This article is adapted from AQspecial report on Uruguay | Leer en español | Ler em português
Uruguay has been so successful in recent years that it’s tempting to dismiss it as an exception—too small and too unique to possibly be replicated elsewhere. In many ways, it is Latin America’s most economically prosperous country, its least corrupt country and its strongest democracy. GDP may grow by 3% this year, double the regional average; it is blissfully free of the protests and political instability that rock places like Brazil and Peru.
But in reality, Uruguay’s story is much more “relatable” than outsiders might expect, the paper writes AQeditor-in-chief Brian Winter, who spent a week in Montevideo for this issue’s cover story. Just 20 years ago, the country’s poverty rate was 40% (compared to 7% today) and its politics were in disarray due to a severe economic crisis. Democracy did not return until 1985 after guerrilla violence and repressive military rule. Today’s achievements were not the work of a single leader or ideology, but the concerted effort of many years.
So the rest of Latin America and even the world can learn a lot from Uruguay’s relative prosperity. Chief among them: a robust social safety net, like Uruguay’s, can actually strengthen capitalism by providing citizens with a minimum level of security, making them less likely to resent the system or elect populist leaders. Uruguay’s strong political parties are integrated into society and have consistent ideas, not just personalist leaders.
Of course, Uruguay is not perfect: it faces challenges, including a truly frightening crime wave, high school dropouts and a recent corruption scandal. The pace of life and politics can be frustrating – reforms often take years. But “what may seem slow from the outside is often a democratic search for dialogue and consensus,” as prominent mayor Yamandú Orsi told us. Given what’s going on elsewhere these days, being predictable and even a little boring seems like a good problem to have.
Tags: Uruguay problem, Uruguay
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