Crime increasing in Uruguay, expect electoral consequences

Brazen Crime Increasing:

Like it or not, the “rightwing” party is likely to win Uruguay’s presidential election in October, and here’s more evidence why: Increasing street crime in Uruguay, especially in and around the capital, Montevideo. In the latest brazen event, the Ambassador of Paraguay, out on his late-afternoon walk on the Rambla (the seaside walk) in a very posh section of Montevideo, was robbed and seriously injured.

Entryway of the Paraguay embassy, showing a wooden stairway to a recessed door on a white stucco building, with the flag of Paraguay to the right side of the stairway
Embassy of Paraguay in Montevideo, Uruguay. ©El Pais


Article is from Uruguay’s leading paper, El País.

Our Election Analysis:

Why do we at the Uruguay Expat Life / Uruguay For Me site network, share this and make that observation on what we think the election outcome will be? Not because El País has a traditional-rightwing editorial view, because this is a news report, not editorial, and is quite objective and factual. Rather, because there’s an increasing disgust in Uruguay among Uruguayans themselves about the level of street crime and home invasion crime. Like it or not, when crime goes up, the party in power gets blamed. The Frente Amplio has been in control of the Presidency for nearly 10 years now, two full terms, and in control of the congress as well.

The candidate standing, dressed in a dark suit and open-neck white shirt, wearing a Uruguayan flag lapel pin.
Frente Amplio Candidate Tabaré Vásquez.
©Fabio Pozzebom/ABr – Agência Brasil via Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-3.0-br

Plus, the official policy of outgoing-in-March President Mujica, as well as still leading-in-polls candidate, the FA’s Tabaré Vázquez (First president from the FA in the 2005-2010 term from the 2009 campaign), is to oppose lowering of the “Age of Impunity”*- the age of criminal responsibility as an adult, down to 16 from its present 18.

Whether in USA, Australia, UK, or here in Uruguay, when crimes get so violent and increase in prevalence, people want punishment. Even if these perpetrators (one is in detention) are over 18 (unknown from this article), it adds to the “FA soft on crime, Blancos tough on crime” mindset.

The candidate, dressed in a dark suit and coral-colored tie, standing in front of a white wall and a decorative cloth hanging.
Partido Colorado candidate Pedro Bordaberry. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Here’s another piece of the electoral puzzle: The expected role in the election of the traditional-left Colorado Party’s candidate, Pedro Bordaberry. This July report of the candidate on the campaign trail, lays out two of his most important positions. Positions closer to the traditional-right “Blancos” than to the left-to-far-left Frente Amplio of Mujica and Vázquez.

That’s an article from another major daily newspaper and site, El Observador. Also right-leaning editorially, though this was a straightforward profile with the third-place candidate, Pedro Bordaberry, of the Partido Colorado. Bordaberry is quoted as pushing charter schools, a Partido Nacional (Blanco) platform item. He wants them state-supported, rather than issuing school vouchers. However, he does want them to exist. That means both the centrist parties want charter schools, while the FA does not. More crucial to the electoral probabilities,  Bordaberry is quoted as insisting on lowering the Age of Impunity, at least for serious crimes. Blancos are for that too. FA is dead set against it. Those are two very critical issues for the future of Uruguay: quality of education, and response to crime. They are logically related issues too, in that improving education is a valid response to dealing with one of the root causes of crime, and that makes being tough on those who commit crimes more justified.

You don’t have to agree with that analysis. We don’t entirely ourselves, at least not in an oversimplified way. But you should realize how that resonates with an electorate, whether American, British, or in this case, Uruguayan. You should see how on two central issues, the centrist-left Colorados are much closer to the centerist-right Blancos than to the new-left Frente Amplio. Imagine the electoral results from that perspective.

As we’ve noted before across our site network, the Colorados were both the most-often-ruling party in the Presidential election history of this representative democracy, and played the role, in a rough-but-useful analogy, of the US Democratic Party or UK Labour Party, while the Partido Nacional aka “Blancos” played the analog of the traditional (non-Tea-Party) US Republican Party or the UK Tories. The Colorados have now lost almost all of their traditional left-leaning support to the coalition “party-of-parties” that is the Frente Amplio, where the FA ranges from the Christian Democrats to the actual Communist Party of Uruguay within it.

The Colorados now get only about 10-12% of the vote. But the Blancos get about 40-44%. Combined, they get more of the vote than the Frente Amplio. This is based on the vote in the “internals” a few months ago, which are the equivalent of party primaries here. But they don’t require party membership, anybody who can vote, can walk into her polling place and choose the party ballot for which she wants to make her primary election choice.

