Uruguay’s Frente Amplio

How one of Latin America’s most radical progressive coalitions finally achieved their country’s presidency, and how those at the helm are now turning their backs on their radical base.


Jose Luis Rodriguez, 62, awoke at the same time as usual on Sunday, Oct. 31st, 2004.  But this was no normal Sunday for Jose Luis.  It was the day he had waited for his entire adult life; the day his dream and the dreams of hundreds of thousands of Uruguayans would be realized.  The day the left would finally come to power in his native country of Uruguay.     


Frente Amplio (Broad Front- FA) was also not your everyday leftist party.  It was a coalition of the Communist, Socialist, and Christian Democrat parties who joined forces in 1971 with the dream of breaking the strangle-hold of the traditional two major parties in Uruguay and carrying out a democratic revolution which would alter Uruguayan society and redistribute the wealth that had been in the hands of the few since independence.



The Beginning

Since Uruguay’s independence from Spain in 1830, its political scenario was dominated by two major political factions: the Blancos of the National Party, who traditionally represented the “country-side” and the Colorados of the Colorado Party, “the city”.  By the 20th century, the two groups had transformed Uruguay’s political arena into a two party system that looked remarkably similar to that of the United States.  


Like the US, third parties held little chance of actually winning elections, and none had ever received over 12% of the vote.  Most of Uruguayan society- which is known for its die-hard allegiance -identified strongly with one or the other of the two major parties, whose platforms where more strongly based on tradition than political ideology, and held together by various intra-party alliances.  


Nevertheless, progressive Uruguayans recognized that a little organization could go a long way in the relatively small Uruguayan population, which to this day still only amounts to 3.3 million people. 


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