Tag Archive | "uruguay"

Uruguay: Campaigns Close Ahead of Sunday’s Presidential Run-Off


Presidential candidate Tabaré Vázquez (photo: Pepe Delloro/Télam/ema)

Presidential candidate Tabaré Vázquez (photo: Pepe Delloro/Télam/ema)

Presidential candidates Tabaré Vázquez (Frente Amplio) and Luis Lacalle Pou (Partido Nacional) will close their campaigns today, ahead of Sunday’s presidential run-off.

Vázquez and his running mate Raúl Sendic will participate of a festival at Parque Battle, outside the Centenario stadium, in Montevideo. The event will begin at 6.30pm with the performance of the murga Reina de La Teja and will finish close to midnight with a set by candombe musician Rubén Rada. At 8.30pm, Sendic and Vázquez will address the crowds for the last time before the election.

Meanwhile, the Partido National will hold a rally in the city San Carlos, district of Maldonado, where Lacalle Pou and his vice-presidential candidate Jorge Larrañaga will give their final speeches at 8pm.

The latest polls show Vázquez well ahead of Lacalle Pou, with between 53 and 55% of the vote against the Partido Nacional’s 40 to 42%. This result would give the Frente Amplio its third consecutive government, with Vázquez becoming president for the second time.

Luis Eduardo González, director of pollster Cifra, told Uruguayan newspaper El País: “This last month of the electoral campaign has been odd by Uruguayan standards: there was little mobilisation, a relatively low amount of publicity, few appearances by the candidates. But even with this campaign at half throttle, the most likely outcome is that Vázquez will win by a broader margin than its predecessor [President José Mujica], and will become the third Uruguayan to be elected president twice.”

The reasons behind the support for the Frente Amplio, according to the polls, would be a good economic performance by the current government and the good image of President José ‘Pepe’ Mujica.

Vázquez came ahead in the first round of the election, on 26th October, with 47.17% of the vote, followed by Lacalle Pou with 30.55%.

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Uruguay Election: Vazquez To Face Lacalle in Presidential Run-Off


Presidential candidate Tabaré Vázquez (photo: Pepe Delloro/Télam/ema)

Presidential candidate Tabaré Vázquez (photo: Pepe Delloro/Télam/ema)

Former president Tabaré Vázquez, of the governing Frente Amplio, came ahead in yesterday’s presidential election in Uruguay, with 47.17% of the vote. He will face Partido Nacional’s Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou, who came second with 30.55%, in a second round next month.

Uruguayans went to the polls yesterday to elect not only their next president, but also senators and deputies. The latest data indicates that the Frente Amplio obtained 15 senators (out of 30), and if they win the second round they will have a majority in the upper house, which is presided by the vice-president.

As for the lower house, Mariana Pomés of Cifra Consultancy explained local newspaper El País that “deputies are distributed differently because they are elected by department [district], so we need to have all the departments to know how many votes they got.” The Electoral Court is yet to finish counting the votes in important districts such as Montevideo and Canelones.

A referendum question was also included in yesterday’s election, whereby Uruguayans were asked to decide whether to lower the criminal age from 18 to 16, in a bid to curb crime. The ‘No’ vote won by 53.65% to 46.35%. Fabiana Goyeneche, who led the ‘No’ campaign, said: “Information and reflection won because people got informed about what was really being proposed, and when they started to realise that this proposal is not a good alternative, when they started to see that the actual defenders of the proposal had to admit that it wasn’t a solution to insecurity, then people started to think about it.”

Vázquez, an oncologist, was president of Uruguay between 2005 and 2010, and received the support of current president José Mujica in the left-wing Frente Amplio’s primary election. On his victory speech, Vázquez thanked Uruguayans for “the enormous support the people have given to this political force [the Frente Amplio] to keep changing,” and added that “beyond the parliamentary majorities, the path [we will take] will be to favour dialogue and respect.”

Partido Colorado’s candidate Pedro Bordaberry, who came second with 12.77% of the vote, said he will support Lacalle Pou on the second round. “I will work every hour of the next 34 days so that Lacalle Pou wins the run-off. I will do it with the conviction that it’s the best for my country,” said Bordaberry.

The presidential run-off will be held on 30th November.

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Uruguay’s Election: The Pending Questions of Justice and Human Rights


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily representative of The Argentina Independent.