The candidate, dressed in a dark suit, blue shirt, and green tie, standing behind a podium, gesturing emphatically with his left hand
Partido Nacional Candidate Luís Lacalle Pou ©PartidoNacional via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

The Colorados are now a centrist rather than a leftist party. But they have no chance at winning this election. The only winning choice for centrists is the center-right Blanco candidate Luís Lacalle Pou and his running mate Jorge Larrañaga (who came in a respectable second to Lacalle Pou in the internals and has strong support in the interior of the country). Most smart observers expect an unknown but large percentage of Colorado supporters to vote for Blanco candidate Lacalle Pou next month in the general election. Even if they don’t in that election, the separate Blanco and Colorado totals, along with the small amount for the Partido Independiente, will almost certainly through the election in to a November runoff between the top 2 only – Vázquez of the FA and Lacalle Pou of the Blancos. At that point, it’s highly likely that many, maybe most of the Colorados-preferring voters, will vote for Lacalle Pou.

Why we report on Uruguayan Politics:

Articles are in Spanish, which we expect anybody seriously considering moving to Uruguay to have obtained at least some reading ability in – basic high school Spanish should suffice. If not, Chrome browser auto-translates as does plugging the URL into the Microsoft Bing Translator (often more accurate than We strongly feel it’s crucial for anybody considering, “Is Uruguay for me?” to be reading local Uruguayan media, in Spanish, not just the English-language “expat forums and websites”, not even if our own sites are among your favorites.

We definitely want potential, and current, expats/immigrants, to have some sense of the politics and issues of the country of their (potential) choice. Unlike many sites, we have nothing to “sell you”, with the small exception of an expat planning consultation service via Plansify and some affiliate links for guidbooks from Amazon. Maybe some of our own ebooks before too much longer. But no real estate investment, no “Overseas Invest In Living” conferences, no “Uruguay is Paradise” stuff here. So we don’t have to hype Uruguay to make our bills. Uruguay is a good country, it’s our choice as our home, there are good reasons why perhaps it should be your choice, but it’s not a paradise, and it’s not crime-free.

We should know. Really miss that great HD-screen touch-panel laptop we had for all of 3 months, until it was stolen from our living room in the middle of the night while we were sleeping. Was less than 600 bucks in the USA; would be about 1400 dollars US here in Uruguay. Not replaced. The dog who slept through it all, also not replaced. He’s still doing his “keep mommy and daddy safe in bed underneath me” mode of watch-dogging!


* Don’t conflate the issues around the “Age of Impunity” with the similar sounding “Law of Impunity” – both are highly controversial, but entirely different. The Law of Impunity (unofficially but widely known as la Ley de Impunidad) refers to the amnesty and immunity from prosecution given to the perpetrators of the 1973-1985 civil-military dictatorship. Partially home-grown in Uruguay and partially USA-sponsored as part of Operation Condor. The “civil” part of that civillian-military dictatorship was current candidate from the traditional “left”, Pedro Bordaberry’s, very own father, President (and dictator) Juan Mariá Bordaberry.

Published by

Mark Mercer

Site co-owner Mark Mercer. AKA Marcos Cristoforo Mercer, AKA the Fuzzy Wanderer. Expat from USA living in Uruguay as of mid-2012, after "test-driving" it for a few months in 2011 and early 2012. Married to Lisamaria, AKA well-known travel and fitness writer Lisa Marie Mercer. Follow Mark on Twitter @mcmxs and his many other sites, which you can find at I write and engage about many of my other interests, on Google+ at

8 thoughts on “Crime increasing in Uruguay, expect electoral consequences”

  1. Hi Mark,
    I’m sorry to hear that there is more crime down there as of late. I guess you are going to have a centrist candidate elected. Hopefully they can come up with solutions…Sounds like it all isn’t enough to dissuade you from continuing to live there!

    1. We don’t feel it on a day-to-day basis here in Atlántida, where it is mostly property crime, of the “sneak in and grab” type like the ladrón who absconded with our good laptop last January.

      To put context around that, we live in a seasonal resort town. One that is working-class to middle-class, with some upper-class (and a decent amount of rich-by-UY-standards North American & European anglophone expats). In high season, this beach town’s population swells from its year-round 6000-ish to about 25,000. Just as did our seasonal resort town in the Colorado Rockies in the heart of ski country, when we lived there.

      Property crime is similar in any resort town. The tourists, and the drifters / hippies / bums / artists / soul-of-the-nation (choose your preferred definition) flow in. Most of them good people. A few of them not. Also, the vacationers themselves create targets of opportunity for the local bad guys. Break-ins go up. Our Uruguayan neighbors up the street had their computer stolen out of their house about the same time of year.

