials in the Sanguinetti and Lacalle governments and served as an important forum for political and economic analysis. A right-of-center, independent publication, Búsqueda had a liberal editorial policy that espoused free markets, free trade, and private enterprise and competition. Although it sold only about 16,000 copies a week, its estimated readership exceeded 50,000. The educational economic status of its readers placed them among the top 3 or 4 percent of the population.
Other periodicals included the PDC's Aquí, a weekly founded in late 1984; the monthly Cuadernos de marcha, founded in 1985 by Carlos Quijano--who founded the former weekly procommunist newspaper Marcha in 1939--and associated with the Broad Front; Zeta, a weekly founded in 1986 and affiliated with the PGP; and Maté amargo, a fortnightly published by the Tupamaros with an estimated readership of 53,000. An additional 100 periodicals were imported from foreign countries.
Fifteen foreign wire services had offices in Montevideo. Persons affiliated with the National Party established Uruguay's first private international news agency, PRESSUR, in 1984. The Sanguinetti government had its own official news service, the Presidential Information Service (Servicio Presidencial de Información--SEPREDI), presumably retained by Lacalle with a new staff. The leading press associations were the Association of Newspapers of Uruguay, the Uruguayan Press Association, and the National Association of Uruguayan Broadcasters (Asociación Nacional de Broadcasters Uruguayos--ANDEBU).
Uruguay's foreign policy has been shaped by its democratic tradition, its history of being a victim of foreign intervention, its status as the second smallest country in South America (after Suriname), and its location between the two rival giants of the region: Argentina to the west and Brazil to the north. In the nineteenth century, Argentina and Brazil did not accept Uruguay's status as an independent republic, and they often invaded Uruguayan territory. The British and French consuls, for their part, often exercised as much power as the local authorities. Thus, Uruguay's international relations historically have been guided by the principles of nonintervention, respect for national sovereignty, and reliance on the rule of law to settle disputes. The use of military force anywhere except internally was never a feasible option for Uruguay.
According to Bernardo Quagliotti de Bellis, a Uruguayan professor of law, his country had historically defined its foreign policy as based on five principles: affirmation of the right of self-determination of peoples; active participation in the process of political cooperation that attempts to look within and outside the region; coordination of positions on everything possible; recognition of the complexity and the diversity of the problems at hand; and flexibility combined with a sense of precaution.
Beginning with Batlle y Ordóñez's government in the early twentieth century, Uruguay has been active in international and regional organizations. It joined the United Nations (UN) in 1945 and has been a member of most of its specialized agencies. In 1986 Uruguay was elected to membership in the UN's Economic and Social Council. In December 1989, Uruguay signed the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. Uruguay belonged to thirty-one other international organizations as well, including the Organization of American States (OAS), the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (Intelsat), the Latin American Economic System (Sistema Económico Latinamericano--SELA), and the Latin American Integration Association (Asociación Latinoamericana de Integración-- ALADI). Uruguay was a signatory of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty), the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (Tlatelolco Treaty), and the Río de la Plata Basin Treaty.
Uruguay has had strong political and cultural ties with the countries of Europe and the Americas. It has shared basic values with them, such as support for constitutional democracy, political pluralism, and individual liberties. Historically, Uruguay has enjoyed a special relationship with Britain because of political and economic ties beginning in 1828. Bilateral relations with Argentina and Brazil have always been of particular importance. In 1974 and 1975, Uruguay signed economic and commercial cooperation agreements with both countries.
Traditionally, relations between Uruguay and the United States have been based on a common dedication to democratic ideals. Although it initially attempted neutrality in both world wars, Uruguay ultimately sided with the Allies. In World War I, Uruguay did not break relations with Germany and lift its neutrality policy until October 1917. By that time, the government of Feliciano Viera (1915-19) had recognized "the justice and nobility" of the United States severance of diplomatic relations with Germany in early 1917. In 1941 President Alfredo Baldomir (1938-43) allowed the United States to build naval and air bases in Uruguay. The United States also trained and supplied Uruguay's armed forces. In January 1942, one month after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Uruguay broke relations with the Axis. The United States reciprocated with generous loans. As a condition for admission to the San Francisco conference, where the United Nations Charter was drawn up, Uruguay declared war against the Axis on February 15, 1945. That year it also signed the Act of Chapultepec (a collective defense treaty of the American republics) and joined the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB). In 1947 it signed the Rio Treaty, a regional alliance that established a mutual defense system.
During the 1973-85 period of military rule, Uruguay's traditionally democratic diplomacy was replaced by "military diplomacy" as determined by the "Doctrine of National Security." This military diplomacy gave priority to the serious problem of national and regional subversion and to historical conflicts affecting regional diplomatic stability, such as the issues of dams between Argentina and Brazil, sovereignty over the Beagle Channel, Bolivia's attempts to regain access to the Pacific from Chile, the Ecuador-Peru border dispute, and South Atlantic security.
<"82.htm">Foreign Relations under Democratic Rule, 1985-90
<"83.htm">The United States
With the return of democratic government in 1985, Uruguay's foreign policy underwent an abrupt change. After taking office, Sanguinetti vowed to maintain and increase diplomatic relations with every nation "that respects the international rules of noninterference in the internal affairs of other countries." He carried out this policy by renewing relations with Cuba, Nicaragua, and China and by strengthening relations with the Soviet Union.
Sanguinetti's first foreign affairs minister, Enrique Iglesias, conducted an intensive and successful diplomatic offensive to restore his country's prestige. Once again, Uruguay began to host important international meetings, such as the September 1986 GATT conference and the second meeting of the presidents of the Group of Eight (the successor organization of the Contadora Support Group) in October 1988, at the seaside resort of Punta del Este. More world leaders visited Uruguay during the Sanguinetti administration than ever before in Uruguay's history.
