Uruguay: Garden of America
officially the Eastern Republic of Uruguay or the Republic East
of the Uruguay (River) Spanish: República Oriental del Uruguay.
Uruguay is a country located
in southern South America. It is bordered by Brazil to the north, the Uruguay
River to the west, the estuary of the Río de la Plata (literally "River
of 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. About half of its people live in the capital and
largest city, Montevideo. The nation is the second smallest independent country
in South America, larger than only Suriname (it is also larger than French
Guiana, which is not independent), and is one of the most politically and
||August 25, 1825
|August 28, 1828
||176,220 km² (90th)
||68,039 sq mi
|July 2005 est.
||3,463,000 (130th 1)
||19/km² (186th 1)
||$32.96 billion (90th)
||0.840 (46th) – high
||Uruguayan Peso (UYU)
Politics of Uruguay 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.
Uruguay consists of 19 departments (departamentos,
singular - departamento):
|Treinta y Tres
||Treinta y Tres
Geography of Uruguay
Uruguay is the third
smallest country in South America, after Suriname. The landscape features
mostly rolling plains and low hill ranges (cuchillas) with a fertile
coastal lowland, most of it grassland, ideal for cattle and sheep raising.
The highest point in the country is the Cerro Catedral at 514 metres (1,686 ft).
To the southwest is the Río de la Plata (River of Silver), the estuary
of the Uruguay River, which forms the western border, and the Paraná
River, that does not run through Uruguay itself. The only other major river
is the Río Negro. Several lagoons are found along the Atlantic coast.
The climate in Uruguay is temperate,
but fairly warm, as freezing temperatures are almost unknown. The predominantly
flat landscape is also somewhat vulnerable to rapid changes from weather
fronts, as well as to the pampero, a chilly and occasionally violent wind
blowing north from the pampas plains in Argentina.
Economy of Uruguay
Uruguay's economy is characterised
by an export-oriented agricultural sector, a well-educated workforce, and
high levels of social spending, as well as a developed industrial sector.
After averaging growth of 5% annually in 1996-1998, in 1999-2001 the economy
suffered from lower demand in Argentina and Brazil, which together account
for nearly half of Uruguay's exports. Despite the severity of the trade
shocks, Uruguay's financial indicators remained more stable than those of
its neighbours, a reflection of its solid reputation among investors and
its investment-grade sovereign bond rating, one of only two
in South America. In recent years Uruguay has shifted most of its energy
into developing the commercial use of IT technologies and has become an
important exporter of software in Latin America.
While some parts of the economy
appeared to be resilient, the downturn had a far more severe impact on Uruguayan
citizens, as unemployment levels rose to more than twenty percent, real
wages fell, the peso was devalued, and the percentage of Uruguayans in poverty
reached almost 40%. These worsening economic conditions played a part in
turning public opinion against the free market economic policies adopted
by the previous administrations in the 1990s, leading to popular rejection
of proposals for privatization of the state petroleum company in 2003 and
of the state water company in 2004. The newly elected Frente Amplio government,
while pledging to continue payments on Uruguay's external debt, has also
promised to undertake a crash jobs programs to attack the widespread problems
of poverty and unemployment.
Agriculture of Uruguay
Agriculture played such an important part in Uruguayan history and national
identity until the middle of the 20th century that the entire country was
then sometimes likened to a single huge estancia (agricultural estate)
with Montevideo, where the wealth generated in the hinterland was spent,
as its casco or administrative head. As another saying went, "Uruguay es
la vaca y el puerto" ("Uruguay is the cow and the port").
When world market prices for
Uruguay’s main export commodities like beef and wool fell drastically in
the 1950s, the country's prosperous golden era came to an end.
Today, agriculture still contributes
roughly 10% to the country’s GDP and is the main foreign exchange earner,
putting Uruguay in line with other agricultural exporters like Brazil,
Canada and New Zealand. Uruguay is a member of the Cairns Group of exporters
of agricultural products. Uruguay’s agriculture has relatively low inputs
of labour, technology and capital in comparison with other such countries,
which results in comparatively lower yields per hectare but also open the
door for Uruguay to market its products as "natural" or "ecological."
Campaigns like “Uruguayan grass-fed
beef” and “Uruguay Natural” aim to establish Uruguay as a premium brand
in beef, wine and other food products.
Recently, an industry has arisen
around estancia tourism that capitalizes on the traditional or folkloristic
connotations associated with gaucho culture and the remaining resources
of the historic estancias of Uruguay's golden era.
Demographics of Uruguay
As a Spanish-speaking country
of Latin America, most Uruguayans share a Spanish cultural background,
though about half of the population is of Italian origin. Some 88% of the
population is of European descent, with mestizos (8%) and Afro-Uruguayans
(4%) forming the only significant ethnic minorities. Church and state are
officially separated. Most Uruguayans adhere to the Roman Catholic faith
(66%), with smaller Protestant (2%) and Jewish and Armenian (1%) communities,
as well as a large nonprofessing group (31%).
Uruguay is distinguished by its
high literacy rate (98%), large urban middle class, and relatively even
income distribution. During the 1970s and 1980s two decades, an estimated
500,000 Uruguayans emigrated, principally to Europe. As a result of the low
birth rate, high life expectancy, and relatively high rate of emigration of
younger people, Uruguay's population is quite mature.
The country has the lowest birth
rate of the Americas, an oddity among the region characterized for
birth rates in double digits per a thousand persons.
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