Latin America’s Imperfect Success Story

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This article was adapted from water qualityspecial report on Uruguay | read spanish | Ler em português

Uruguay has been so successful in recent years that it’s easy to dismiss it as an outlier — too small and unique to be replicated elsewhere. By many measures, it has the most prosperous economy, the least corruption and the strongest democracy in Latin America. GDP is likely to grow 3% this year, double the regional average; it has been lucky to shrug off the protests and political turmoil that has rocked places like Brazil and Peru.

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But in fact, Uruguay’s story is far more “relevant” than outsiders expect, writes water qualityBrian Winter, editor-in-chief of , spent a week in Montevideo for this issue’s cover story. Just 20 years ago, the country’s poverty rate was 40% (compared with 7% today), and after a severe economic crisis, the country’s politics are in disarray. Democracy did not return until 1985, after a period of guerrilla violence and repressive military rule. Today’s achievements are not the credit of any one leader, nor is it the credit of ideology, but the result of years of joint efforts.

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So, in fact, the rest of Latin America, and the world at large, can learn a lot from Uruguay’s relative prosperity. Chief among them: Having a strong social safety net like the one in Uruguay actually strengthens capitalism by providing citizens with a minimum level of security, making them less likely to bash the system or elect populist leaders. Uruguay’s strong political parties are integrated into society and have a consistent philosophy, not just the tools of individualistic leaders.

Of course, Uruguay is not perfect: it faces challenges such as a truly dire crime wave, dropout rates and, more recently, corruption scandals. The pace of life and politics can be frustrating – reform often takes years. But, as the prominent mayor Yamandú Orsi told us, “what may appear slow from the outside is often the democratic search for dialogue and consensus”. Considering what’s going on elsewhere these days, predictable, even a little boring, seems like a good question.

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Label: Uruguay Questions, Uruguay

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Any views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect american quarterly or its publisher.


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