Uruguay - Politics
National elections were held in 1984. Civilian government was thus restored in 1985 after twelve years of military rule. Colorado Party leader Julio Maria Sanguinetti won the presidency and served from 1985 to 1990. The first Sanguinetti administration implemented economic reforms and consolidated democracy following the country's years under military rule. Sanguinetti's economic reforms, focusing on the attraction of foreign trade and capital, achieved some success and stabilized the economy.
In order to promote national reconciliation and facilitate the return of democratic civilian rule, Sanguinetti secured public approval by plebiscite of a controversial general amnesty for military leaders accused of committing human rights violations under the military regime, and sped the release of former guerrillas. The 1986 Amnesty Law prohibits criminal prosecution of members of the security forces who perpetrated extrajudicial killings, torture, and other abuses during the 12 years of military rule in 1973-85. However, some victims and relatives of victims had success using the civilian courts to seek redress.
The National Party's Luis Alberto Lacalle won the 1989 presidential election and served from 1990 to 1995. Lacalle executed major structural economic reforms and pursued further liberalization of the trade regime. Uruguay became a founding member of MERCOSUR in 1991 (the Southern Cone Common Market, which includes Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay). Despite economic growth during Lacalle's term, adjustment and privatization efforts provoked political opposition, and some reforms were overturned by referendum.
In the 1994 elections, former President Sanguinetti won a new term, which ran from 1995 until March 2000. As no single party had a majority in the General Assembly, the National Party joined with Sanguinetti's Colorado Party in a coalition government. The Sanguinetti government continued Uruguay's economic reforms and integration into MERCOSUR. Other important reforms were aimed at improving the electoral system, social security, education, and public safety. The economy grew steadily for most of Sanguinetti's term, until low commodity prices and economic difficulties in its main export markets caused a recession in 1999, which continued into 2003.
The 1999 national elections were held under a new electoral system established by constitutional amendment. Primaries in April decided single presidential candidates for each party, and national elections on October 31 determined representation in the legislature. As no presidential candidate received a majority in the October election, a runoff was held in November. In the runoff, Colorado Party candidate Jorge Batlle, aided by the support of the National Party, defeated Frente Amplio candidate Tabare Vazquez.
Although the 1986 Amnesty Law required the Government to investigate the fate of those citizens who were detained and who then disappeared during the dictatorship, the first three administrations following the return to democracy consistently refused to do so. During the year, the new Government for the first time undertook such an effort.
On 09 August 2000, President Batlle created a Peace Commission in order to clarify the fate of the approximately 160 Uruguayans believed to have disappeared for political reasons during the dictatorship (115 in Argentina, 36 in Uruguay, 6 in Chile, and 2 in Paraguay). The Commission was charged with receiving and analyzing information relevant to the disappeared persons.
The legislative coalition of the Colorado and National parties that held during most of Batlle's administration ended in November 2002, when the Blancos withdrew their ministers from the cabinet. Throughout most of his administration, President Batlle had to handle Uruguay's largest economic crisis in recent history, which impacted on poverty and led to increased emigration. Aside from successfully addressing the crisis, Batlle increased international trade, attracted foreign investment and tried to resolve issues related to Uruguayans who disappeared during the military government.
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