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Uruguay: Foreign Policy in 1990
Country Study > Chapter 4 > Government and Politics > Foreign Relations > Foreign Policy in 1990


The general direction of Uruguayan foreign policy was not expected to change significantly under President Lacalle. His newly designated foreign affairs minister, Héctor Gros Espiell, told reporters in January 1990 that although there would be specific changes, adjustments, and differing viewpoints, the Lacalle government intended to maintain the general guidelines of Uruguay's existing foreign policy. Gros Espiell, the former head of Uruguay's School of Diplomacy, also noted, however, that under the new Foreign Service Law to be submitted to the General Assembly by the Lacalle government, the foreign service would be entirely revamped to make its operations more responsive to thenational interests.

Gros Espiell also explained that the Lacalle government's foreign policy would emphasize the trend toward regional integration and that Uruguay would continue pursuing its integration policy with Argentina and Brazil. According to Gros Espiell, the Río de la Plata Basin would be Uruguay's first priority in foreign policy, with the Buenos Aires-Montevideo- Brasilia axis functioning in coordination with the MontevideoAsunción -La Paz axis. In talks with the presidents of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay in early 1990, Lacalle discussed ways to increase regional integration in the Río de la Plata Basin. One of Lacalle's foreign policy goals was to integrate Bolivia and Paraguay into the Brazilian-Uruguayan-Argentine integration agreements and grant them free port facilities.

Lacalle favored using the Group of Eight and ALADI as instruments for promoting, with Argentina, a new Latin American integration process. In January 1990, he worked toward this through what he called the Group of Seven (because Panama's membership was suspended in February 1988) with the intention oforganizing, within five to ten years, a true Latin American common market. The Lacalle government wanted the Group of Eight (whose name was changed in 1990 to the Group of Rio) to expand to include Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, and Paraguay.

Lacalle told United States president George H.W. Bush during their unofficial meeting at the White House on February 5, 1990, that Uruguay could play an important role in the Río de la Plata Basin, but this role did not materialize in 1990. The Lacalle government reportedly had become uneasy over what it perceived to be a lack of interest toward integration with Uruguay shown by Argentina and Brazil.

Both pro-United States and pro-free market, Lacalle was expected to enjoy excellent relations with the Bush administration. Lacalle's support of the United States varied, however, depending on the issue. When the United States military intervened in Panama in December 1989, Lacalle refused to recognize the new Panamanian government of Guillermo Endara. After the United States troops retreated to the Canal Zone and their number was reduced to preintervention levels, Lacalleannounced in March 1990 that his government would normalize relations with Panama by recognizing the Endara government. In keeping with its traditional position condemning the use of force, the Lacalle government denounced the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in early August 1990, urged action by the UN Security Council, and endorsed the UN sanctions against Iraq.

On other issues, Lacalle favored the United States policy position on the foreign debt problem and negotiated Uruguay's external debt based on a proposal presented by Secretary of the Treasury Nicolas Brady in March 1989. The Brady Plan called for creditor banks to write off a portion of a developing country's indebtedness in return for guaranteeing repayment of the remaining debt, made on June 27, 1990, for promoting the development of Latin America by opening a free-trade partnership with the region, either on a bilateral or on a multilateral basis. Lacalle was somewhat ambivalent, however, toward the United States policy on drug trafficking. He viewedthe issue as two sided, involving not only the Latin American producing countries but also the principal consuming country, the United States.

Although few books on Uruguay's government and politics in the 1980s were available in 1990, Uruguay has been the subject of considerable scholarly research. M.H.J. Finch and Alicia Casas de Barrán's Uruguay lists comprehensively and evaluates succinctly major sources, including recent doctoral dissertations, on all aspects of Uruguay. A dated but still historically useful book is Russell H. Fitzgibbon's Uruguay: Portrait of a Democracy. A more up-to-date introduction to the country is Martin Weinstein's Uruguay: Democracy at the Crossroads; his earlier book, Uruguay: The Politics of Failure, analyzes the causes of Uruguay's descent from a model democracy to a military dictatorship. The human rights abuses committed by the military are detailed in Lawrence Weschler's A Miracle, a Universe: Settling Accounts with Torturers. An incisive fact-filled chapter onUruguay's party system may be found in Party Politics and Elections in Latin America by Ronald H. McDonald and J. Mark Ruhl. In-depth analyses of the political party system in the 1970s and early 1980s can be found in two Yale University doctoral dissertations: Charles Guy Gillespie's "Party Strategies and Redemocratization," and Luis E. González's "Political Structures and the Prospects for Democracy in Uruguay." Gillespie's Negotiating Democracy: Politicians and Generals in Uruguay focuses on Uruguay's transition to democracy. An informative monograph on the November 1989 elections is Weinstein's "Consolidating Democracy in Uruguay: The Sea Change of the 1989 Elections." (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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