On Sunday, Uruguayans will be electing their new president for the next five years. Browsing newspapers headlines, many are the themes on the political and social agenda, ranging from the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the capital, Montevideo, to rising levels of insecurity.

Leading presidential candidates in Uruguay, from left to right: Tabaré Vázquez, Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou, Pedro Bordaberry  (Photos via Wikipedia)

Leading presidential candidates in Uruguay, from left to right: Tabaré Vázquez, Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou, Pedro Bordaberry (Photos via Wikipedia)

Thirty years have passed from the historic elections of 25th November, 1984, which hallmarked the return of democracy in Uruguay after more than a decade of dictatorship and 13 years without an election. So much has changed since then. In 2013, Uruguay was selected by The Economist as the country of the year for “path-breaking reforms that do not merely improve a single nation but, if emulated, might benefit the world,” such as gay marriage and a law legalising and regulating the use of cannabis.

But much has stayed the same. In particular, coming to terms with the legacy of the dictatorship – that is, the systematic human rights violations such as political imprisonment, enforced disappearance and torture – is an unfinished business, and remains an open wound within society. Last year, the newly established and appointed United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Pablo de Greiff, unambiguously summarised the situation in Uruguay at the end of his first visit to the country.

De Greiff stated that “a chapter of Uruguay’s recent past is yet to be resolved adequately”, pointing to how there had been “little progress” since the end of the dictatorship in confronting the serious human rights violations committed between 1973 and 1985. The expert further asserted how this was “not about revenge or looking only to the past, but about laying a solid foundation for a just and equitable society that will allow new generations to address the challenges of the future.”

More recently, in August and September 2014, the director of Amnesty International Uruguay, Mariana Labastie, met with the four presidential candidates – Pedro Bordaberry of the Partido Colorado, Pablo Mieres of the Partido Independiente, Luis Lacalle Pou of the Partido Blanco and Tabaré Vázquez of the Frente Amplio – to discuss their commitment to human rights and the struggle against impunity.

Labastie underscored how “the topic of human rights is often absent from the agenda of the electoral campaign or it does not occupy the place it should.” She also highlighted how all the four candidates committed themselves to continue investigating the truth about victims of enforced disappearance. But is this enough?

Former dictator Juan María Bordaberry (photo: Wikipedia)

Former dictator Juan María Bordaberry (photo: Wikipedia)

Forty Years On

The Uruguayan dictatorship, in power between June 1973 and February 1985, perpetrated countless human rights violations inside and outside the country’s borders – the latter committed within the framework of Operation Condor, a continent-wide operation set up by the dictatorships of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay to hunt down political opponents across borders.

It has been estimated that approximately 200 Uruguayans were victims of enforced disappearance, while there were approximately 6,000-7,000 victims of prolonged political detention, and thousands more instances of torture, sexual violence, and inhuman treatment and individuals having to flee into exile. Three decades from the democratic transition in 1985, responding to the human rights violations of the dictatorship can no longer be delayed. This is particularly so since, between 1986 and 2011, a law – the so-called Ley de Caducidad – effectively blocked the investigation and prosecution of all dictatorship-related crimes. Time is now of the essence. Many relatives of disappeared individuals as well as survivors of secret detention and torture have already passed away in the three decades elapsed. If there are any more delays, the opportunity for justice may be long gone.

A year after his visit, the UN Special Rapporteur presented his report on his mission to Uruguay at the 27th session of the Human Rights Council (8th-26th September, 2014). De Greiff’s report is a rather accurate diagnostic as well as a useful checklist of pending matters in Uruguay; his recommendations should be seriously acted upon by the next president of Uruguay.

The Report

The Special Rapporteur underlined in his report to the Human Rights Council that, in Uruguay, the burden to investigate the past has largely fallen on the shoulders of victims of serious human rights violations, their relatives, and human rights activists. They were the ones who tirelessly mobilised to push for – up to the present time – initiatives in favour of the promotion of truth, justice, reparations, and guarantees of non-repetition. The Rapporteur also noted how the lack of progress and the passing of time has generated fatigue in the victims and their relatives. Taking into account that many of them are of an elderly age, it is urgent that their requests are attended to.

