Country Information - Main Aspects
Uruguay, officially the Eastern Republic of Uruguay or the Republic East of the Uruguay (River) (Spanish: Republica Oriental del Uruguay, is a nation locat
ed in the southeastern part of South America. Home to 3 million people, 1.7 million of which live in Montevideo. It is bordered by Brazil to the northeast, the Uruguay River to the west, the estuary of the Rio de la Plata (literally "River of the Silver", but commonly known in English as "River Plate") to the southwest, with Argentina on the other bank of both, and finally the South Atlantic Ocean to the southeast. It is the second smallest independent country in South America, larger only than Suriname and French Guiana, which is an overseas department of France. According to Transparency International, it is the second least corrupt country in Latin America (after Chile). Uruguay's political and labor conditions are among the most free on the continent.
Uruguay's politics takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Uruguay is both head of state and head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of the General Assembly of Uruguay. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. For most of Uruguay's history, the Partido Colorado and Partido Nacional have alternated in power. The elections of 2004, however, brought the Frente Amplio, a coalition of socialists, former Tupamaros, former communists and mainly social democrats among others to power with majorities in both houses of parliament and the election of President Tabaré Vázquez by an absolute majority.
According to Freedom House, an American organization that tracks global trends in political freedom, Uruguay ranked twenty-seventh in its "Freedom in the World" index. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, Uruguay scores a 7.96 on the Democracy Index, located in the last position among the 28 countries considered to be Full Democracies in the world. The report looks at 60 indicators across five categories: Free elections, civil liberties, functioning government, political participation and political culture.
Uruguay ranks 26th in the World CPI (Corruption Perception Index) composed by Transparency International.
The inhabitants of Uruguay before European colonization of the area were various tribes of hunter gatherer native Americans, the most well known being the Charrua Indians, a small tribe driven south by the Guaraní Indians of Paraguay. The name "Uruguay" comes from Guaraní. It has many possible meanings since Guaraní is a highly agglutinative language. Two of them are "river of the urus" (uru is a kind of bird) and "river of colorful or 'painted' chinchillas."
Europeans arrived in the territory of present-day Uruguay in 1516, but the absence of gold and silver limited settlement in the region during the 16th and 17th centuries. Uruguay became a zone of contention between the Spanish and the Portuguese empires. In 1603 the Spanish began to introduce cattle, which became a source of wealth in the region. The first permanent settlement on the territory of present-day Uruguay was founded by the Spanish in 1624 at Soriano on the Río Negro. In 1669-71, the Portuguese built a fort at Colonia del Sacramento. Spanish colonization increased as Spain sought to limit Portugal's expansion of Brazil's frontiers.
The capital Montevideo was founded by the Spanish in the early 18th century as a military stronghold; its natural harbor soon developed into a commercial center competing with Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires. Uruguay's early 19th century history was shaped by ongoing fights between the British, Spanish, Portuguese, and colonial forces for dominance in the Argentina-Brazil-Uruguay region. In 1806 and 1807, the British army attempted to seize Buenos Aires as part of their war with Spain. As a result, at the beginning of 1807, Montevideo was occupied by a 10,000-strong British force who held it until the middle of the year when they left to attack Buenos Aires.
At 176,214 square kilometres of Continental Land and 142,199 square kilometres of jurisdictional waters and small river islands, Uruguay is the second smallest sovereign nation in South America (after Suriname) and the third smallest territory (French Guiana is the smallest). The landscape features mostly rolling plains and low hill ranges (cuchillas) with a fertile coastal lowland. A dense fluvial network covers the country, consisting of four river basins or deltas; the River Plate, the Uruguay River, Merin Lake and the Black River. The major internal river is the Black River or Río Negro. Several lagoons are found along the Atlantic coast. The highest point in the country is the Cerro Catedral at 513.66 meters (1,685 ft 3 in) in the 'Carape' mountain range. To the southwest is the Río de la Plata (River Plate), the estuary of the Uruguay River, which forms the western border, and the Paraná River, that does not run through Uruguay itself.
