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



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

Geographic coordinates

33.00° S, 56.00° W

Area 91/257

total: 176,215 sq km

land: 175,015 sq km

water: 1,200 sq km

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than the state of Washington

Land boundaries

total: 1,591 km

border countries (2): Argentina 541 km, Brazil 1,050 km


660 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 24 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

continental shelf: 200 nm or the edge of continental margin


warm temperate; freezing temperatures almost unknown


mostly rolling plains and low hills; fertile coastal lowland


mean elevation:

elevation extremes:

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m

highest point: Cerro Catedral 514 m

Natural resources

arable land, hydropower, minor minerals, fish

Land use

agricultural land: 87.2%

arable land 10.1%; permanent crops 0.2%; permanent pasture 76.9%

forest: 10.2%

other: 2.6% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

1,810 sq km (2003)

Total renewable water resources

139 cu km (2011)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)

total: 3.66 cu km/yr (11%/2%/87%)

per capita: 1,101 cu m/yr (2000)

Natural hazards

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

Environment - current issues

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

Environment - international agreements

party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified: Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation

Geography - note

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

People and Society


noun: Uruguayan(s)

adjective: Uruguayan

Ethnic groups

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


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


Roman Catholic 47.1%, non-Catholic Christians 11.1%, nondenominational 23.2%, Jewish 0.3%, atheist or agnostic 17.2%, other 1.1% (2006)

Population 134/238

3,341,893 (July 2015 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 20.73% (male 352,470/female 340,275)

15-24 years: 15.89% (male 269,034/female 262,117)

25-54 years: 39.09% (male 644,816/female 661,635)

55-64 years: 10.25% (male 161,190/female 181,478)

65 years and over: 14.03% (male 187,051/female 281,827) (2015 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 55.9%

youth dependency ratio: 33.4%

elderly dependency ratio: 22.5%

potential support ratio: 4.4% (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 34.5 years

male: 32.8 years

female: 36.2 years (2015 est.)

Population growth rate 176/233

0.27% (2015 est.)

Birth rate 152/224

13.07 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Death rate 56/225

9.45 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Net migration rate 147/222

-0.9 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 est.)


urban population: 95.3% of total population (2015)

rate of urbanization: 0.53% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

MONTEVIDEO (capital) 1.707 million (2015)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.03 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.98 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.89 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.66 male(s)/female

total population: 0.94 male(s)/female (2015 est.)

Maternal mortality rate 124/184

15 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate 148/224

total: 8.74 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 9.7 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 7.75 deaths/1,000 live births (2015 est.)

Life expectancy at birth 73/224

total population: 77 years

male: 73.86 years

female: 80.26 years (2015 est.)

Total fertility rate 151/224

1.82 children born/woman (2015 est.)

Health expenditures 41/191

8.8% of GDP (2013)

Physicians density

3.74 physicians/1,000 population (2008)

Hospital bed density

2.5 beds/1,000 population (2012)

Drinking water source


urban: 100% of population

rural: 93.9% of population

total: 99.7% of population


urban: 0% of population

rural: 6.1% of population

total: 0.3% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access


urban: 96.6% of population

rural: 92.6% of population

total: 96.4% of population


urban: 3.4% of population

rural: 7.4% of population

total: 3.6% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

0.7% (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

14,400 (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

600 (2014 est.)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate 64/191

27.6% (2014)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight 94/138

4.5% (2011)

Education expenditures 92/173

4.4% of GDP (2011)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 16 years

male: 14 years

female: 17 years (2010)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24 61/134

total: 19.2%

male: 15.8%

female: 24% (2013 est.)


Country name

conventional long form: Oriental Republic of Uruguay

conventional short form: Uruguay

local long form: Republica Oriental del Uruguay

local short form: Uruguay

former: Banda Oriental, Cisplatine Province

the Guarani Indians named the Uruguay River, which makes up the western border of the country and whose name later came to be applied to the entire country

Government type

constitutional republic


name: Montevideo

geographic coordinates: 34.51° S, 56.10° W

time difference: UTC-3 (2 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions

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


25 August 1825 (from Brazil)

National holiday

Independence Day, 25 August (1825)


several previous; latest approved by plebiscite 27 November 1966, effective 15 February 1967; amended several times, last in 2004 (2015)

