Country Listing

Uruguay Table of Contents



Unlike most Latin American countries, entrance into the armed forces was entirely through voluntary recruitment; there was no system of compulsory service. Initial enlistment was for one- or two-year terms, depending on the service and the assignment, and there was little difficulty in filling vacancies. Recruits were attracted by benefits, which included early retirement with pension, and by the opportunity to attend armed forces schools, which provided skills useful in civilian occupations. Noncommissioned officers (NCOs) were career soldiers, sailors, or airmen who were chosen from the recruits toward the end of the initial period of service. The small size of the armed forces permitted selection of physically qualified applicants; in keeping with the country's high literacy rate (96 percent in 1990), recruits generally had at least a basic education (see Education , ch. 2).

In 1990 over 573,000 males were fit for military service; enlisted personnel were between eighteen and forty-five years of age. A loosely organized reserve was made up of approximately 120,000 former members of the armed forces. Constituting only about 0.8 percent of the total population, the armed forces were not a drain on the country's work force.

Morale in the military services was generally adequate in 1990. The 1989 defeat of the referendum to overturn amnesty provisions for most military personnel who committed offenses during the period of military rule appeared to quell any lingering uneasiness in the armed forces over the relinquishment of power. The decrease in personnel during the 1985-87 period drew some protest, especially among those forced to leave service. Low levels of pay continued to be a major morale problem, despite a number of partially compensating benefits. The Ministry of National Defense reported in mid-1988 that from 1973 to 1988 enlisted men's salaries lost 34 percent of their purchasing power; officers' salaries, 44 percent; and auxiliary personnel's, 21.5 percent.

Military personnel, active-duty and retired, as well as their dependents, were entitled to medical care provided by the armed forces medical services. Officers could retire on partial pay after twenty years of service and on full pay after thirty years. NCOs received the same benefits after fifteen and twenty years of service, respectively. Additional allowances were provided for hazardous duty.

Data as of December 1990