Republic of Argentina: Uruguay River to the west and River Plate in the south.
Federative Republic of Brazil: Chuy Stream, 13 km, straight line (Chuy), 8.7 km. San Miguel Stream 13 km. Merim Lake, 280.1 km Yaguaron River, 142.4 km. Small Yaguaron River, 18.5 km. Mine's Stream 20.4 km, Acegua straight line 37.2 km. San Luis Stream 31.3 km. North Branch of the San Luis Stream 3.6 km. Straight line 8 km. 'Cañada' of the Cemetery, 4 km. Straight lines 0.6 km, Santa Ana hill range SE, 168.5 km. Rivera-Libramento 4.8 km. Santa Ana hill range 20.8 km. Black hill range 4189.3 km. Invernada Stream, 37.8 km. Cuareim River 313.4 km.
The climate in Uruguay is temperate in the southern part of the country and subtropical in the north, it has warm summers and cold winters. The predominantly gently undulating landscape is also somewhat vulnerable to rapid changes from weather fronts. It receives the periodic influence of the polar air in winter, and tropical air from Brazil in summer. Without mountains in zone that act as a barrier, the air masses freely move by the territory, causing fast variations of the climate. The coolest month is June, while the warmest is January. The rainfall is equally distributed throughout the year, but tends to be a bit more frequent in the autumn months. There can be frequent thunderstorms in the summer.
Enclaves and exclaves:
Since 1984 Uruguay has an Antarctic base on King George Island in Antarctica, part of the South Shetland Islands archipelago, at 62°11′04″S, 58°54′09″W, some 100 km from the Antarctic peninsula itself.
Uruguay is heavily populated by white Latin American people of European origin. According to a study done in 1997, 94% of its population is of white European descent, Spaniards, followed closely by Italians, including numbers of British, Germans, French, Swiss, Russians, Portuguese, Poles, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Estonians, Latvians, Dutch, Belgians, Croatians, Greeks, Scandinavians, Irish, and Armenians. The remaining 6% of the inhabitants are of either African or white African descent.
Many of the European immigrants arrived to Uruguay in the late 1800s and have heavily influenced the architecture and culture of Montevideo and other major cities. For this reason, Montevideo and life within the city are very reminiscent of Western Europe.
Some swiss colonies such as Colonia Valdense, Colonia Suiza and Nueva Helvecia were founded in the department of Colonia. Also, there are towns founded by early British settlers, like Conchillas and Barker. A Russian colony called San Javier, is found in the department of Rio Negro. Also there are mennonite colonies in the department of Rio Negro and in the department of Canelones. One of them, called El Ombu, is famous for its well know Dulce de Leche "Claldy", and is located near the city of Young.
Uruguay has a literacy rate of 96.79% (1996 est), it has a large urban middle class. During the 1970s and 1980s, an estimated 600,000 Uruguayans emigrated, principally to Spain, Italy, Argentina and Brazil. Other Uruguayans went to various countries in Europe, to the USA and Australia.
The birth rate is lower than neighboring countries Argentina (16.73 births/1000 population).
Uruguay has an enormous tradition in sports with important achievements in football (The most popular sport in Uruguay, by far, is association football (fútbol), in which the country, represented by the famous Uruguayan national football team of the Asociación Uruguaya de Fútbol has earned many honours, including two Gold medals in the Olympic Games: 1924, 1928 and two World Cups(First World Cup 1930 and 1950). The two main football clubs (Peñarol and Nacional) are both three times World Champions.
Basketball is also an important sport in Uruguay. The national basketball team, representing the Uruguayan Basketball Federation, won 12 South American championships, 2 Olympic bronze medals (one in 1952 and the other in 1956), and has participated in many panamerican and world championships. Currently, there is one Uruguayan, Esteban Batista, playing in the NBA for the Atlanta Hawks.
Rugby union (see Rugby union in Uruguay) is also a popular sport in Uruguay, with the national team, called "Los Teros" having qualified for both the 1999 Rugby World Cup and the subsequent 2003 world cup. The team is currently the second highest ranked in South America.