UN Special Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence Pablo de Greiff (Photo via UN)

UN Special Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence Pablo de Greiff (Photo via UN)

The Rapporteur organised his report according to the four elements of his mandate. In terms of justice, he acknowledged the important progress since 2005, especially pointing to the verdicts against two former dictators, Juan María Bordaberry in 2010 and Gregorio Álvarez in 2009, sentenced to prison for human rights violations, and the overturning of the Ley de Caducidad in 2011. At the same time, however, de Greiff joined the choir of critical opinions about the stance of the Uruguayan Supreme Court of Justice that, in 2013, considered the crimes of the dictatorship to be common crimes and, therefore, susceptible to the application of statutory limitations according to the national criminal code. Moreover, the Rapporteur expressed his concern about the transfer of criminal judge Mariana Mota last year and the unwarranted delays and obstacles that still hinder the resolution of ongoing criminal investigations and trials.

In terms of truth, de Greiff welcomed the efforts of civil society, especially the 1989 Never Again Report by the Peace and Justice Service, and the work of forensic anthropologists that located and identified four disappeared individuals in Uruguay in the past few years. However, he lamented a lack of attention paid to the larger universe of victims beyond the disappeared, to include victims of prolonged detention, torture, the kidnapping of children and sexual violence, and the establishment of policies to secure access to state archives.

On reparations, the expert applauded the sanctioning of several laws since redemocratisation to remedy different groups of victims, including the setting up of a special reparatory pension for former political prisoners and compensation for victims of state terror. Still, as of June 2014, only 360 cases of economic reparations were granted to victims of state terror, while confusion between different sets of rights characterises these laws, forcing victims to choose between pension rights and reparation benefits. Finally, in terms of guarantees of non-repetition, de Greiff commended the establishment of the National Institution for Human Rights in 2012 while highlighting the lack of vetting and thorough reforms to the Armed Forces and the Judiciary.

Tasks Ahead

The report ends with a list of conclusions and recommendations spanning across three pages, all needed in order to respond adequately to the unfinished business of the recent past. The most urgent recommendations that the new government must at least work on in its five-year mandate are -in the opinion of this author- the following three: the removal of all of the obstacles that block the denunciation of past human rights violations to the courts and the progress of judicial proceedings without undue delays; the establishment of an official mechanism to investigate past crimes; and the design and sanctioning of reparations policies encompassing both material and symbolic reparations and targeting all different categories of victims.

The next government in Uruguay has a historic opportunity to finally deliver truth, justice and reparations to victims of human rights atrocities and their families, as well as to the rest of society. This opportunity for justice should not be missed.

Dr Francesca Lessa is a specialist in issues of justice and human rights in Argentina and Uruguay based at the Latin American Centre, University of Oxford.

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Operation Condor: Justice for Transnational Crimes in South America


The Operation Condor trial in Buenos Aires has implications for justice and accountability in Argentina but also for the rest of South America.

“Could you please tell us your date and place of birth?” the president of Federal Criminal Court 1 in Buenos Aires asked the young woman testifying at the court hearing. Macarena Gelman replied that she was probably born on 1st November, 1976, in Montevideo, Uruguay, after her mother had been illegally transferred there from Argentina weeks earlier. Mystified by how her mother, María Claudia Garcia de Gelman, originally detained in Buenos Aires had ended up in Uruguay, Macarena suggested that Operation Condor (Plan Cóndor) offered the “only explanation” for what had happened.

Macarena Gelman (Still from TV Publica)

Macarena Gelman (Still from TV Publica)

Macarena’s testimony before the tribunal in November 2013 exposes some of the challenges and difficulties that victims of human rights violations have had to face since the return of democracy. Numerous South American countries experiencing similar violations share this legacy. The question of date and place of birth is one that many of us answer frequently and we do so without the blink of an eye. In the case of Macarena, as well as other victims of identity theft and illegal adoption, answering that question is anything but easy.

For Macarena, it required solving a puzzle; rejoining all the component pieces scattered across Argentina and Uruguay, but also within the entire South America region. Reconstructing her life story took over 30 years and included a grandfather who incessantly looked for her. It was also the journey of two countries in the aftermath of the shadow of dictatorship, struggling to come to terms with the brutality of the crimes that had been perpetrated.

Macarena’s identification in Montevideo in 2000 proved even further the existence of the transnational coordination of terror known as Operation Condor. Over ten years later, on March 5, 2013, in a packed Buenos Aires courthouse, two former Argentine military dictators, together with other 19 defendants, were finally put on trial for their alleged role in Operation Condor, including the atrocities committed against Macarena’s parents.

Operation Condor was a continent-wide operation set up during the Cold War by the military dictatorships of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay to hunt down political opponents across borders, murdering and disappearing hundreds of left-wing activists outside their home countries’ borders in the 1970s and 1980s in Latin America.

