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Uruguay: The Transition to Democracy, 1984-85
Country Study > Chapter 1 > Historical Setting > The Military Government, 1973-85 > The Transition to Democracy, 1984-85


In March 1984, the PIT-CNT organized a civil strike and freed General Líber Seregni Mosquera, leader of the Broad Front, whom the military had imprisoned since January 11, 1976. By mid-1984 yet another civil strike took place, this time organized by political parties and social groups. Blanco Senator Ferreira returned from exile. His subsequent imprisonment essentially deprived the National Party of the opportunity to participate in the meetings between politicians and the military that ended with the Naval Club Pact. Signed by the armed forces and representatives from the Colorado Party, UC, and Broad Front, this pact called for national elections to be held that same year on the traditional last Sunday in November.

The discussions at the Naval Club saw the military give up its long-sought goal of a Cosena dominated by the military andwith virtual veto power over all civilian government decisions. The military now settled for an advisory board that would be controlled by the president and the cabinet. Some transitional features were agreed to by the civilian leadership, mostly relating to the ability of the armed forces to maintain its seniority system in the naming of the commanders of the various military services. The military also agreed to review the cases of all political prisoners who had served at least half of their sentences. Moreover, the military acquiesced to the relegalization of the left, although the PCU remained officially banned (until March 1985). The Communists were nonetheless able to run stand-in candidates under their own list within the leftist coalition. Nothing was said about the question of human rights violations by the dictatorship.

The election results were no great surprise. With Ferreira prohibited from heading the Blanco ticket and a similar fate for Seregni of the Broad Front, and with effective use of young newcomers and a savvy media campaign, the Colorado Party won. The Colorados received 41 percent of the vote; the Blancos, 34 percent; and the Broad Front, 21 percent. The UC received2.5 percent of the vote. Within the Broad Front's leftist coalition, social democratic Senator Hugo Batalla, who headed List 99, a faction started by Zelmar Michelini in 1971, was the big winner, garnering over 40 percent of the alliance's vote. For the victorious Colorados, former President Pacheco brought the party 25 percent of its vote. However, the Colorado presidential ticket receiving the most votes (in a system that allowed multiple candidacies for president in each party) was headed by Sanguinetti. After being sworn in as president on March 1, 1985, Sanguinetti led the transition to democracy. He did so with dignity and fairness, although the legacy of human rights violations under the dictatorship proved a troublesome problem

Eduardo Acevedo's voluminous work Anales históricos del Uruguay, which starts in the sixteenth century and ends in 1930, provides a solid bibliographical background for both political and socioeconomic changes. A more modern version, restricted to the 1851-1914 period, may be found in JoséPedro Barrán and Benjamín Nahum's, Historia rural del Uruguay moderno. This seven-volume work contains an analysis of Uruguay's main sources of wealth, as well as a review of political events and social change.

Historiographical production on Uruguay slowed down beginning in 1930, a fact demonstrated by a decrease in contemporary historical research. There are, however, short works covering the period from 1930 to the present: Raúl Jacob's El Uruguay de Terra, 1931-1938; Ana Frega, Mónica Maronna, and Yvette Trochon's Baldomir y la restauración democrática, 1938-1946; Germán D'Elía's El Uruguay neo-Batllista, 1946-1958; Rosa Alonso Eloy and Carlos Demassi's Uruguay, 1958-1968; Oscar Bruschera's Las décadas infames, 1967-1985; and Gerardo Caetano and José Pedro Rilla's Breve historia de la dictadura, 1973-1985. An excellent economic history of Uruguay is M.H.J. Finch's A Political Economy of Uruguay since 1870. Useful English-language sources on contemporary Uruguay include Martin Weinstein's Uruguay: The Politics of Failure and Uruguay: Democracy at the Crossroads. Although somewhat dated, Marvin Alisky'sUruguay: A Contemporary Survey and Russell H. Fitzgibbon's Uruguay: Portrait of a Democracy also contain useful background information. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of December 1990

Last Updated: December 1990

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Uruguay was first published in 1990. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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