      In Montevideo, as in New York City, Vancouver, London, Toronto, Glasgow, Chicago, Los Angelees, there are areas of relative wealth and those of crushing poverty, and there is unemployment beyond what any civilized community would consider “normal” – at least before the global financial meltdown of 2007-present. Street crime goes up, goes down. Some areas worse, some better. Uruguay does have a problem now, and it has vigorous debate on it. Which is perhaps better than the lack of debate before New York City’s aggressive and ruled-unconstitutional “stop-and-frisk” policies. Perhaps Uruguayan police are too soft on criminals, perhaps not. But you don’t hear reports of cops shooting dozens of bullets at and into someone just taking out their wallet (Amadou Diallou case in NYC) or all the other horrors that result from too-tough militarized “us-vs-the-enemy” police mindset that is full-on happening in much of USA, with Canada and UK close behind.

      Are we staying? Yes. We lived in NYC during the Koch, Dinkins, Giuliani years. We’ve seen the underreaction and overreaction both to crime. We lived in Boston during the era of NYC’s once-and-again Police Commissioner Bill Bratton being Boston’s top cop. I think that for people who have lived in North America’s or Europe’s major cities, and actually lived in the city, not barricaded themselves in limos and luxury apartments, Uruguay feels no less safe, and perhaps more safe. One could throw statistics around proving or disproving depending on choice of numbers and “spin” thereon, but you know what they say about “Lies, damned lies, and statistics!”

      I think the Uruguayans are taking the crime increase seriously, but debating it in a firm grounding of Uruguayan values, which are less quick to demonize/polarize (ok, slightly less quick – it is “political ad season”), and far less likely to resort to lethal force and draconian but unproven-effective “tough on crime” security theatre. At least, 29 years post-dictatorship, less likely to leap to “jail them all and kill the worst”.

      Were I a Uruguayan citizen with voting rights (which means voting legal obligation here), I would vote for the “baja”, the lowering of the age to 16. Scotland just allowed 16 year olds to vote on its future. Many nations including much of USA treat 16 year olds and younger as adults, in cases of heinous crimes, on a case-by-case basis. That’s what’s being considered here, and I think it makes sense. But it also must be in the context of improving the economy, improving economic opportunity, improving education, and of fighting to end class discrimination and racial discrimination (see our older posts about the Afro-Uruguayan history and our links to documentary filmmaker Pamela Harris’s project for more on that.)

      As an aside, thank you for commenting right here on the blog, and for giving it a WordPress “blogosphere” Like. On-site comments allow for more thoughtful and long-term followable conversations than do social media shares and comments. We value both, but wish that people would get more engaged in on-site blog commenting as well as the social shares. Not just on our own sites but in general, as part of a more engaging civil society discourse.

  2. So I’m wondering, just how much do those Blancos hate gay people? Are gains in LGBT rights going to be reversed under their rule?

    1. Josh, you posted as a guest, so you don’t have a profile for me to better get to know where you’re from, but I’m guessing from the context of your concern, it’s USA. Likely even one of the “red states” where that’s a real problem.

      I think you’re making a false, but entirely understandable, mapping of the very dysfunctional and warped US political system onto Uruguayan politics and culture. Understandable if you have a USA background, but it doesn’t work that way here. There is absolutely zero reason to assume “Blancos hate gay people”. I even question usefulness of the polemic of “Republicans hate gay people” in the USA, as an oversimplification that does not get to the heart of the US political mess and the horrible steps being taken against LGBT rights by Republican-identified politicians, but I “get it” – for that country. It certainly can seem that way there. I think it’s really religious fundamentalism and lack of critical thinking skills that lead to fear-driven actions that they’re “losing something” every time somebody different from them, does anything they wouldn’t do themselves or at least admit, rather than “hate”. But this site isn’t about USA politics so let’s leave that for now and come back to Uruguay.

      There’s nothing inherently “social conservative” nor “moral majority” non “anti-diversity” (pick your chosen “enemy”) in conservative politics and economics. If anything, there’s a small-government, not-our-business, do-least-necessary strain in classical conservatism – and even in the USA Republican party until its capture by the so-called “Moral Majority” (“Sorry, neither”, to quote Lt. Uhura when someone addressed her as “fair maiden”). Made worse in recent years by its further capture by the co-opted Tea Party movement which isn’t even anything like what the TEA movement was about initially (Taxed Enough Already – nothing to do with “social issues”). Uruguay’s “right” is much more “classic conservatism”, rather than “Tea Party / Moral Majority” social conservatism. And far less, to the point of barely-there, religion-linked.