Responding to Human Rights Violations

The rapidly growing field of transitional justice studies “strategies employed by states and international institutions to deal with a legacy of human rights abuses and to effect social reconstruction in the wake of widespread violence.” In the past 30 years, countries have developed innovative ways to confront atrocities committed during political violence or conflict. Latin America has pioneered many tools such as truth commissions, trials and reparations that have been adopted subsequently throughout the world. Yet, up until recently, the main focus has been on offences perpetrated by national actors within individual states, thus neglecting consideration of how to respond to transnational crimes such as those of Operation Condor.

Nonetheless, since the late 1990s and early 2000s, investigations into Operation Condor crimes have gradually come to play a crucial role in the struggle for accountability in South America. The strategic litigation of instances of transnational crimes, together with a parallel strategy focusing on the illegal appropriation of children born to women held in clandestine detention, turned into key tools in the struggle against impunity and in questioning the validity of broad amnesty laws that were approved soon after the dictatorships.

These ground-breaking strategies and legal tools developed by human rights activists and lawyers purposefully circumvented amnesty laws and began chipping away at the wall of impunity: the first judgment issued in March 2009 against military and police officers in Uruguay related for instance to the murder of 28 Uruguayan citizens in Buenos Aires in 1976. Likewise, in Chile, after decades of absolute impunity, Augusto Pinochet was eventually indicted by Judge Juan Guzmán for crimes relating to “Operation Condor” in December 2004.

The current trial in Buenos Aires is the first prosecution to tackle the whole terror network and its operations to persecute opponents across borders in all its six member states. This prosecution is exceptional internationally and even in Argentina. Kathryn Sikkink labelled Argentina a “global protagonist” in the struggle for international human rights, where 121 criminal trials for dictatorship crimes have already been completed in recent years. Yet the ongoing Operation Condor trial is still a seminal moment. Even the landmark investigations by Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón in the late 1990s only focused on atrocities perpetrated inside state borders of Argentina and Chile.

Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet (left) and his Argentine counterpart Jorge Videla, in 1976. Both were active members of Operation Condor.

Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and his Argentine counterpart Jorge Videla, in 1976.

Opportunities for Justice

The criminal investigation into the case of Operation Condor began in the late 1990s when the relatives of five victims from Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay presented their case to the judiciary in Buenos Aires. The amnesties that existed at the time could be circumvented because the defendants were either foreign individuals or Argentine military commanders. In the early 2000s, the federal judge charged former Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla and also requested the extradition of several other former dictators, including Augusto Pinochet and the former Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner. There were delays in the judicial and investigative process in Argentina, due to the context of impunity until the amnesty laws were overturned in 2005. Then the deferrals, due to the large numbers of trials for dictatorship crimes that resumed in 2006, and the trial only began in 2013.

The trial advances justice in new respects by tackling national and transnational human rights violations against 106 victims. The judges are investigating atrocities and perpetrators across multiple and overlapping jurisdictions: crimes perpetrated in Argentina by foreign operatives and Argentine agents, atrocities committed abroad by Argentine forces and their local counterparts as well as the transnational conspiracy of terror by South America’s dictatorships to perpetrate human rights violations. While other criminal prosecutions have established criminal responsibility for specific crimes, this trial, by examining illegal kidnappings and the circumstances surrounding them, aims to prove the actual existence of the Operation Condor network.

The trial is innovative in four respects vis-à-vis previous prosecutions in Argentina: it is the only one to have amongst its 21 defendants a foreigner, retired Uruguayan military officer Manuel Cordero. It addresses atrocities committed in the six countries that composed the Operation Condor network. It has a large number of foreign victims, including 48 Uruguayans and 22 Chileans. It uses the criminal charge of asociación ilicita (the establishment of a joint criminal conspiracy) to prosecute the transnational enterprise created to perpetrate crimes against humanity across borders. This specific charge is commonly utilised by domestic courts investigating cases relating to local criminal gangs or mafia groups; it has never been used for crimes committed during the dictatorship.

Automotores Orletti, the garage used as a clandestine detention centre during the dictatorship is closely connected to the Operation Condor trial (Photo via wikipedia)

Automotores Orletti, the garage used as a clandestine detention centre during the dictatorship is closely connected to the Operation Condor trial (Photo via wikipedia)

The Road Ahead

In less than a year’s time, the sentence in the trial will be known. It is too early to speculate on a sentence yet to come, but some preliminary evaluations can be attempted. Whatever the final verdict, the strategic importance of this trial cannot be underestimated.

