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


The National Police was established in 1829, one year after the country gained its independence. At that time, each department was assigned a police chief, similar to the system in modern use. As of 1990, police forces numbered approximately 17,500, a ratio of about five police officers to each1,000 inhabitants. At least 20 percent of the total was assigned to the capital area, in which about one-half of the country's total population lived. In all, about 40 percent of the police force was assigned to urban areas, and the remainder were assigned to rural settlements.

Article 168 of the constitution gave the president, acting through the minister of the interior, responsibility for the preservation of public order. Article 173 authorized him to appoint a chief of police for each of the departments, whom he was authorized to remove at will.

The Ministry of the Interior had the responsibility for ensuring public safety throughout the nation, except for coastal areas and the shores of navigable rivers and lakes, which were the responsibility of the National Maritime Police, under the Uruguayan Navy. Police training was centralized under the administration of the ministry, which oversaw the operation of the Police Training Academy. The academy, established in 1936, had separate schools for officers and cadets and for other ranks.The course for noncommissioned officers ran for one year, and the course for cadets ran for two years. The academy also offered inservice and specialty courses of varying lengths.

Subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior, the National Police was organized into four operating agencies: the Montevideo Police, the Interior Police, the National Traffic Police, and the National Corps of Firemen. Each of these agencies was administratively a separate entity, handling most personnel administration, including recruitment, separately.

The Montevideo Police had five administrative divisions: investigation, security, support services, intelligence, and legal affairs. Operationally, it was divided into the patrol services, canine corps, security and traffic bureau, criminal investigation bureau, and antismuggling brigade. The criminal investigation bureau was unique in that it conducted operations nationwide, not just in the capital area. The Montevideo Police maintained twenty-nine police stations, one of which was concerned solely with urban traffic. The Montevideo Police also worked out of police posts in small towns and villagesnear the capital.

The Interior Police coordinated the activities of the police forces maintained by each department. The National Traffic Police controlled traffic on the nation's roadways. The National Corps of Firemen was a centralized fire-prevention and fire-fighting agency. Its personnel underwent basic training with police personnel but followed up with specialized training and career assignments. Detachments of the corps were assigned to police forces in each department and in the city of Montevideo.

Two police paramilitary organizations were assigned to the capital area. The first was the Republican Guard, which had some 500 personnel as of 1990. This unit was organized into cavalry elements used for guard duty, parades, and ceremonial occasions. When necessary, the Republican Guard was called on for riot duty backup for the regular police. The Metropolitan Guard was responsible principally for guarding municipal property, banks, and embassies. As of 1990, its personnel numbered some 650. The Metropolitan Guard was conceived of as a paramilitary force andwas equipped with machine guns and riot-control gear. The unit was also charged with helping the police control disturbances and acting as a ready reserve for emergencies of all types.

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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