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Uruguay: Armed Forces Organization, Training, and Equipment
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Armed Forces Organization, Training, and Equipment


Under the constitution, the president was commander in chief of the armed forces and exercised administrative control over the three services through the Ministry of National Defense. In practice, operational control passed through the servicecommanders, who were appointed by the president. There was a nominal chief of the joint staff but no substantive joint staff organization. In 1990 the defense minister was a former law professor who had been active in the transition to democracy. Assistants from each of the three services were assigned to the minister.

During the 1973-85 period, first the military government's Council of State and then the Council of the Nation passed several laws that limited the president's military control. Principal among these was the February 1974 decree that served as an organic law for the armed forces. Under this law, the commanders of the three services were chosen by a board of generals from each respective service. During the 1984-85 transition to civilian rule, the appointment procedure was amended so that the boards of generals chose candidates from which the president then appointed service chiefs of staff. In 1986 the reestablished General Assembly returned the power of direct appointment of the service commanders to the president.

In 1987 the General Assembly passed a new organic law for thearmed forces that established that the "basic duty of the armed forces is to defend the honor, independence, and the peace of the republic, its territorial integrity, its Constitution, and its laws." The law explicitly stated that the armed forces should always act under the supreme command of the president and the minister of national defense in keeping with constitutional measures currently in force. Training practices were modified to include courses for military cadets on the proper role of the military in a democracy. The length a service commander could serve was cut from eight to five years, and service commanders were required to retire when the term of service expired. As of 1990, the government and the armed forces appeared to be adhering to all provisions of the law.

The Ministry of National Defense was responsible for the administration of military training, health, communications, and construction, and it supervised the military retirement and pension system. The ministry supervised the triservice Military Institute for Advanced Studies, which served as a national warcollege to train senior officers. Also under the ministry was the General Directorate of Defense Information (Dirección General de Información de Defensa -- DGID). As reorganized by the executive branch in 1989, the DGID was a triservice agency that coordinated and planned all operations of the three separate military intelligence services. Traditionally, the army's intelligence branch was the most powerful of the military intelligence services.

The country was divided into four military regions. Military Region I, headquartered at Montevideo, had responsibility for the national capital and the departments of Montevideo and Canelones Military Region II, headquartered at San José, included the departments of Colonia, Durazno, Flores, Florida, San José, and Soriano. Military Region III, headquartered at Paso de los Toros, comprised the departments of Artigas, Paysandú, Río Negro, Rivera, Salto, and Tacuarembó. Military Region IV, headquartered at Maldonado, included the departments of Cerro Largo, Lavalleja, Maldonado, Rocha, and Treinta y Tres.

Uruguay had cordial foreign military relations with bothArgentina and Brazil, as well as with the United States. During the 1980s, armed forces personnel represented the nation in foreign peacekeeping activities in Cambodia, on the AngolaNamibia border, in the Sinai, and on the Iran-Iraq border. Uruguay was a member of the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB), which maintained a headquarters and staff in Washington and acted as a military advisory group to the Organization of American States (OAS), of which Uruguay was also a member.

Uruguay had a long history of military cooperation with neighboring countries. It joined with twenty other Latin American nations and the United States in 1945 to sign the Act of Chapultepec, in which each agreed to consult on any aggression against a cosignatory. Uruguay was also a signatory to the 1947 Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty), in which the United States and Latin American and Caribbean countries committed themselves to working toward the peaceful settlement of disputes and collective self-defense in the Americas. Uruguay also was a signatory to the 1967 Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (Tlatelolco Treaty) and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of NuclearWeapons. Uruguay also accepted the Biological Weapons Convention, which prohibits the development, production, or stockpiling of such weapons.

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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