Legal system

civil law system based on the Spanish civil code

International law organization participation

accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction; accepts ICCt jurisdiction


citizenship by birth: yes

citizenship by descent: yes

dual citizenship recognized: yes

residency requirement for naturalization: 3-5 years


18 years of age; universal and compulsory

Executive branch

chief of state: President Tabare VAZQUEZ (since 1 March 2015); Vice President Raul Fernando SENDIC Rodriguez (since 1 March 2015); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government

head of government: President Tabare VAZQUEZ (since 1 March 2015); Vice President Raul Fernando SENDIC Rodriguez (since 1 March 2015)

cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president with approval of the General Assembly

elections/appointments: president and vice president directly elected on the same ballot by absolute majority vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 5-year term (eligible for nonconsecutive terms); election last held on 26 October 2014, with a runoff election on 30 November 2014 (next to be held on 27 October 2019, and a runoff if needed on 24 November 2019)

election results: Tabare VAZQUEZ elected president in a runoff election; percent of vote - Tabare VAZQUEZ (Socialist Party) 56.5%, Luis Alberto LACALLE Pou (Blanco) 43.4%

Legislative branch

description: bicameral General Assembly or Asamblea General consists of the Chamber of Senators or Camara de Senadores (31 seats; members directly elected in a single nationwide constituency by proportional representation vote; the vice-president serves as the presiding ex-officio member; elected members serve 5-year terms) and the Chamber of Representatives or Camara de Representantes (99 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by proportional representation vote to serve 5-year terms)

elections: Chamber of Senators - last held on 26 October 2014 (next to be held in October 2019); Chamber of Representatives - last held on 26 October 2014 (next to be held in October 2019)

election results: Chamber of Senators - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Frente Amplio 15, Blanco 10, Colorado Party 4, Independent Party 1; Chamber of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Frente Amplio 50, Blanco 32, Colorado Party 13, Independent Party 3, Popular Assembly 1

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Supreme Court of Justice (consists of 5 judges)

judge selection and term of office: judges nominated by the president and appointed in joint conference of the General Assembly; judges appointed for 10-year terms, with reelection after a lapse of 5 years following the previous term

subordinate courts: Courts of Appeal; District Courts (Juzagados Letrados); Peace Courts (Juzagados de Paz); Rural Courts (Juzgados Rurales)

Political parties and leaders

Broad Front (Frente Amplio) or EP-FA [Monica XAVIER] (a broad governing coalition that includes Liber Seregni Front (FLS) [Danilo ASTORI], Socialist Party [Monica XAVIER], Vertiente Artiguiste [Enrique RUBIO], Christian Democratic Party [Juan Andres ROBALLO], Popular Participation Movement (MPP) [Jose MUJICA], Broad Front Commitment [Raul SENDIC], Action and Thought Current-Freedom (CAP-L) [Eleuterio FERNADEZ HUIDOBRO], Big House [Constanza MOREIRA], Communist Party [Marcos CARAMBULA], The Federal League

Colorado Party (including Vamos Uruguay [Pedro Bordaberry] and Propuesta Batllista [Jorge AMORIN BATLLE])

Independent Party [Pablo MIERES]

National Party or Blanco (including All Forward [Luis LACALLE POU] and National Alliance [Jorge LARRANAGA])

Popular Assembly [Gonzalo ABELLA]

Political pressure groups and leaders

B'nai Brith

Catholic Church

Chamber of Commerce and Export of Agriproducts

Chamber of Industries (manufacturer's association)

Exporters Union of Uruguay

National Chamber of Commerce and Services

PIT/CNT (powerful federation of Uruguayan Unions - umbrella labor organization)

Rural Association of Uruguay (rancher's association)

Uruguayan Network of Political Women

other: students

International organization participation

CAN (associate), CD, CELAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, LAES, LAIA, Mercosur, MIGA, MINUSTAH, MONUSCO, NAM (observer), OAS, OIF (observer), OPANAL, OPCW, Pacific Alliance (observer), PCA, SICA (observer), UN, UNASUR, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, Union Latina, UNMOGIP, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Flag description

nine equal horizontal stripes of white (top and bottom) alternating with blue; a white square in the upper hoist-side corner with a yellow sun bearing a human face known as the Sun of May with 16 rays that alternate between triangular and wavy; the stripes represent the nine original departments of Uruguay; the sun symbol evokes the legend of the sun breaking through the clouds on 25 May 1810 as independence was first declared from Spain (Uruguay subsequently won its independence from Brazil); the sun features are said to represent those of Inti, the Inca god of the sun

note: the banner was inspired by the national colors of Argentina and by the design of the US flag

National symbol(s)

Sun of May (a sun-with-face symbol); national colors: blue, white, yellow

National anthem

name: "Himno Nacional" (National Anthem of Uruguay)

lyrics/music: Francisco Esteban ACUNA de Figueroa/Francisco Jose DEBALI

note: adopted 1848; the anthem is also known as "Orientales, la Patria o la tumba!" ("Uruguayans, the Fatherland or Death!"); it is the world's longest national anthem in terms of music (105 bars; almost five minutes); generally only the first verse and chorus are sung


