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Professional Military Education

A Cross-Cultural Survey


Edited By Duraid Jalili and Hubert Annen

This book brings together non-Western viewpoints on military pedagogy and professional military education (PME). In doing so, it seeks to provide a counterbalance to the predominantly European and North American bias found within the research field, as well as generating new insights on Latin American, African and Asian pedagogical commentaries and critiques. The collection contains essays from PME researchers and practitioners across fourteen countries, on subjects including large-scale educational reform, civil-military and academic influences on military pedagogy, internationalisation, cross-cultural collaboration, and interoperability within military education.

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The Impact of Political-Military Relations on the Professional Training of the Uruguayan Armed Forces

Colonel Ulysses Prada

The Impact of Political-Military Relations on the Professional Training of the Uruguayan Armed Forces

Abstract: Using Charles Moskos’ formative concept of the Institutional, Occupational and Plural models for the armed forces, this chapter outlines how the frameworks and objectives of military education are dependent upon and necessarily tailored towards the military’s wider organizational structure. Specifically, it examines how civil-military mistrust within Uruguay, from the 1920s until the early 21st century, has resulted in a lack of sufficient direction for the armed forces, which in turn has inhibited their ability to prepare and evolve an educational system relevant for Uruguay’s specific national security contexts. The author concludes that, for the Uruguayan military to generate relevant educational programmes for its officers and soldiers, it must be provided with a long-term vision for national security that is not influenced by party-politics.

Keywords: PME, military education, civil-military relations, Armed Forces of Uruguay, Escuela Militar, CAEN, CALEN


In the inaugural conference of the Castilian Association of Sociology held in May 1982, Charles C. Moskos – once famously described by Professor David Segal in the Wall Street Journal as the “most influential military sociologist in the country, and probably in the world” (Ricks, 1993, p.1) – gave the following assessment of the armed forces:

“The academic definitions and the ideological attitudes towards the armed forces fluctuate between two ends. On one end, there are those who see military men as a reflection of the dominant social values and completely dependent on civilian leadership. On the other end, others accentuate the difference between the values of the military and those of the rest of the society, and affirm that military men exert an independent influence in the civil society”.1 (Moskos, 1982, p.297)

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In Moskos’ system, we find two models for the armed forces, complemented by a third one that synthesizes them. These models cover the whole spectrum of military organizations, and are named by Moskos as the “Institutional”, “Occupational” and “Plural” (Ibid., 299). The Institutional model is based on values and norms, and views the military career as a vocation that prioritizes the collective interest. This model espouses such principles and values as homeland, honour, loyalty, sense of duty, sacrifice and heroism. The Occupational model sees the military career as an occupation like any other, in which monetary reward is the means by which one regulates the needs of the individual and the organization. This model prioritizes the interests of the individual above those of the military institution, and does not cultivate the same values as the Institutional model, since it classifies military personnel as clerks more tied to civil society than to the military itself. Finally, the Plural model combines the organizational tendencies of the previous models into a heterogeneous military organization where the formation of combat units conforms to the Institutional model and the formation of administrative units conforms to the Occupational one (Ibid., p.299 passim).

Evidently, each model implies a worldview of the armed forces and their insertion in society. As this chapter will argue, the evolution of military education in Uruguay is directly linked with the evolution of this viewpoint within politico-military circles, which is itself directly influenced by the ideologies that emerged out of the country’s and the region’s politico-military experiences and civil-military relations. In order to achieve this, the chapter will first provide a broad overview of politico-military relations and military education from the 1920s until the early 21st century. It will then focus on the shift in political and civil-military priorities seen under the Frente Amplio (“Broad Front”) government from 2005 onwards, before considering the repercussions of these changes for contemporary military education in Uruguay.

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From Productive Isolation to Coup D’état

Historically, the Armed Forces of Uruguay were based on the Institutional model. In contrast to its neighbours, Uruguay quickly overcame the trend of military governments that had characterized Latin America after emancipation from Spain until late into the 20th century. As a result, the Armed Forces of Uruguay became increasingly isolated from civilians and politicians from the 1920s onwards, avoiding participation in partisan struggles and non-professional matters, and focusing instead on continued self-improvement (Bañales Guimaraens, 1970, p.290). This meant that the professional quality of Uruguayan officers matched the most demanding European standards and stood out in the sub-continent, despite scarce resources. This is evidenced by the breadth and depth of subjects taught in military training courses within the period. For instance, in the Lieutenant Colonel promotion course, officers were taught tactics, command and staff procedures, military administration, military organization, military law, military history, military geography, sociology, and political economy amongst other topics (Ibid., p.307).

The 1973 coup d’état led to a radical change in this training system, since officers from different forces began occupying political positions in ministries, banks, government departments, police headquarters, educational institutions, and so forth. In these new roles, their professional military training provided them with minimal advantages. This led to a restructuring in the content of training courses within the armed forces, in which the amount of time dedicated to professional military subjects was reduced so as to enable courses oriented towards political and governmental subjects such as political economy, sociology, political science, administration, international affairs and geopolitics.

After the restoration of democracy in 1985, the political parties of Uruguay proposed that the armed forces should be modernized, ensuring their subordination to the civil power and reinserting them into contemporary democracy. In order to achieve this, they enacted two key policy changes. The first one reformulated the task of the armed forces from “contributing to external and internal National Security” (Ley N°14.157, 1974, Art.2) to that of “defending the honor, the independence and the peace of the Republic, the integrity of its territory, its constitution and ←51 | 52→its laws” (Ley Nº 15.808, 1986, Art.2). Thus, the parliament limited the actions of the armed forces to the external security of the Republic. This policy was further facilitated by the end of the Cold War and the emergence of a “new world order”, as laid down by President George W. Bush Sr. (Bush, 1991a and 1991b), in which traditional threats to national security would be reduced to a minimum, opening new possibilities for the peaceful settlement of conflicts, and allowing more space for international cooperation in pursuit of greater economic and social development.

The second change was aimed at reintegrating the armed forces within civil society by reorienting the curricula of the military academies. The 1989 curriculum of the Escuela Militar del Uruguay (Military School of the Uruguayan Army), for example, raised among other objectives the goal “to transform the Military School into a tertiary institute exclusively, that is to say into a true military college” (Anon., 1989, p.5). Specifically, it sought to increase students’ access to the wider civilian university system by allowing them to revalidate some subjects they had already taken in the Escuela Militar. This gave officers the opportunity to avoid one to two years of additional study in some civilian careers, such as law or engineering.

It was hoped that this measure, amongst other reforms, would assist in reversing the steady decline of applicants for enrolment that had taken place after the removal of the armed forces from power. Although it was not explicitly stated, this objective was recognized implicitly in an article published within the Escuela Militar’s magazine Destellos, which hypothesized one potential outcome of this new system: “If the number of applicants for enrollment increases up to a considerable quantity, it will be possible for us to demand another type of test” for admission to the school (Ibid., p.10). The success or defeat of this plan was dependent upon the existence of a few “essential pillars”:

“a) teachers with college level studies and qualified experience; b) suitable and accessible literature; c) places for students to study that should offer the basic comforts required to complete assignments; d) laboratories and offices to support the practical courses and e) planning and evaluation centralized in a technician-teacher organ that can coordinate the processes of education and learning of the whole Institute” (Ibid.)

To achieve this, the Escuela Militar required greater economic resources. Unfortunately, this was not something that the political parties were ←52 | 53→willing to grant. Among other reasons, this was due to a lack of trust in the armed forces held by different political sectors and the civil society after its performance as the de facto government. Over the course of 20 years of democratic rule, this scenario gradually evolved, until the 2002 Uruguayan banking crisis that plunged the country into a period of significant economic contraction.

The Rise of Frente Amplio

In 2005, as a direct result of the banking crisis, the Frente Amplio (a centre-left to left-wing political coalition) succeeded in gaining a significant majority in the Uruguayan national parliament. Fortunately for the Frente Amplio, by the time they had taken office, the economic crisis had already begun to reverse, thanks to a commodities boom that was to generate a period of economic expansion. This led to the re-election of the coalition government with parliamentary majorities for two consecutive periods.

This economic boom, however, did not provide the expected financial relief for national defence requirements. Instead, the new government prioritized spending on social policies and internal safety. This led to a lack of investment in the armed forces to the point whereby they had 27 % fewer personnel by 2011 and approximately a 60 % smaller budget than in 1985, even though they retained the same number and level of deployments (Peláez, 2011, p.158 passim). Indeed, although the national defence budget rose by 91.8 % between 2005 and 2016, it still diminished as a percentage of overall GDP. In 2009, it represented 1.4 % of GDP. Yet, from 2009 onwards there occurred an annual decrease up to the end of 2015, by which time it was less than 1.1 % (UyPress, 2016).

In order to change this scenario, the Frente Amplio party promulgated a normative body for national defence, which was the result of the provisions of the National Defence Framework Law of 19 February 2010 (Ley N°18.650, 2010), as well as the Ministry of Defence’s Decree 105/014 on National Defence Policy (Ministerio de Defensa Nacional, 2014) and Decree 129/016 on Military Defence Policy (Ministerio de Defensa Nacional, 2016). As a result of these laws and decrees, the armed forces were once again provided with the mission of engaging in domestic affairs ←53 | 54→(Ley N°18.650, 2010, Art.1 and 20; Ministerio de Defensa Nacional, 2014, pp.15–16). The government took advantage of this repeatedly to assist with climatic emergencies such as floods (Anon., 2015a and 2015b), sanitary emergencies such as the National Dengue Prevention Campaign (Organización Panamericana de la Salud, n.d.), guarding the perimeters of national prisons (Anon., 2017), and even assisting in garbage collection to preserve public health during union strikes (Bonilla, 2010).

The expanded role of the military generated frictions within parliament, as some sectors of the coalition did not agree with the new missions that were given to the armed forces. In fact, until 2005, the Frente Amplio’s official policy on national security, signed by several political leaders of the coalition, emphasized that:

“The missions of the armed forces, as a rule, will not be internal security/policing. It has been ruled out that the armed forces prepare development plans and fulfil tasks of ‘civic action’, whether these respond to the strategy of the ‘Pan-American military system’ or of another origin. Nor will they be authorized to develop armed forces alien to the Republic.” (Comisión Especial de Defensa del Frente Amplio, Art.III.1)

Although the document clarifies that the Executive Branch, via the national parliament, would be able to authorize the use of the armed forces in “exceptional cases of internal commotion and other serious national emergencies (calamities, floods, etc.) that exceed the installed capacities of the competent public agencies” (Ibid., Art.III.2), the document calls for the avoidance of any civil-military actions that would allow the armed forces to “capture the will and the conscience of the civilian population” (Ibid., Art.III.1).

Despite the fact that some of the signatories of the party’s national security policy were to hold posts of Defence Minister after the Frente Amplio’s victory in the 2004 general elections, it did not implement this policy once in government; potentially due to political compromise, a disconnect between political strength and parliamentary votes (Licandro, 2011), or a separation between the ideology of opposition and the pragmatic realities of governance. Despite this tactical shift, left-wing officials within the Frente Amplio government still retain serious prejudices against the military (see, for example, Menéndez, 2016) and disagreement with their government’s policies regarding the armed forces (Licandro, 2011).

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Civil-Military Relations under Frente Amplio

This inherent distrust of the military across political parties in general and the Frente Amplio in particular raises a key question for the armed forces: is this lack of trust only present at the political level or across Uruguayan society as a whole? This topic is addressed at a broader regional level by Professor Marcela Donadio (2003), who states that:

“in reality this seemingly semantic distinction hides a deeper problem. If the professional soldier serves the state citizens, in a democratic regime this means that the legitimately elected government represents society, and that the relationship between the political class and the military is an expression of the relations between society and the armed forces”.

Despite its logic, Donadio’s conclusion may not be wholly applicable to the scenario now faced by the Armed Forces of Uruguay. As noted in research by Daniel Isgleas, as of 2015 a total of 53 % of Uruguayans have either “significant” or “partial” trust in the armed forces, whereas 43 % have either “little” or “no” trust in them (Isgleas, 2016). Moreover, as noted by Isgleas:

“Since the Frente Amplio came to office in 2005, the confidence of Uruguayans in the armed forces has been steadily rising, ranking in 2015 above the averages recorded during the last two governments of the Partido Colorado, the second term of Julio María Sanguinetti from 1995 to 2000, and the administration of Jorge Batlle between 2000 and 2005.” (Ibid.)

As shown in Tab. 3.1, these results are reinforced by a 2014 survey of public confidence in national institutions within Uruguay, undertaken by the polling organization Factum Digital (see Bottinelli and Vilar, 2014). Based on the Factum Index of Image which expresses, on a scale of 0 to 100, the average of the positive opinions and the non-negative opinions gathered in relative terms, which are in turn weighted by the level of opinion, the survey highlighted how public confidence in the armed forces is slightly higher than public confidence in the national parliament and notably higher than public confidence in political parties.

Tab. 3.1: Survey of public confidence in national institutions within Uruguay, by Factum Digital (Bottinelli and Vilar, 2014).







Catholic Church


Armed Forces






Labour Unions


Political Parties


Based on this data, it can be argued that the root of the problem is not the civil-military relationship, but the political-military one. In line with their organizational structure, the armed forces are able to efficiently execute the civil support tasks entrusted to them. This structural efficiency ←55 | 56→contrasts with that of political parties which, by their nature, are deliberative and slow in their procedures. This creates a fear amongst Uruguayan politicians that the increasing popularity of the military could result in them losing their status as the ruling elite.

Political parties meanwhile have sought to regulate key functions of the military, such as their promotion system, in a way that appears to highlight a desire to influence the conduct of the armed forces. Colonels and Generals are promoted by the Executive Branch, with the prior consent of the Senate or Standing Committee (Constitución de la República, 2004, Art.68, N° 11). Indeed, whilst promotion to the rank of Colonel is determined “1/3rd by competition, 1/3rd by seniority and 1/3rd by selection”, promotions across the rank of General are achieved only “by selection” (Ley N°15.688, 1984, Art.130.E and 130.E).

Although recommendations for these promotions are initially proposed by the Army General Command for approval by the Superior Court of Promotions and Resources, the process of selection within the executive power relies simply upon a list of merits for each candidate which qualifies them as either “Apt” or “Very Apt” for promotion (Ibid., Art.135 and Ley Nº 17.920, 2005, Art.135). This process heightens the need for officers to gain the trust of whichever political party is in power and the possibility of a party-politicized army, as seen both before and after the coup d’état (Bañales Guimaraens, 1970, pp.308–309; Blixen, 2017). The risk inherent in this is highlighted in the declaration made by Lucía Topolansky in 2012, ←56 | 57→in her role as the first senator and the wife of former president José Mujica, to the Argentinian news agency Telam:

“the armed forces of today are divorced from the past, because we [the Frente Amplio] need the armed forces to be faithful to our project. […] I need at least a third of the officials and half of the troops on my side, as a goal. I would like everything. But that would be a sustainable base.” (Anon., 2012).

Although this declaration incited criticism from the opposition and even some sections of the Frente Amplio coalition itself, it highlights an interesting reality surrounding the creation of civilian militias for national defence, such as those in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. In Uruguay, such militias do not require legislation, due to Article 85 No. 15 of Uruguay’s national constitution, which gives the General Assembly the responsibility “to make the regulations for militias and to determine the time and number in which they must meet” (Constitución de la República, 2004). This clause grants the parliament theoretical access to an alternative armed force under its control.

Such militias previously existed in the 19th century under the name of the Guardias Nacionales (National Guard). In 1860, this Guardias Nacionales consisted of 46 chiefs, 720 officers and 16,012 soldiers, while the army had 9 Generals, 126 chiefs, 261 officers and 895 soldiers (Acevedo, 1933, Vol.3, p.235). As the central government could only exercise its authority in the capital, in the rest of the country the Guardias Nacionales “were repeatedly placed in the service of the regional leaders” (Bañales Guimaraens, 1970, p.293). This military duality from independence onwards, made possible the incessant and bloody civil wars that significantly reduced the potential for national progress. Despite the conflicts that resulted from this duality of forces, there is a clear predisposition in some sectors of the Frente Amplio coalition, to promote the option of a Guardias Nacionales as a resource for national defence and a safeguard against the armed forces. Perhaps more than any other aspect of contemporary government, it is the maintenance of this article within the Constitución de la República that best symbolizes the continued mistrust of the civilian government towards its armed forces.

It seems clear, therefore, that political-military relations have had, and continue to have, an impact on the objectives, conduct and structure of the Uruguayan Armed Forces. The conundrum to be faced is deciding which ←57 | 58→of Moskos’ three models would be best suited to the goals of national defence and most reliable for the citizenship and the political parties that represent it. This conundrum leads us back to the central question facing military educators in Uruguay: depending on which model is most suitable, how can the armed forces best structure their professional military education in order to achieve this?

Developing Military Education for the Uruguayan Context

To solve these challenges, decisions will have to be taken at the governmental level to further define the national objectives and assign the resources required to achieve these objectives. The first item requires the creation of non-partisan hypotheses and definitions of conflict and war, focused exclusively on protecting the national interest. The second one requires the government to define the resources that the country is able to provide in order to achieve the abovementioned objectives. Only after making these decisions will we be able to best define the extent to which the armed forces require the corporate spirit, organizational loyalty and personal sacrifice generated by Moskos’ Institutional model, in comparison to the more technically qualified resources and intrinsic individualism central to the Occupational model.

