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South America, Uruguay

Uruguay (country) (Spanish Republica Oriental del Uruguay), republic in east central South America, second smallest country on the continent, bounded on the north by Brazil, on the east by Brazil and the Atlantic Ocean, on the south by the Atlantic Ocean and the Rio de la Plata, and on the west by Argentina. The Uruguay River forms the entire western boundary. The area of Uruguay is 176,215 sq km (68,037 sq mi). Montevideo is the countryís capital, chief port, and economic center.

Uruguay was a part of Spainís colonial empire in the Americas until the early 1800s, when revolutionary forces ousted the Spanish. Both Argentina and Brazil then laid claim to Uruguayan territory and lent support to the opposing political factions struggling to control the region. International mediation of the dispute led to the establishment of Uruguay as an independent nation in 1828. Throughout most of its history, Uruguay has been a democracy. However, a leftist guerrilla movement in the 1970s led to a harsh crackdown that resulted in more than a decade of repressive military dictatorship. Democracy was restored in the 1980s.

Unlike most South American nations, Uruguay has a population that is largely of European origin, with few mestizos (people of mixed European and Native American ancestry) and no remaining indigenous people. Uruguay is a highly urbanized country, even though its economy is based largely on agriculture, particularly livestock raising, which flourishes on the rolling plains of the countryside. Tourism is also important, with foreign travelers attracted to the fine beaches along the Atlantic coast.

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