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Lorenzo Latorre


Lorenzo Latorre

Lorenzo Latorre
In office
10 March 1876 – 14 February 1879
Preceded by Pedro Varela
Succeeded by Francisco Antonino Vidal
President of Uruguay
In office
1 March 1879 – 15 March 1880
Preceded by Francisco Antonino Vidal
Succeeded by Francisco Antonino Vidal
Personal details
Born July 8, 1844
Died January 18, 1916
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Political party Colorado Party
Profession Politician

Colonel Lorenzo Latorre (1844 – 1916) rose through the army in Uruguay to become Minister of War and then President. Known as the dictador, he was well regarded and made improvements to Uruguay's education and finances. He resigned in 1880 after declaring Uruguay "ungovernable" and retired to Argentina.[1]


Lorenzo Antonio Inocencio Latorre Jampen was the son of an immigrant, born in Montevideo in 1844. He joined the Colorado Army in 1863 and was promoted to ensign by 1865. On 2 May 1866 he was badly wounded at the Battle of Estero Bellaco during the Paraguayan War.[2]


In 1876 Latorre was minister of war when a meeting was held to resolve the problem caused by the resignation of the previous two Presidents. Latorre was offered the position of President of Uruguay.[1] Latorre's first term was military, however the emergence of the telegraph and new weaponry from Remington and Mauser gave an advantage to the established army over those who might have favoured a revolution. Latorre's supporters appreciated the stability that he brought to the nation and to its economy.[1] Latorre was nominally a military dictator but he worked in partnership with the two main political parties and he was able to bring the country's beef industry back into profitability.[3] He wanted to resign but on two occasions his requests were put aside.[1]

Although his predecessor, Pedro Varela, had instituted educational reform it was Latorre who put the plans into operation. His 1877 "Law of Common Education" provided free, compulsory, non-religious co-education. His Minister of Education introduced reforms that would permanently improve literacy and allow women to aspire to join the leading professions. In Uruguay in 1870 literacy was 20%, but within forty years it had risen to 60% (This is particularly remarkable as the population tripled over this period).[4] He revolutionised the transport system, including the railways. Latorre increased the government's revenues, which others had found difficult because of the logistics of taxing a rural population who moved to follow the cattle. This may have been because of his rural reforms, which included enclosures and encouraging Anglo immigration (at the expense of the gauchos). Although known as the "dictador", Latorre was popular. He improved the lot of the wealthiest as well as that of the common person in Uruguay. Within the army he improved the lot of even the lowest in society. He abolished rules that required coloured people to serve in the army without choice. He saw this requirement as not only against the fundamental principles of equal rights in the country but also to "the democratic principles to which we adhere."[3]

His second period leading Uruguay was nominally as a President of the Colorado Party. However Latorre was accustomed to leading a military chain of command and he frequently clashed with others of the democratic authorities.[1]


On 13 March 1880, Latorre resigned his presidency, declaring in his resignation speech that the people of Uruguay were "ungovernable". He died in 1916 in Buenos Aires. In 1975 his remains were returned to his country and buried in the National Cemetery.[1]


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