Uruguay is one of the smallest countries in South America. It is located in Southern South America, between Argentina and Brazil, and its land area is 177,000 km 2 . The climate in Uruguay is temperate and its landscape is mainly flat (it features mostly rolling plains and low hills).
According to the 2004 national census, Uruguay’s population amounts to 3.2 million people (average density: 18 people per km 2 ). More than 90% of the total population live in urban areas and about 40% live in the capital and largest city, Montevideo. This feature is in line with the fact that there is a strong concentration of public education, health and social services in Montevideo.
Political and social background
Uruguay became an independent country in 1828. Its form of government is a representative republican democracy. Representatives are directly elected every five years by citizens and if no presidential candidate reaches 50% of the votes in the first round there is a second round between the two leading candidates.
The state is organized in three independent branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial Powers. The Executive Power consists of the President and a cabinet of 13 ministers. The Legislative Power is bicameral: the Senate consists of 30 members and the Vice-president and the Chamber of Representatives (lower house) is made up of 99 members. Both chambers are renewed, as the Executive Power, every five years. The Supreme Court, head of the Judicial Power, has five members who can hold their offices for 10 years at most.
The country has a long tradition of democracy rule, with two interruptions in the 20 th century: a short period in the 1930’s and between 1973 and 1985 (civilian-military regime).