Uruguay, formally the Oriental Republic of Uruguay, is a South American nation located in the southeastern area. It is bounded on the west by Argentina and on the north and east by Brazil, on the south by the Rio de la Plata (River of Silver), and on the southeast by the Atlantic Ocean. Uruguay has a population of about 3.42 million people, of which 1.8 million reside in the metropolitan region of Montevideo, the country’s capital and biggest city. Uruguay, with an area of about 176,000 square kilometers (68,000 square miles), is South America’s second-smallest country geographically, just slightly bigger than Suriname.
Uruguay was inhabited for about 4000 years by the Charra people until the Portuguese founded Colonia del Sacramento, one of the region’s earliest European towns, in 1680. Montevideo was established by the Spanish as a military bastion in the early 18th century, indicating the region’s conflicting claims. Uruguay gained independence from Spain, Portugal, Argentina, and Brazil between 1811 and 1828, after a four-way war. Throughout the nineteenth century, it remained vulnerable to foreign influence and interference, with the military having a recurrent role in internal politics until the late twentieth century. Uruguay is a constitutional democracy in the modern era, with a president who acts as both head of state and head of government.
Uruguay is the leader in Latin America in terms of democracy, peace, absence of corruption, and e-government, and is the leader in South America in terms of press freedom, middle class size, and wealth. Uruguay provides more soldiers to United Nations peacekeeping operations than any other nation on a per-capita basis. It is ranked second in the area in terms of economic freedom, income equality, per capita income, and foreign direct investment inflows. Uruguay is the continent’s third-best performer in terms of human development index, GDP growth, innovation, and infrastructure. The United Nations classifies it as a high-income nation (top category). Uruguay is also rated third in the world in terms of e-Participation. Uruguay is a significant exporter of combed wool, rice, soybeans, frozen meat, malt, and milk on a worldwide scale.
Uruguay was awarded “country of the year” by The Economist in 2013, recognizing the nation’s pioneering policy of legalizing the production, sale, and use of cannabis. Same-sex marriage and abortion are also legal in Uruguay, which has earned the country a reputation for being one of the most liberal nations in the world, as well as one of the most socially developed, a regional leader, and a high performer on global measures of personal rights, tolerance, and inclusion.