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Uruguay Democracy and Rights

Democracy and rights

Uruguay is one of Latin America's most democratic countries. The political institutions are stable and the civil rights are well respected.

Uruguay, like Costa Rica, is sometimes called "Latin America's Switzerland", with the aim that, in addition to stable democracies, they are also equal societies with high economic prosperity, at least relative to the region. In the rankings of countries according to political and civil liberties, only Costa Rica and possibly Chile throughout Latin America and the Caribbean come close to Uruguay's level. In the Economist Intelligence Unit compilation, the three as well as Canada are the only countries in the Western Hemisphere that in 2019 are classified as "full-fledged democracies" (only 22 countries in the world are counted by the EIU).

  • Countryaah: Offers a comprehensive list of airports in Uruguay, including international airports with city located, size and abbreviation, as well as the biggest airlines.

In Transparency International's index of corruption levels in 180 countries, Uruguay ranks 21st. On both US continents, only Canada is better off (see the full list here).

Uruguay is also one of the least violent countries in Latin America, but the murder rate and violent crime in general has increased alarmingly during the 2010s. The cause is said to be mainly smuggling in the region and war between drug gangs. Increasing drug trafficking has been behind several action packages, including more police in Montevideo, as well as the legalization of marijuana (see Current Policy).

Democracy and Human Rights of UruguayHuman rights are highly respected, but Uruguay has long been criticized by human rights organizations for not clearing about 160 so-called disappearances (executions) during the military dictatorship of 1973–1985. Since the left came to power in 2004, progress has been made, but there have been many trips around the legal situation that remain unclear (see further below).

Freedom of expression and media

The freedom of the press in Uruguay has a long tradition and the media climate is good, not least in comparison with the region in general. Although the situation is good, reports of threats and pressures on journalists are good.

For a long time, laws remained that restricted the freedom of the press under the military dictatorship (1973–1985), regarding "threats to public order" and "insult to the nation". Only in 2009 were they completely abolished. In the same year, the residents were given the right to request public documents.

A new media law, which was adopted in 2014, aimed to reduce owner concentration and increase the locally produced material in radio and TV. It was praised by international press freedom organizations as a model for the region.

Uruguay is ranked 19 out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index (full list is here).

Judicial system and legal security

The judicial system is independent of state power. but works inefficiently. Suspected persons may be detained for long periods pending prosecution. The conditions in the prisons do not meet international standards.

An amnesty bill passed in 1986 gave military and guerrilla members impunity for crimes committed during the dictatorship. In the 1989 and 2009 referendums, the Uruguayans said no to repeal the disputed law. But the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) decided in 2011 that the Penal Code violates an Inter-American Human Rights Convention and was therefore not valid. The then President José Mujica stopped the application of the law and the Congress then withdrew it completely. Investigations into more than 50 cases of murder, torture and extrajudicial disappearance were initiated. In early 2013, however, the country's highest court declared that the law that scrapped impunity violated the Constitution. It was thus unclear how the legal proceedings would go.

The goal that led to IACHR's decisive concern was a woman who was the daughter-in-law of Argentine poet Juan Gelman. She was pregnant when she was abducted in 1976 and gave birth to the child before she was murdered. Just over 20 years later, Gelman managed to track down his grandson, who had been adopted by a police family. The verdict also meant that the Uruguayan state was ordered to pay damages to the grandchild.

In some cases, the amnesty law was circumvented before it was annulled. Two of the country's leaders during the dictatorship, Gregorio Álvarez and Juan María Bordaberry, were sentenced in 2009 and 2010 to 25 and 30 years in prison respectively. Bordaberry died after over a year in house arrest while Álvarez had to serve seven years in prison before he died.

In November 2010, for the first time, an active military for human rights abuses was convicted during the dictatorship. General Miguel Dalmao was found guilty of murdering a communist. He also appealed and was morbid, but in May 2013 Dalmao was sentenced to 28 years in prison.


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