This prosecution has played a key role in undermining the structure of impunity that existed in Argentina. The trial is truly unprecedented in its attempt to capture the complexity of repression in South America. It tackles domestic human rights violations but also transnational ones: it includes both Argentine and foreign victims, and there are Argentine perpetrators and foreign counterparts. It is the first time that a criminal court is probing the whole transnational terror network that existed in the region to enable cross-border repression of exiles and activists. The 106 cases are representative of the coordination of terror. Defendants are being prosecuted according to the criminal code not for establishing a domestic criminal conspiracy but an international one.

Activists and lawyers remain hopeful that the trial will have an impact on other countries in the region, especially those that lag behind in accountability for dictatorship crimes, such as Brazil and Uruguay. It is noteworthy that the Operation Condor trial began in Argentina just a few days after the Supreme Court of Justice in Uruguay released a very controversial and internationally criticised sentence regarding past human rights violations. In this context, a condemnatory verdict in the Operation Condor trial, where the majority of victims are Uruguayan citizens, may become a tool for local activists to mobilise on this issue and put pressure on the judiciary and the government to respond to myriad past crimes.

Dr Francesca Lessa is a specialist in issues of justice and human rights in Argentina and Uruguay based at the Latin American Centre, University of Oxford.

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The Indy Guide to October’s Elections in South America


October is set to be a decisive month in South American politics, with more than 150m people in Brazil, Bolivia, and Uruguay set to cast their vote in presidential and legislative elections. While the vote is something of a formality for the supremely popular Bolivian leader Evo Morales, the contests in Brazil and Uruguay are set to be decided in tight, second round run-offs.

Here we provide a quick guide to the elections in each country, including a look at the key candidates and campaign issues.

 

BRAZIL: 5th October

What: General Elections to choose president, national congress, state governors, and state legislatures.
Run-off: If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote in presidential and gubernatorial races, a run-off will be held on 26th October.
Term: New president will be sworn in on 1st January 2015, members of congress on 1st February 2015.

South America’s largest country goes to the polls amid an economic downturn that has sparked growing criticism of incumbent Dilma Rousseff, now seeking a second term. Rousseff remains favourite, but renewed competition from environmentalist Marina Silva could lead to a tense run-off at the end of the month.

Candidates:

640px-Dilma_Rousseff_-_foto_oficial_2011-01-09Dilma Rousseff, Worker’s Party (PT)
VP: Michel Temer (PMDB)
Coalition: With the strength of the people
Current ranking in the polls: 38%

Incumbent Dilma Rousseff, 66, Brazil’s first female president, is running for re-election. Rousseff became a socialist during her youth and under the military dictatorship she was captured and jailed between 1970 and 1972, and was reportedly tortured. She was one of the founders of the Democratic Labour Party (PDT) in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, and worked her way up the ranks to become state Energy Secretary. In 2000, after an internal PDT dispute, Rousseff deflected to the Worker’s Party (PT). In 2002, Rousseff joined the committee responsible for the energy policy of presidential candidate Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva, who, after winning the election, invited her to become Energy Minister. In 2005 she became Lula’s Chief of Staff, a post she held until 2010 when she resigned to run for president, winning in the second round.

Rousseff has continued many of Lula’s social policies, and until mid-2013 had popularity ratings equal to that of her predecessor, regularly topping 80%. However, in June last year things changed when over a million people took to the streets to vent anger at the escalating prices of public services and corruption among politicians, as well as what was seen to be excessive spending on the stadiums for this year’s football World Cup.

Under Rousseff the country’s growth has slowed down, largely due to the impacts of the global economic downturn, but also, according to some analysts, due to policies that her administration has implemented, and her “economic micromanaging”. Brazil is currently in a recession, although unemployment remains historically low at 4.9% and household incomes have managed to keep up with the high inflation. However, it is thought that were Rousseff to win re-election she would not encourage confidence in foreign investors, which could affect the country’s long-term growth.

Marina_Silva2010Marina Silva, Brazilian Socialist Part (PSB)
VP: Beto Albuquerque (PSB)
Coalition: United for Brazil
Current ranking in the polls: 29%

Marina Silva, 56, only officially became the PSB candidate six weeks ago, after the original PSB candidate, Eduardo Campos, was killed in a plane crash in Santos on 13th August and Silva, who had been Campos’ running mate, was chosen to succeed him.

