Back in 2020 we had made an attempt to introduce Uruguay into the Latin American context, a small nation created against the will of its greatest hero, General José Artigas, who always preached a single country that included these territories, today’s Argentina, and a sector of southern Brazil. Of course, the empires of the 19th century and the local traitors (Porteños, coastal caudillos of the Uruguay River sold to Buenos Aires, and Uruguayan oligarchs) invented a territory to avoid a Brazilian-Argentine confrontation, just in case the embracing minds of one side or the other were thinking of a spatial move.
In a second article we published, we told of the risks that were coming for that country, since the left had been displaced after 15 years of government. As every fellow inhabitant of this subcontinent knows, these displacements are due to the installation of a strong right-wing narrative, accompanied by the approval of the Northern Empire, and its ad-hoc financing. In the specific case of Uruguay, all the campaign promises of the right wing were only implemented for the benefit of big business, in the field of communications, in the effects of altering the democratic mechanisms of education, in the use of land and in the escalation of police violence. The results are identical to those produced by Macrismo in Argentina: growing misery in a framework of media violence, where the only thing that the common people listen to is the hegemonic word.
We have already pointed out, in a premonitory way, that a parliamentary system where majorities are automatically altered by a simple election, without gradualism in changing the correlation of forces, was going to lead to a bloc unity of the right wing with the militarist ultra-right and would lead to legal nonsense. And so, it came to pass. An “omnibus law” of almost 500 articles was condemned by parliament as soon as the fascist government of Lacalle Pou and his cronies took office. In the package, unreadable for ordinary citizens, even more so for the poor and vulnerable, carriers of the Stockholm Syndrome dependent on capitalism (with a clear predominance in rural areas), an infinite number of damages to the lives and pockets of the less well-off were artfully mixed in.
To be simple and brief, let’s say that a good-paying tenant, by the mere fact of defaulting on a payment, becomes a debtor who must pay up to 60% in penalties, and becomes liable to immediate eviction. The excuse: “he can rent without presenting a guarantee”. This excuse is absurd, as the risk is immensely greater than the supposed advantage. The state already had mechanisms in place to help tenants, which are now being violated to a catastrophic degree.
Another serious damage to citizen conduct is in trade union rights. The police can evict any workplace occupation, no matter the cause of the force. The very bad salary situation of the police before 2005, when the left took power, was solved; their equipment was improved and they were even allowed to unionise. Now, however, the same police are repressing without rhyme or reason, targeting political activists and anyone whose face expresses that they do not belong to the “circle of the good guys”, i.e., any poor person on the streets.
In education, apart from the well-known budget cuts, which are always carried out by the right wing, teachers are persecuted with condemnations for expressing their opinion. But structurally, Uruguay has a system of co-government at each level of education where teachers (and at the University, graduates and students) participate in the resolutions that affect the functioning of these levels. Now that the number of participants in the councils that belong to the government has grown, the drop in teaching hours affects teachers’ salaries and the number of students in public institutions.
A special paragraph for land tenure. A settler is defined as someone who works his or her land. For example, the military leader Guido Manini Ríos and his wife exploit fields that should be worked by their owners, from their comfortable house in the capital. The explanation, which is hardly credible, is that it was his father-in-law who bought the fields from the National Institute of Colonisation. This body, which regulates the distribution of land, is constantly attacked by the right wing in its quest to benefit the soya growers and cattle ranchers. Since colonial times, the large landowners have been the greatest traitors to the Artiguista principle of land distribution.
We could go on counting fascist atrocities, such as the organisation of the military into a party and a couple of class revenge organisations. They try, among other things, to remove the tried murderers and torturers from prison, arguing that “they are old people”. They are visibly forgetting the young age of the people whose blood is still on the hands of these monsters.
The organised people, after the pain of losing the government to the one who everyone guessed what he was going to do, assimilated the coup and recovered. How? Because the militant grassroots people show the way. I hardly know of any Uruguayans who, in the heat of the battle against the oligarchy, stop to ask the person next to them which party of the group of organisations that give life to the Frente Amplio they come from. Since the creation of this monstrosity called LUC (law of urgent consideration), the comrades decided to go for its repeal. The very breadth of the law led scholars to point out that 135 of its articles were the most retrograde in terms of the rights acquired by the population. They then decided to request, by signature count, a REFERENDUM to repeal the 135 articles. Even those who think that it should be repealed in its entirety have joined the citizens’ vote for repeal. In the midst of the pandemic, just under 700,000 signatures had to be collected (in a country of less than 3.5 million inhabitants) and the right wing speculated that, between the internal problems unleashed in the Frente Amplio by the electoral defeat and the pandemic isolation, the signatures would not be collected. A crass mistake. Almost 800,000 were gathered. Because one by one, with a small table at the neighbourhood fair, going by motorbike to collect signatures from people who called but could not break the isolation, convincing the neighbour, or that cousin who “is not interested in politics” and with the help of Uruguayans abroad who sent the signatures by air and river, the Uruguayan people showed that they are standing up to fascism. They showed that they are on a par with their Chilean, Peruvian, Bolivian and Honduran comrades. That they know about the struggle in Colombia, Brazil, the validity of Cuba and the perverse encirclement of Venezuela.
There is one more step to go. On Sunday 27 March, they will go to the polls in the midst of an unequal fight with the fascists entrenched in the media but with the courage of those who know that the truth is in the squares and streets. In the midst of a perverse voting system where the blank vote counts for the non-repeal. It is amusing to see so many illiterate and drunken gorillas in power talking about Artiguismo. Artigas, from another dimension, looks at them and repeats his wise prose: “civic-military despotism will be precisely annihilated with constitutional obstacles that ensure the inviolability of the sovereignty of the people”. This consultation arises from that inviolability. Good luck, wonderful people!