South America Living

Police Emergency Information for Uruguay

Poster of Many of the 'Disappeared' During the Dirty War in South America in Which Uruguay Played a Leading Role

Since the end of the Dirty War (approximately 1973 to 1985) Uruguay has refused to take responsibility for crimes committed by its former military regime. The Uruguayan police state kidnapped, tortured and killed leftists, primarily in Uruguay and Argentina.

In 1986 they passed the ‘Law of Expiration’ granting immunity to prosecution of perpetrators of crimes. Twice (1989 and 2010) referendums to overturn the law have failed to obtain the required 50% of voter approval.

A presidential peace commission was established in 2000 by President Jorge Batlle but prohibited interviews with military members, allowing only ‘voluntary’ admissions – further shielding abusers from being held accountable for their crimes.

Friendly Tourist Police in Montevideo Ready to Be of Assistance

Now flash-forward to present day 2011 and beyond. Uruguay is often touted as ‘the safest country in South America‘, judged by Latin American standards. It seems the country has done much to provide for the safety and security of its citizens, including tourists and expats from the U.S., Canada, Europe and elsewhere who choose to relocate to the country and call it home.

Children under the age of 18 are not allowed to be imprisioned unless convicted of a violent crime. Local police are known to be friendly and responsive in the event of an emergency – but lack the technology and resources needed to effectively investigate matters. “Doing the best with what they have” is an accurate way to describe the current situation.

Tourist police patrol areas of Montevideo and popular resort towns such as Punta del Este during high-season – December through March (when Carnival is in full-swing) – and at other times. Police in general do not speak English, but are used to dealing with foreigners.

Emergency Phone Numbers

If in Montevideo and need police, fire or medical assistance dial 911. If outside of the capital city – dial 02-911 for local emergency service – or go directly to the local police station.

For medical care information read: Living in Uruguay – Medical Emergency Information

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Photograph of Tourist Police in Montevideo by Molly McHugh, all rights reserved.




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