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Uruguay: Public Order and Internal Security
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Public Order and Internal Security


Public order was well established in the nation, and the government committed sufficient resources to law enforcement to maintain domestic order throughout the country. Urban and rural areas were generally safe, as was travel throughout the nation. Citizens were able to conduct day-to-day affairs in peace and without government interference. The constitution guaranteed theright to privacy and due process and freedom of the press, association, assembly, and religion. After the return to civilian rule in 1985, all of these rights were routinely respected by the government and by law enforcement agencies.

Several groups that were suppressed or banned under the period of military rule had since emerged as active participants in the national political life. These included leftist political parties, students, and labor organizations. During the late 1980s, each of these groups participated in protests or demonstrations. Such actions required government permits, which were routinely granted. Demonstrations by these groups were generally peaceful and free from government harassment.

Disputes between political parties or between factions of the same party occasionally flared into violence during the late 1980s; violence was usually minor, however, taking the form of vandalism or arson against party offices. In general, few injuries and little damage were sustained. In 1985 the government legalized all political parties, and as of 1990 there were no known political prisoners or any banned or illegal politicalgroups in the nation.

The MLN-T, also known as the Tupamaros, was a former urban guerrilla organization given amnesty in 1985. The MLN-T was established in 1962 by Ra├║l Sendic Antonaccio, leader of a group of students, peasants, and intellectuals who espoused an extreme nationalist and socialist ideology. Organized according to a clandestine cell-based structure, the movement conducted a guerrilla campaign from 1963 to 1973 that included bank robberies, kidnappings, sabotage, and jail breaks. The army effectively destroyed the Tupamaros in 1972, and its leaders were imprisoned for long terms or forced into exile. The group published a newspaper and operated a radio station in Montevideo.

Student organizations, repressed during the military regime,reestablished themselves in 1985 when academic freedom and university autonomy were restored. Several professors who had been dismissed for ideological reasons were allowed to return to their positions as well. During the late 1980s, students held several protests, none of which had a serious effect on public order.

Labor unions and labor activists were also targets of repression under the military regime. During the late 1980s, however, labor activity resumed, and several labor actions and strikes took place. Certain of these activities caused localized disruption of day-to-day activities, but most grievances were solved within a short time, and none led to serious violence. In 1986, during a strike by the staff of the state-owned National Administration of Fuels, Alcohol, and Portland Cement (Administraci├│n Nacional de Combustibles, Alcohol, y Portland -- ANCAP), the military was called in to ensure distribution of fuel but did not act in a law enforcement capacity.

Local and international human rights groups operated freely in the nation during the late 1980s, and these groupssurfaced no credible reports of killings or disappearances. The constitution forbade brutal treatment of prisoners, and there were few accusations of torture of prisoners after 1985. The most dramatic exception took place in mid-1989, when the death of a bricklayer while in police custody led to charges of police brutality and mistreatment. Although the police maintained the man hanged himself in his cell, controversy over the case led to the resignation of the minister of the interior and to the conviction of a deputy police chief for misconduct.

Human rights groups took serious exception to the 1986 law providing amnesty for military and police personnel charged with committing human rights abuses under the military government. According to a study by the General Assembly, some forty-six members of the military and police benefited from the amnesty. Human rights groups, however, claimed that the real number was well over 100. Military and police officers charged with corruption or with financial irregularities were not covered under the amnesty. In 1988 a former army general and a former minister of agriculture and fishing were charged withmaking illicit financial transactions during the period of military rule.

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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