Uruguay

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From Chile to China, soccer fans like to think their teams reflect their national characters.

That’s a delusion, of course. These are jocks, not exchange students. But if international fútbol really is the continuation of war by other means, you at least want to believe your soccer soldiers share your values.

Which is why Uruguay – a nation whose progressive values are so often applauded these days – should follow this advice: Lose Luis.

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This article was originally published in October and has been updated.

Uruguayans love it when you tell them what a resort paradise Punta del Este is. Or how tasty the country’s Tannat wine is. Or what a stable democracy their small nation (pop. 3.5 million) has turned out to be.

What they don’t like is to hear Uruguay called, as many do label it today, “the Switzerland of South America.” Not that Uruguayans dislike Switzerland. But many if not most of them think the comparison is cliché, exaggerated, inaccurate, condescending.

NPR/ Flickr

One irony of last week’s vote in Uruguay’s House of Representatives to legalize marijuana is that almost two-thirds of Uruguayans themselves oppose the measure, according to some polls.

Within weeks, Uruguay is expected to become the first nation to legalize the production, distribution and use of marijuana for its citizens.

The South American country's response to incessant drug-related violence in the region signals a quest for alternatives to the U.S.-led war on drugs, and a rethinking of official U.N. anti-drug policy, which has been in effect for more than half a century.

Uruguay is poised to create a state-licensed marijuana industry, after the country's lower house of Congress passed a controversial bill late Wednesday detailing how the government would regulate marijuana — from its production and import to marketing and distribution. The move would be a first.

NPR's South America correspondent Lourdes Garcia-Navarro tells our Newscast unit that the landmark bill now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to sail through.

Lourdes reports: