Reagan and the Waning Years of Uruguay’s Military Rule: Democracy Promotion and the Redefinition of Human Rights
This chapter examines the Reagan administration’s human rights policy towards Uruguay during his first term. Despite public disavowals that human rights would be a guiding force within his administration, Reagan was unable to ignore the concept. Instead of completely reversing Carter’s injection of human rights concerns into American diplomacy though, Reagan’s policies redefined the concept from focusing on individual liberties such as political imprisonment and torture—the main tools of the Uruguayan dictatorship—and oriented his policy towards human rights as democracy promotion (understood in a simplistic sense as voting). Although this meant narrowly redefining human rights in a way that many activists found unacceptable, this case explains how human rights had become part of the foreign policy bureaucracy no matter who the executive was.