The guerrilla president of Uruguay

Uruguay is a small country in South America that is sandwiched between Brazil and Argentina.  Brazil and Argentina struggled for control of Uruguay until 1828 when Uruguay gained its own independence.  Uruguay is a relatively small country, slightly smaller than the state of Washington, with a population of 3,494,382.  According to the cia world factbook the political and labor conditions of Uruguay are some of the freest of South America.  The death rate is 9.09 deaths per 1000 births, ranking 80th overall for the death rate, better than that of the United Kingdom, Spain, and Denmark.  The average life expectancy is 76.35 years at birth and 27.4% of the population lives below the poverty line. According to the CIA World Factbook, unemployment is currently 7.9% and is lower than the unemployment rates of the United States, the European Union, Canada and the United Kingdom.   The Encyclopedia Britannica Year in Review for 2009, states that the economic growth had slowed due to the global financial crisis but the unemployment rate is historically low and foreign investment is still strong.  The literacy rate of Uruguay is also considerably high.  According to the CIA Factbook, the literacy rate is 98%, however, only 2.9% of GDP is spent on education.  Education is required for children ages 6-11, but is free at all levels, including University.  The economy of Uruguay has a highly educated work force and is export oriented.

Uruguay has made the news for swearing in their newest President this past week.  Uruguay is a country that has been making significant progress in terms of development, and the role of the government will continue to be very important.  The new president is a former guerilla of the 1970’s and has promised to continue the moderate policies of the previous administration.  According to the Wall Street Journal, President Mujica has announced that he wants to increase spending on education.  One of his goals is to provide laptops to all students in public primary and secondary schools.  The President has announced that along with promoting education they want to be able to design better quality jobs and would like for the unemployment rate to be even lower.  Because Uruguay’s economy depends so heavily on exports, the actions of other countries are very crucial to policy decisions that will have to be made by President Mujica and his administration.  The President clearly wants to advance Uruguay, but it sounds from the WSJ article that many of his goals are domestic, and it seems that the President should also be considering how to develop new relationships and how to maintain old relationships with other countries.  If the countries to which Uruguay exports no longer need to get these products from Uruguay, would the country be able to survive?  Just how much would unemployment go up and GDP go down?  Would another military regime take control of Uruguay?  These are questions which the new administration should be asking itself given the global financial instability.  Their answers to these questions may enable them to better understand their relation to other countries.

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2 Responses

  1. Get in the black!

  2. You raise concerns about Uruguay and being vulnerable to a coup if the export-oriented economy falters. How much history of military takeovers is there?

    What was Mujica fighting for in the 1970s? How did he come into power? Did the society accept whatever his group was fighting for? Or did he renounce his ideology?

    You mention that only 2.9% of GDP is spent on education. How do we know if that is high or low?

    The US spends about 4.8%, for a comparison. Saudia Arabia spends almost 10% of GDP! WHat to make of thee comparisons?

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