An important element of the Sanguinetti government's foreign policy was the promotion of a more just world economy and of a more free and open trade system. Guided by Iglesias, Sanguinetti reintegrated Uruguay into the region, renewed and strengthened diplomatic and commercial relations with countries that were ignored for ideological reasons during the "military diplomacy" period, negotiated new markets for Uruguayan products, instigated a new round of negotiations in GATT, and designed a new Latin American strategy for dealing with the foreign debt. In April 1988, after Iglesias's election as president of the InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB), Luis A. Barrios Tassano became Sanguinetti's second foreign affairs minister. Barrios described Uruguayan foreign policy as "pluralist, multifaceted, nationalist, and flexible."
Although Uruguay was critical of unilateral United States military intervention in Latin America and elsewhere, bilateral relations during the 1985-90 period were excellent. The United States, which had expressed deep concern about the human rights situation beginning with the administration of Jimmy Carter, strongly supported Uruguay's transition to democracy. In March 1985, Secretary of State George P. Shultz attended Sanguinetti's presidential inauguration. As a member of the Contadora Support Group, Uruguay participated in meetings on Central American issues in 1985-86, particularly United States support for the anti-Sandinista resistance guerrillas in Nicaragua. The Sanguinetti government regarded United States aid to the antiSandinista Contra rebels in Nicaragua as an obstacle to peace in Central America. It also opposed the presence of United States troops in Honduras.
Despite his government's criticism of United States military actions in Honduras, in Nicaragua, and against Libya in April 1986, Sanguinetti received a warm welcome at the White House during an official five-day state visit to the United States in June 1986, the first by a Uruguayan president in more than thirty years. During the visit, which was dominated by trade discussions, Sanguinetti criticized United States protectionist policies, such as the decision to subsidize grain exports to the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, he departed Washington satisfied that the administration of President Ronald W. Reagan had adopted a more flexible policy toward Uruguayan exports. Shultz again paid an official visit to Uruguay on August 5, 1988, for talks with Sanguinetti, Barrios, and several opposition leaders. The official talks centered on trade issues.
Although Uruguay's relations with Panama at the time of the United States military intervention there in December 1989 were at their lowest possible level--without an ambassador-- Sanguinetti was again critical of the United States. He characterized the United States military operation as a "step backward."
Sanguinetti favored the formation of a bloc of debtor countries in Latin America to renegotiate the foreign debt. To that end, in the late 1980s Uruguay joined the Cartagena Consensus (of which Iglesias was secretary) on the foreign debt. Uruguay hosted the temporary secretariat of the Cartagena Consensus follow-up committee, a group of Latin America's eleven most indebted countries.
Uruguay also participated in the Group of Eight, a permanent mechanism for consultation and political coordination that succeeded the Contadora Support Group in December 1986. Like the Contadora Support Group, the Group of Eight advocated democracy and a negotiated solution to the Central American insurgency. It consisted of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The Sanguinetti government advocated a diplomatic solution to the insurgency in Central America based on the Caraballeda Declaration, a document drawn up on January 12, 1986, by the Contadora Support Group.
The Sanguinetti administration, after direct negotiations with Cuba, resumed Uruguay's commercial and cultural ties with the island nation in April 1985 and diplomatic and consular relations on October 17, 1985. It also reestablished diplomatic relations with Nicaragua. Uruguay had discontinued its diplomatic and consular relations with Cuba on September 8, 1964, in compliance with the decision of the OAS General Assembly, which sought to isolate the regime of Fidel Castro Ruz.
The Sanguinetti government's differences with Cuba's political, social, and economic system, as well as with some foreign policy issues, remained. For example, Sanguinetti disagreed with Castro's proposal to discontinue payment on the Latin American foreign debt. Sanguinetti believed that the resulting financial and commercial isolation would provoke much worse problems. In his view, the Cartagena Consensus, rather than a meeting in Havana, was the appropriate forum in which to discuss the debt issue. Both countries strengthened bilateral relations, however, by signing commercial agreements in May 1986 and March 1987 and by signing a five-year economic, industrial, scientific, and technical cooperation agreement on the latter occasion.
Sanguinetti considered regional integration in the Río de la Plata Basin the key to Uruguay's foreign policy. Uruguay's efforts at promoting integration were aided in the late 1980s by the emergence of democratic governments in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Paraguay. Sanguinetti sought a closer relationship with Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay in the belief that Uruguay's future was closely linked to the possibility of the integration of the Río de la Plata Basin. Although the Sanguinetti government supported Argentina's claim to sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), it adopted a neutral stance in the conflict between Argentina and Britain (which waged the South Atlantic War over the islands from April to June 1982) and made known its desire that military bases and other facilities not be installed in the South Atlantic. In May 1985, Argentina and Uruguay signed the Declaration of Colonia, which established the framework for promoting economic and social integration between the two countries.
Sanguinetti initiated a similar program of integration with Brazil. In August 1985, the Brazilian and Uruguayan presidents strengthened bilateral relations by holding the first meeting of the General Coordinating Commission and signing thirteen bilateral accords. The presidents of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay met in Brasilia in 1986 to advance their integration process. In January 1990, Sanguinetti hosted an official visit by the Paraguayan president, Army General Andrés Rodríguez Pedotti, during which integration matters such as the River Transport System (consisting of the Río Paraguay-Río Paraná-Río Uruguay waterway) were discussed.
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