At the educational level itself, during the administration of the Frente Amplio, the Directorate of Military Training of the Ministry of National Defence, which governs military education, has been occupied by civilians. Regrettably, this civilian community remains both broadly ignorant and disinterested in issues of national defence in general and military defence in particular, as affirmed by one of the leading civilian authorities on military issues, Dr. Julián González Guyer (TNU Canal Cinco, 2016). The creation of the Escuela de Seguridad y Defensa Nacional (School for National Security and Defence) in 1976, which was eventually converted into the Centro de Altos Estudios Nacionales (Centre for Higher National Studies – CALEN) in 1978, was intended to rectify this ignorance.

Both institutes sought to train graduates with the skills and knowledge necessary to undertake the management, advisory and planning tasks central to national security and national development policy. It should be self-evident that the training of civilian and military personnel in this area ←58 | 59→is essential to enable the government to define precisely the type of armed forces they wish to have and the duties of those forces in accordance with the real possibilities of the country. Unfortunately, after the end of the de facto government, CALEN’s influence diminished significantly, especially after it became dependent on Army Headquarters. Although it later returned to the Ministry of National Defence, its graduates were not appointed to occupy positions appropriate to their level of training and expertise. In addition, the government’s decision to stop sending functionaries to train in CALEN significantly reduced the number of applicants, which led the institution to modify its application requirements in order to reverse this trend.

One result of this scenario is that the process of defining the structure and duties of the armed forces remains a pending task across several political sectors. Only after this political decision has been made will the armed forces be able to define the use of the forces’ doctrine, the organizational model to be adopted and the training required for personnel to achieve their objectives. In achieving this formative, initial task of spreading the study of national and military defence across all levels of the state, CALEN has a relevant role to play. To do this, however, its operating mode needs to change. Until now, CALEN has developed an educational provision targeted to students who attend either by appointment or by personal interest. Now CALEN must adopt a more proactive attitude, integrating interdisciplinary groups of lecturers and professors who can engage with the different public and private spheres of the country (including parliament, political parties, public and private universities, business associations, unions and trade unions), giving informative talks on national security and military defence, introducing the issue into public discussion and forming a core of civil and military experts on the subject. Simultaneously, the armed forces should provide the courses for students at the staff officer level and the level of Colonel and Captain, enabling a better understanding of state functions, helping to eliminate mistrust and assuring better interaction and engagement between the armed forces and the rest of the public administration.

Finally, whilst these changes are being implemented and once the political system provides greater visibility surrounding its priorities for the profile of the armed forces, it should be beholden on the military education ←59 | 60→community to analyse the possible future stages required to adopt and train personnel for either the Institutional, the Occupational or the Plural model. Each of the models possesses a different challenge. One certainty, however, is that the armed forces need more technical staff to be efficient in a world in which technology is advancing by leaps and bounds. The dilemma facing military educators is whether it is more convenient for the forces to train their personnel in such tasks or to hire technicians from the civilian field.

These differing options would result in different profiles and skill sets for the graduates of military academies. Such academies must, therefore, be carefully analysed in order to identify the advantages, disadvantages and requirements for implementing either model within their existing structures. This will enable military educators to quickly and smoothly apply the necessary changes to adapt to the new paradigm, as well as advising political leaders on these requirements. Perhaps the most important reason for this process of analysis and preparation is the reality that changing the existing military education system to meet these new organizational priorities will involve costs that, for a small country such as Uruguay, may be very high. The cost of not making a decision, however, would likely be higher. It is for this reason that the most important aspect of this process is not the specific model that is chosen but the process of choosing the model. Specifically, in order to ensure that this decision is acceptable for all and persistent over time (independent of the ruling political party), it must occur within the framework of a ‘state’ polity and not a ‘political-party’ polity, and must be based upon a carefully planned strategy, created at a high professional standard that considers not only the national situation, but also the regional and global one.


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Anon. (2012). Lucía Topolansky dijo que quiere Fuerzas Armadas “fieles” al “proyecto” político del Frente Amplio. Seminario Reconquista ←60 | 61→[online], 3 May. Available at: (Accessed 9 November 2017).

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1 All quotes, which were originally written in Spanish, have been translated into English by the author of this chapter. Although it has not been explicitly indicated which quotes were originally in Spanish, the bibliography has retained the original publication language for all articles used within this chapter.