Economy - overview

Uruguay has a free market economy characterized by an export-oriented agricultural sector, a well-educated work force, and high levels of social spending. Following financial difficulties in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Uruguay's economic growth averaged 8% annually during the period 2004-08. The 2008-09 global financial crisis put a brake on Uruguay's vigorous growth, which decelerated to 2.6% in 2009. Nevertheless, the country managed to avoid a recession and keep positive growth rates, mainly through higher public expenditure and investment; GDP growth reached 8.9% in 2010 but slowed in 2012-13 as a result of a renewed slowdown in the global economy and in Uruguay's main trade partners and Common Market of the South (Mercosur) counterparts, Argentina and Brazil. Uruguay has sought to expand trade within Mercosur and with non-Mercosur members, and President VAZQUEZ has maintained his predecessor’s mix of pro-market policies and a strong social safety net.

GDP (purchasing power parity) 95/230

$72.36 billion (2015 est.)

$70.39 billion (2014 est.)

$68.01 billion (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$56.8 billion (2015 est.)

GDP - real growth rate 107/225

2.8% (2015 est.)

3.5% (2014 est.)

5.1% (2013 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP) 82/230

$21,800 (2015 est.)

$20,900 (2014 est.)

$20,000 (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

Gross national saving 109/179

15.9% of GDP (2015 est.)

16.3% of GDP (2014 est.)

17% of GDP (2013 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 65.9%

government consumption: 13.6%

investment in fixed capital: 22.4%

investment in inventories: 0.5%

exports of goods and services: 23.8%

imports of goods and services: -26.2%

(2015 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 7.5%

industry: 20.6%

services: 71.9% (2015 est.)

Agriculture - products

soybeans, rice, wheat; beef, dairy products; fish; lumber, cellulose


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

Industrial production growth rate 74/202

3.3% (2015 est.)

Labor force 126/233

1.725 million (2015 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 13%

industry: 14%

services: 73% (2010 est.)

Unemployment rate 82/207

7.1% (2015 est.)

6.6% (2014 est.)

Population below poverty line

18.6% (2010 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 1.9%

highest 10%: 34.4% (2010 est.)

Distribution of family income - Gini index 41/144

45.3 (2010)

44.8 (1999)


revenues: $15.94 billion

expenditures: $17.69 billion (2015 est.)

Taxes and other revenues 89/219

29% of GDP (2015 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) 120/220

-3.2% of GDP (2015 est.)

Public debt 47/176

68.6% of GDP (2015 est.)

62.7% of GDP (2014 est.)

note: data cover general government debt, and include debt instruments issued (or owned) by government entities other than the treasury; the data include treasury debt held by foreign entities; the data include debt issued by subnational entities, as well as intra-governmental debt; intra-governmental debt consists of treasury borrowings from surpluses in the social funds, such as for retirement, medical care, and unemployment; debt instruments for the social funds are not sold at public auctions.

Fiscal year

calendar year

Inflation rate (consumer prices) 201/226

8.6% (2015 est.)

8.9% (2014 est.)

Central bank discount rate 29/156

9% (31 December 2012)

8.75% (31 December 2011)

note: Uruguay's central bank uses the benchmark interest rate, rather than the discount rate, to conduct monetary policy; the rates shown here are the benchmark rates

Commercial bank prime lending rate 36/184

15.5% (31 December 2015 est.)

15.53% (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of narrow money 101/192

$4.49 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$4.89 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of broad money 110/193

$8.568 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

$8.919 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

Stock of domestic credit 89/191

$18.16 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$19.67 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares 117/121

$175.4 million (31 December 2012 est.)

$174.6 million (31 December 2011)

$156.9 million (31 December 2010 est.)

Current account balance 146/197

-$2.049 billion (2015 est.)

-$2.511 billion (2014 est.)

Exports 100/224

$7.672 billion (2015 est.)

$9.134 billion (2014 est.)

Exports - commodities

beef, soybeans, cellulose, rice, wheat, wood, dairy products; wool

Exports - partners

Brazil 14.7%, China 14.3%, US 6.7%, Argentina 4.9% (2014)

Imports 99/223

$9.8 billion (2015 est.)

$11.48 billion (2014 est.)

Imports - commodities

refined oil, crude oil, passenger and other transportation vehicles, vehicle parts, cellular phones

Imports - partners

China 18.3%, Brazil 16.8%, Argentina 13%, US 9%, Germany 4.5%, Nigeria 4.2% (2014)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold 63/170

$17.48 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$17.55 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Debt - external 83/206

$24.19 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

$22.86 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home 75/120

$23.97 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$21.34 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad 92/105

$180.6 million (31 December 2015 est.)