      In Uruguay, that kind of bat-crazy warped mix of one particular lunatic-fringe “Christianity” (of a type that Jesus would decry as evil hypocrites and not at all followers of his teachings) simply does not exist. That isn’t to say there aren’t Christians here – there are, of course. Most who are Christians are Roman Catholic, but there’s a large and increasing Pentacostal and evangelical dynamic, some mainstream Protestants, Anglicans (who as an Anglican/Episcopalian myself, I can say are definitely not “Protestant” but are a via media, and hey, gay bishops and woman leading our denomiation in the USA), Jehovah’s Witnesses, 7th Day Adventists, and Mormons. Whom I’m happy to consider as “Christian” because I don’t care whether or not they have the same Christology or aren’t Nicean.

      More to the point, none of them, no not even the Catholics nor the Mormons, have made any real stink about any of the “social issues” (as we call them back in the USA) – other than the Catholics pushing for their medical societies to have an opt-out for performing abortions. Which the State allowed, as long as their mutualista members who request abortion or related services are covered in full by prearrangement between the catholic mutualista and one that does not object. I haven’t heard of any religious push against the “concubinage” law of a couple of years ago that gave full work-based medical coverage to the “concubino / concubina” of workers whether same-sex or not in a registered domestic partnership, nor to the continued low-cost (not free, as mistakenly reported by many) availability of contraception in the medical societies. I’m not entirely sure we actually have same-sex full “marriage” – I know Argentina does, and it was a big deal in the regional press when the first Argentine same-sex military wedding was performed about a year or two ago.

      For perspective, Argentina is far more Roman Catholic by population that Uruguay, and the Church as a somewhat official status there, whereas in Uruguay there is so much separation of church and state that some politicians, including Mujica, come right out and say “Uruguay is an atheist country” – and get elected. Yet the people of both countries are from similar backgrounds and there’s a lot of shared culture. So if gay marriage doesn’t bother Argentina, it really isn’t going to bother Uruguay. I don’t think it’s totally in place but I don’t think anybody really opposes it significantly.

      The conservatives coming to more power, if not to the Presidency – that seems to me, here, to be far more about things like crime and punishment, management of government agencies, “free” trade (“scare quotes” deliberate given what happened with NAFTA and the very bad things being secretly negotiated in the über-free-trade Trans-Pacific-Partnership by the USA right now) as opposed to regional blocs, and just how much more or less socialist the country’s economic policies will be. Not at all about who sleeps with whom, who can marry whom.

      Damn likely that the Blancos, and in parliamentary informal coalition, the almost-as-right Colorados, will have more power for the next 5 years than their marginalized role of the last 10 during Frente Amplio presidencies and legislative majorities. But that does not at all imply the “culture wars” of the looney-tunes Michele Bachman, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum types. Not here.

      Also keep in mind that on most things, from a non-sloganeering no-partisan honest view, the most-rightwing part of the mainstream Uruguay political spectrum, the Blancos, is way to the left of Obama. Or of Clinton (either of them), on almost all issues. Obama is to the right of Richard Nixon on most. Hell, he’s to the right of Reagan on some. The US spectrum has narrowed, its center shifted far right, and gotten way too tied up in fringe-but-powerful sectors of religion.

      That’s a problem, back in USA where I have citizenship and vote. I’m not particularly worried about losses in LGBT rights, reproductive rights, or in freedom of religion / freedom from religion rights here in Uruguay.

      1. Thank you for your very detailed reply. I’m actually from a far worse place than reddest US state, a country that’s not hugely religious, but one that nevertheless has extreme hatred for gay people. So I don’t feel like conservatives in Uruguay not being super into religion necessarily means they aren’t anti-LGBT. I’ve found Luís Lacalle Pou’s statement on gay marriage that sounds lifted from US republican rhetoric “marriage is a union of a man and a woman for purpose of procreation” which is usually used to cover up much uglier opinions. On the other hand, gay marriage passed with large majority, meaning that even some Blancos voted in favor. I will trust your opinion on this since you have far better vantage point to observe life in Uruguay. Thank you again for putting huge effort into that post.

        1. Josh, as a straight man married to a woman I’m not in a position to directly speak to the experience of being gay in Uruguay. While trying to avoid the oft-scoffed-at “but I have ____ friends”, I do know some gay couples who are quite positive about life in Uruguay.

