The Logics of Political Behavior in the Uruguayan Transition*

By Bielous, Silvia Dutrénit | Ibero-americana, January 1, 2000 | Go to article overview

The Logics of Political Behavior in the Uruguayan Transition*


Bielous, Silvia Dutrénit, Ibero-americana


I. INTRODUCTION

As it is well known, Uruguay lived a long and sound democratic institutionalization that continued until the mid-twentieth century. This institutionalization was completely broken in 1973, following the government coup d'état when the President dissolved the parliament. By that time, the usual centrality of the parties in the political system had disappeared. Since the defeat, the traditional National (or Blanco), the Colorado parties and the recent leftist coalition - the Frente Amplio - after enduring different levels of repression, had to walk a long and difficult road that finally led them to recover their central role after restoration. To achieve this, it was necessary to ratify that in Uruguay the military did not interfere in the political and government processes and that the parties had already overcome their deep crisis.

A look at the transition process from its beginning, as considered by general consensus to be in 1980, to its highly polemical climax in 1989, allows for an interpretation based on the behavior of several political actors - parties and army leaders - during three specific historical junctures.

These include a plebiscite and a referendum, which respectively mark the beginning and end of the transition process. The military government proposed the 1980 plebiscite to reform the Constitution. The 1989 referendum was an initiative of the social movement that arose during the term of the first post-dictatorial government and was intended to ratify or reject the law that held the military liable for human rights violations. The third juncture, the 1984 Agreement signed at the Club Naval, was the result of a positive and definitive growth of the political and social forces striving for a democratic recovery, and also of the military decision to cede political power. Undoubtedly, there are other significant occasions. However, these were selected because they represent the decisive situations required to understand the process that led to democracy in Uruguay.

These three junctures represent specific periods from which the logic of their dynamics can be derived. In any case, the initial approach points to the fact that political actors determine their actions according to three different kinds of decision-making processes and behaviors, which are primarily based on strategies, traditions or disobedience.1

The logics are supposed to be a determinant factor for the participants' actions and discourses. This essay will examine how this logic explains the aforementioned historical junctures, as well as the path that the political actors followed. The analysis also will try to isolate the influence of the different rationalities - associated with each logic - which underlie the behavior of every political collectivity.

It is necessary to clarify that this analysis is centered on the consideration of the final decisions made by the above-mentioned collective actors. In no case is the internal process of decision making, on which the final collective decisions were made, taken into consideration.2

Therefore, this essay has been structured as follows: 1) A brief description of the three behavioral logics. 2) An analysis of each historical juncture and the behaviors that the participants displayed according to their historical determinants. 3) an interpretation of role each logic played and how its rationalities and limitations affected the development of Uruguayan political collective actors.

II. THREE LOGICS THAT DETERMINE POLITICAL BEHAVIORS

On the basis of each collective political behavior perceptible throughout the historical transitions, there are at least three different logics - strategy, tradition and disobedience - which are deeply rooted in national culture and history, as well as in the distribution of power and interests among the main actors.

Each logic is based on a mode of action that the collective political actors select. …

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