$156.6 million (31 December 2014 est.)

Exchange rates

Uruguayan pesos (UYU) per US dollar -

27 (2015 est.)

23.25 (2014 est.)

23.25 (2013 est.)

20.31 (2012 est.)

19.31 (2011 est.)


Electricity - production 96/220

10.3 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - consumption 92/219

9.559 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - exports 75/218

194 million kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - imports 69/219

742 million kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity 95/214

2.87 million kW (2012 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels 160/214

44.5% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels 200/214

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants 45/214

53.6% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources 80/212

2% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production 204/214

0 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Crude oil - exports 204/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - imports 55/214

40,880 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves 205/215

0 bbl (1 January 2014 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production 83/214

42,670 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption 92/212

64,000 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports 104/214

2,515 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports 99/213

26,910 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Natural gas - production 142/216

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption 109/215

50 million cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports 203/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports 73/214

50 million cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves 203/212

0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy 112/212

7.591 million Mt (2012 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines 75/219

total subscriptions: 1.08 million

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 32 (2014 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular 112/217

total: 5.5 million

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 165 (2014 est.)

Telephone system

general assessment: fully digitalized

domestic: most modern facilities concentrated in Montevideo; nationwide microwave radio relay network; overall fixed-line and mobile-cellular teledensity has reached 170 telephones per 100 persons

international: country code - 598; the UNISOR submarine cable system provides direct connectivity to Brazil and Argentina; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2011)

Broadcast media

mixture of privately owned and state-run broadcast media; more than 100 commercial radio stations and about 20 TV channels; cable TV is available; many community radio and TV stations; adopted the hybrid Japanese/Brazilian HDTV standard (ISDB-T) in December 2010 (2010)

Radio broadcast stations

AM 93, FM 191, shortwave 7 (2005)

Television broadcast stations

62 (2005)

Internet country code


Internet hosts 45/232

1.036 million (2012)

Internet users 99/217

total: 2 million

percent of population: 59.0% (2014 est.)


Airports 42/236

133 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 11

over 3,047 m: 1

1,524 to 2,437 m: 4

914 to 1,523 m: 4

under 914 m: 2 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 122

1,524 to 2,437 m: 3

914 to 1,523 m: 40

under 914 m: 79 (2013)


gas 257 km; oil 160 km (2013)

Railways 77/136

total: 1,641 km

standard gauge: 1,641 km 1.435-m gauge (2014)

Roadways 62/223

total: 77,732 km

paved: 7,743 km

unpaved: 69,989 km (2010)

Waterways 48/107

1,600 km (2011)

Merchant marine 100/156

total: 16

by type: bulk carrier 1, cargo 2, chemical tanker 3, passenger/cargo 6, petroleum tanker 3, roll on/roll off 1

foreign-owned: 8 (Argentina 1, Denmark 1, Greece 1, Spain 5)

registered in other countries: 1 (Liberia 1) (2010)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Montevideo

Military and Security

Military branches

Uruguayan Armed Forces: Uruguayan National Army (Ejercito Nacional Uruguaya, ENU), Uruguayan National Navy (Armada Nacional del Uruguay; includes naval air arm, Naval Rifle Corps (Cuerpo de Fusileros Navales, Fusna), Maritime Prefecture in wartime), Uruguayan Air Force (Fuerza Aerea Uruguaya, FAU) (2012)

Military service age and obligation

18-30 years of age (18-22 years of age for navy) for male or female voluntary military service; up to 40 years of age for specialists; enlistment is voluntary in peacetime, but the government has the authority to conscript in emergencies; minimum 6-year education (2013)

Military expenditures 42/132

1.95% of GDP (2012)

1.94% of GDP (2011)

1.95% of GDP (2010)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

in 2010, the ICJ ruled in favor of Uruguay's operation of two paper mills on the Uruguay River, which forms the border with Argentina; the two countries formed a joint pollution monitoring regime; uncontested boundary dispute between Brazil and Uruguay over Braziliera/Brasiliera Island in the Quarai/Cuareim River leaves the tripoint with Argentina in question; smuggling of firearms and narcotics continues to be an issue along the Uruguay-Brazil border

Illicit drugs

small-scale transit country for drugs mainly bound for Europe, often through sea-borne containers; law enforcement corruption; money laundering because of strict banking secrecy laws; weak border control along Brazilian frontier; increasing consumption of cocaine base and synthetic drugs