Privacy and Freedom in Uruguay

A recent poll on government revealed that more than half the population of Uruguay feels that the country is being run “for the good of all the people.”

You can guess how most Americans would answer that question…

True, these types of surveys can often be taken with a grain of salt. But in this case, as I traveled throughout Uruguay, the taxi drivers, farmers, bankers and real estate agents all echoed the same sentiment.

I’ve traveled all over the world and visited scores of countries. But I do have a shortlist of places that meet my high expectations of privacy, security, and freedom. What I found in Uruguay puts it among my favorites.

Plenty of U.S. expats live in Uruguay. I can see why. The laws and the government welcome foreigners as immediate residents and citizenship can follow after three to five years. The seven licensed banks welcome Americans as clients, hold more than half of their cash in dollars or euros, pay more interest than U.S. banks and enforce strict financial privacy that only a court can waive. And Uruguay offers a zero tax rate on offshore income.

If you had packed up and moved there a decade ago, you would have missed a lot—including the U.S. housing bubble and the property-market crash. You also would have missed the world recession—which passed Uruguay by.

Unlike North and South America’s supposed economic powerhouses, the U.S., Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina, the Uruguayan economy expanded during the global recession.

I toured ZoneAmerica, a huge, tax-free, financial, business, high tech, distribution, consulting and call center flourishing under Uruguay’s free market, business-friendly laws and government. Here the evidence of the country’s prosperity is obvious.

The huge free-zone campus boasts acres of eye-pleasing, ultra-modern, environmentally “green” buildings, up-to-the-minute Internet, digital and microwave telecommunications protected by redundant high security systems. There are training and conference centers and turnkey offices.

And you aren’t likely to find a better country for personal freedom. Forbes magazine last year surveyed more than 100 countries and rated Uruguay number one in the world for personal freedom. I found the people informed and vocal—both personally and in the media. And they like Americans!

Uruguay combines everything that makes an ideal haven: Great quality of life, good infrastructure, profitable investments, beautiful beaches, personal safety, friendly banking, and a sincere welcome for foreigners, both as new residents and eventual citizens.

Each year ever more of them are coming to settle down, along with many second-home buyers and investors. And—after seeing the “Europe of South America” for myself—who knows, I just might join them.

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