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Uruguay: Traditional Parties
Country Study > Chapter 4 > Government and Politics > Political Dynamics > Political Parties > Traditional Parties


Uruguay was one of the few Latin American countries with two political groupings -- the Colorado and National parties -- as old as the country itself. Most Uruguayans considered themselves either Colorados or Blancos from birth, and affiliation with one of thetwo major parties or their major sub-lemas was a part of one's family heritage. The two parties traditionally maintained a rough equilibrium, and their factions had their own leaders, candidates, followers, policies, and organizational structures. These sub-lemas embraced persons of various political orientations and social backgrounds. In general, however, the Colorado Party traditionally was associated with the city, labor unions, and secularist and "progressive" movements, whereas the National Party identified with the interior farming groups and the more religious and conservative groups.

The cleavage between Montevideo and the rural interior influenced party affiliation and political attitudes to a greater extent than did differences in social status and income. (The coastal region often held the balance of power between Montevideo and the interior.) Although three-fourths of all voters remained loyal to the traditional parties in the 1984 elections, the support of these parties in Montevideo weakened gradually during the 1980s. The decline of the National Party in Montevideo was the most pronounced; it won none of the capital'stwenty-three electoral zones in 1984 and made no headway against the Broad Front in 1989.

Despite internal fractionalization, both traditional parties maintained the structures typical of more cohesive modern parties, including conventions, general assemblies, party steering committees, and caucuses. The fundamental units of the factions of both parties were the neighborhood clubs, guided and controlled by professional politicians.

Vague ideological differences between the major parties still existed in the 1980s, but the differences involved not so much politics as allegiance to certain leaders and traditions. Although the Colorados traditionally were more liberal than the Blancos, both parties had liberal and conservative factions. In the General Assembly, the left wings of both parties often lined up in opposition to both right wings on important votes. The Colorados also were more anticlerical in the early twentieth century, but this distinction lost most of its significance as both parties broadened their bases of support. The urban-basedColorados were considered more cosmopolitan in outlook than the rural-based, tradition-oriented, and economically conservative Blancos. In general, the followers of Batlle y Ordóñez in the Colorado Party were more willing than the Blanco leadership to undertake political, social, and economic innovations.

The Colorado and National parties each had various sublemas in late 1990. The Colorado Party's factions included the right-of-center United Batllism (Batllismo Unido -- BU), which was in the majority for thirty years until August 1990; the leftof -center BU sector, called the Social Action Movement (Movimiento de Acción Social -- MAS), led by Hugo Fernández Faingold; Unity and Reform (Unidad y Reforma), or List 15, led by Jorge Batlle Ibáñez; the antimilitary Freedom and Change (Libertad y Cambio), or List 85, led by Enrique E. Tarigo, Sanguinetti's vice president; the Independent Batllist Faction (Corriente Batllista Independiente -- CBI), led by Senator Manuel Flores Silva; Víctor Vaillant's "progressive" Batllist Reaffirmation Movement (Movimiento de Reafirmación Batllista -- MRB), a CBI splinter group; the rightist Colorado and Batllist Union (Unión Colorada y Batllista -- UCB), or List 123; andDemocratic Traditionalism (Tradicionalismo Democrático -- Trademo), a sector of the National Republican Association (Asociación Nacional Republicana -- ANR).

The UCB was subdivided into three main groups: the minority right-wing and promilitary Pachequist faction led by Jorge Pacheco Areco (president, 1967-72); the sector led by Pablo Millor Coccaro, Pacheco's principal rival; and the National Integrationist Movement (Movimiento Integracionista Nacional -- MIN), which was formed in early 1986 and led by Senator Pedro W. Cersósimo. Following the 1989 elections, Millor's sector caused a political storm within the UCB when it announced that it would henceforth operate autonomously, although still recognizing Pacheco's leadership. Pacheco's faction, for its part, founded the National Colorado Movement (Movimiento Nacional Colorado -- MNC) on May 11, 1990.

As a result of the primaries of the Colorado Party in early August 1990, Batlle Ibáñez's Unity and Reform sub-lema ousted the faction led by former President Sanguinetti from theleadership of the Colorado Party. Batlle Ibáñez's faction obtained five seats on the party's fifteen-member National Executive Committee, followed by Pacheco's four seats, Sanguinetti's three, and Millor's three.

The National Party was divided into at least five factions. The Herrerist Movement (Movimiento Herrerista), or faction, of the National Party emerged in the 1930s. Lacalle founded the Herrerist National Council (Consejo Nacional Herrerista -- CNH) in 1961. The CNH joined with Senator Dando Ortiz's sector in 1987 to form the right-of-center Herrerist Movement. After Wilson Ferreira Aldunate's death in March 1988, Lacalle assumed the presidency of the Herrerist Movement.

Other National Party factions included Carlos Julio Pereyra's left-of-center La Rocha National Movement (Movimiento Nacional de La Rocha -- MNR), the second largest National Party sublema ; the centrist For the Fatherland (Por la Patria -- PLP), founded in 1969 by Ferreira as a personalist movement, reorganized into a more democratic party in 1985, and led by Senator Alberto Sáenz de Zumarán after Ferreira's death in 1988; Renovation and Victory (Renovación y Victoria -- RV), led byGonzalo Aguirre Ramírez, a constitutional lawyer; and the People's Blanco Union (Unión Blanca Popular -- UBP), founded in the late 1980s by Oscar López Balestra, a member of the Chamber of Representatives. The CNH, MNR, and PLP were all antimilitary factions.

Additional minor parties included the White Emblem (Divisa Blanca), a conservative party led by Eduardo Pons Etcheverry; Juan Pivel Devoto's Nationalist Popular Faction (Corriente Popular Nacionalista -- CPN), which broke away from the National Party in late 1986; the Barrán National Party (Partido NacionalBarrán); the ultrarightist Society for the Defense of Family Tradition and Property (Sociedad de Defensa de la Tradición Familia y Propriedad -- TFP); the Humanist Party (Partido Humanista), which appeared in 1985; and the Animal Welfare Ecological Green Party (Eto-Ecologista -- Partido Verde -- EE-PV), which emerged in 1989.

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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