Democratization of Uruguay

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  • Topic: Democracy, Democratization, Liberal democracy
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  • Published : March 28, 2010
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Giancarlo Orichio
Dr. A. Arraras
CPO 3055
20 November 2008
Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Uruguay
A study of democratization presumes that the meaning of democratization is self-evident: defined simply as a transition of a political system from non-democracy towards accountable and representative government practices. (Grugel 3) A concept that is valid in Uruguayan politics however, has an element of potential risk that will be the topic of further analysis. Assessment of the latter will enable us to determine why Uruguay is the only one of the four former “bureaucratic-authoritarian” regimes in South America that includes Chile, Brazil, and Argentina to attain this debatably political status quo. Guillermo O’Donnell described this type of regime as an institution that uses coercive measures to respond to what they view as threats to capitalism, whereas, the only means of opposing this repressive government is by an “unconditional commitment to democracy.” (O’Donnell xiii) The hierarchically lead bureaucratic-authoritarian regime as a political actor poses a possible advantage to democratization insofar that the military-as-institution may consider that their interests are best served by extrication from the military-as-government. However, seizing power to a new governing body without imposing strong constraints is improbable and has occurred predictably in Uruguayan democratic transition. Understanding the obstacle faced by the newly fragile democratic government in managing the military and eliminating its reserved domains brings us to the task at hand. First, I will analyze the political history in Uruguay that lead up to the no doubt controversial argument that it has attained democratic consolidation. Secondly, I will analyze the factors that either contributed or hindered its journey to representative democracy; ultimately, arriving to the conclusion that Juan J. Linz and Alfred Stepan describe as a “risk-prone” consolidated democracy. On 25 August 1825, Juan Antonio Lavalleja, at the head of a group of patriots called the “treinta y tres orientales,” issued a declaration of independence. After a three-year fight, a peace treaty signed on 28 August 1828 guaranteed Uruguay's independence. During this period of political turmoil and civil war, the two political parties around which Uruguayan history has traditionally revolved, the Colorados and the Blancos, were founded. “Even by West Europen standards, [Uruguay] had a tradition of high party identification and a clear sense of a left-right index.” (Linz 152) Uruguay's first president, Gen. José Fructuoso Rivera, an ally of Artigas, founded the Colorados. The second president, Brig. Gen. Manuel Oribe, a friend of Lavalleja, founded the Blancos. The 19th century was largely a struggle between the two factions. However, it was not until the election of José Batlle y Ordóñez as president in 1903 that Uruguay matured as a nation. The Batlle administrations (1903–7, 1911–15) marked the period of greatest economic performance. A distinguished statesman, Batlle initiated the social welfare system codified in the Uruguayan constitution. From then on, Uruguay's social programs, funded primarily by earnings of beef and wool in foreign markets, gave Uruguay the revered soubriquet "Switzerland of South America." After World War II, the Colorados ruled, except for an eight-year period from 1958–66. It was during the administration of President Jorge Pacheco Areco (1967–72) that Uruguay entered a political and social crisis. As wool declined in world markets, export earnings no longer kept pace with the need for greater social expenditures. Political instability resulted, most dramatically in the emergence of Uruguay's National Liberation Movement, popularly known as the Tupamaros. This well-organized urban guerrilla movement adopted Marxist and nationalist ideals while on the other hand, most nationally important actors were disloyal or at best...
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