          I don’t doubt that Lacalle Pou said that. I do dispute the entire “hates gays” assumption that comes from that, but I’m not going to argue that, at length, here, beyond this last post. We’re off-topic for the parent blog post which was about crime influencing the election, not about social issues and marriage equality, which are already pretty much “settled law” here. Really, this kind of stuff on gay marriage, contraception, even abortion, just isn’t coming up in the ads I hear, banners I see, or even campaign appearances by candidates I’ve gone to (including one by Lacalle Pou) – and though my español is far from fluent, it’s sufficiently functional for me to know if that’s going on in what I read, see, hear.

          But out of courtesy to your very thoughtful comments, and because I personally do 100% support same-sex marriage, I’ll give it this final go-around, and am open to one final response on this.

          I accept that to gays and lesbians, statements that “marriage is between a man and a woman” gets heard as “hate the gays” but I think that reasoning has its own set of bias and bigotry in it. Including its own refusal to allow for diversity of belief and freedom of opinion and express..

          By the way, quoting that Lacalle Pou statement as proof that “the blancos hate gays” or even that “Lacalle Pou hates gays” logically means that until very recently, Obama hated gays. Clinton (both of them) hated gays – which is patently absurd. Even though DADT later became perceived to be oppressive, at the start of the Bill Clinton administration that policy was considered groundbreakingly advanced. There’s been a huge amount of advancement and evolution in mindset of the general populace in many countries, in just a very few years. No, not fast enough if I were gay and wanted to marry, but still unbelievably fast compared to many other cultural changes that cross into politics and law.

          You know what else? t’s entirely ok for Mitt Romney (to use a US example again) to say he believes that marriage is between one man and one woman, and it’s further entirely ok for him to have that belief based on his religion (well, nowadays one man and one woman, until the afterlife, then a planet and a harem are ok!) As long as he, when in a position of power to control whether same-sex marriage is allowed, does not actively oppose it for those who do believe it’s ok.

          I lived in Massachusetts when Romney was governor. In fact, I voted for him, wanting a moderate Republican who respected abortion rights, was ok with reasonable gun control (I say that as a then-gun owner in Mass with all legal permits I needed after full police and background checks and proper training), somebody business-friendly who would try to grow jobs in my state, and somebody who wanted to make healthcare more affordable and universal. (What the hell happened to him between then and 2012 is amazing, and no, I did not vote for him in 2012. I did vote, from Uruguay.) When the Mass courts legalized gay marriage, other than an initial pro-forma opposition, Romney did nothing in reality to oppose it happening nor even to try to add complications. Even though it was against his beliefs personally.

          Bravo! Perfect example of somebody respecting the rule of law, the rights and freedoms of others, and the allowance and indeed need for diversity in a functional civil society that is part of the “Western Democracies”.

          Likewise, if Lacalle Pou’s personal beliefs, whether informed or not from his religion (I have no idea even if he is religious, you don’t get that kind of tie-in to the campaigning here), that’s OK. We have freedom of speech here, just like we (supposedly still) do in the USA, and if you’re in the country your IP address says you are in (I own the site, of course I know and that’s right in our privacy policy), so do you. That statement by Lacalle Pou does not translate into “hate gays”.

          That whole “anybody who disagrees with me hates me and my group” is itself, sometimes, hateful. To whatever extent, as a cis-gender heternormative white married male I can “get it”, I do “get” that it could feel that way. I’m aware that some who make that statement do indeed hate gays (The disgusting Westboro Baptist Church being the perhaps worst or at least most widely known example.) But that doesn’t mean everybody, or even most, who personally hold to the position “marriage is between one man and one woman” should be stereotyped as “hating gays”:

        2. Sadly, I’m not in a country you guessed from my ip, I use a VPN. I’m actually in Russia, if you want to know. This is an extremely hate-filled society, and as much as I would like to distance myself from it, both spatially and culturally, I guess I can’t escape the fact that it colors my perception. My original question was somewhat facetious in the “hate” part. What I really wanted to know about was whether Uruguay’s current course on LGBT rights was likely to be reversed, and you have answered that to my satisfaction. Thank you again.

        3. Oh, Putin. Yeah. That’s a problem. Good luck to you there in building a civil society that works. Russia could be a great nation, it certainly has the resources and knowledge to do so, but there are some scary things going on there. Note that I’m not knee-jerk anti-Russian type of “American” by any means, and I used to even have some respect for Putin standing up to the USA. But the anti-gay propaganda and yes, hate, and the attempts to recreate the Soviet Union, are dangerous.
          I was celebrating the impending fall of the USSR with a bunch of Russians in a citizen diplomacy summit in the Czech Republic back the year it ended – didn’t expect it to turn into this.

          You might be interested in the newest post here, and in the Medium post by a writer their, “rabble”, which inspired it, if you are into learning more about the intersection of culture and politics here in Uruguay.

Comments are closed.