Silva is as known for her background as an environmentalist as she is a politician. Growing up in the Brazilian Amazon, Silva comes from humble origins, and only learned to read and write at the age of 16. She was a colleague of activist Chico Mendes, who was killed for defending the rainforest in 1988, around the time Silva became a member of the Worker’s Party (PT), a membership she continued until 2009. She served as former president Lula’s Environment Minister from 2003, but frequently clashed with then Energy Minister Dilma Rousseff, and resigned in 2008. In 2010 Silva ran for president as a Green Party candidate, obtaining 19.4% of the votes, the highest ever figure for a Green Party candidate, far exceeding expectations. In 2013, she attempted to create new party Sustainability Network, but after failing to gather the required number of signatures to create the party, she changed her affiliation to the PSB. In April, Campos named her as his running mate.

The PSB is traditionally a centrist party with market sympathies, and Silva had to work hard when inheriting the ticket to convince the party’s traditional base that she wasn’t a radical reformist. She has outlined a market-friendly plan that both businesses on the ground in Brazil as well as foreign investors believe will spur productivity and encourage investment, both of which have tailed off under Rousseff. Silva has also said she would reinstate fuel tax and allow more fluctuation in prices of things that are currently regulated. She would also give the central bank more independence, and her policies underscore an ideology of fiscal rectitude, tax reform, and more robust inflation-targeting. Socially, Silvia is seen to be conservative – due to her religious faith, she retracted Campos’ support for gay marriage, although her campaign has since come out to say she is a supporter of LGBT rights and human rights in general. Her posture has led Rousseff to claim she is continually switching sides and affiliations, something which could prove to be her Achilles’ heel.

Aécio_Neves_2014-02-20Aécio Neves, Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB)
VP: Aloysio Nunes
Coalition: Change, Brazil
Current ranking in the polls: 18%

Economist and politician, Aécio Neves, 54, is currently a senator representing Minas Gerais state. Since entering politics in the 1980s, he has only been defeated once, when he ran for mayor of Belo Horizonte in 1992. He was elected four times to Brazil’s lower house between 1987 and 2002, before becoming governor of Minas Gerais from 2003-2010, the first to be elected outright in the first round and also the youngest in the state’s history. As governor, Neves introduced the “Management Shock”: a set of sweeping reforms designed to bring the state budget under control by reducing government expenditure and promoting investment.

Neves, a centre-right candidate, is the market’s favourite, and a win would bring back into power the party that Lula’s Worker’s Party beat in 2002, and which has remained in the wings for the past 12 years.

 

BOLIVIA: 12th October

 

What: General Elections to choose president, vice-president, renew 130 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 36 in the Senate. There will also be seven new ‘special’ seats for indigenous leaders in the lower house.
Run-off: If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote – or at least 40% and a 10 percentage point lead over the nearest rival – in presidential race, a run-off will be held on 7th December.
Term: New president will be sworn in on 22nd January 2015.

President Evo Morales (left) and opposition candidate Samuel Doria Medina

President Evo Morales (left) and opposition candidate Samuel Doria Medina

Candidates:

Evo Morales (Movimiento al Socialismo, MAS-IPSP)
VP: Álvaro García Linera
Current support in opinion polls: 52-55%

Incumbent Evo Morales, 54, is expected to win another landslide election – his third – in the first round. Bolivia’s first indigenous president, a former cocalero in power now since 2006, has managed to combine a socio-economic revolution with relative political stability, and fervent anti-capitalist rhetoric with pragmatic macroeconomic management. The results are impressive: The nationalisation of key energy, mining, and communication sectors would normally draw the ire of neo-liberal observers, but even the IMF has praised a track record of strong growth, moderate inflation, low debt, and balanced budgets. At home, his approval ratings hover around the 70% mark. At the heart of the model is the indigenous concept of Suma Qamaña (good living), the idea that community bonds and living in harmony with la Pachamama (Mother Earth) are just as important for well-being as an increase in income.

However, it has not all been plain sailing for Morales. While enjoying huge support among the country’s majority indigenous population, he has faced regular challenges by opposition in the economic wealth province of Santa Cruz. Morales says this unrest is deliberately provoked by the local business elite and supported by the US embassy, which last year he threatened to shut down after his presidential plane was rerouted and grounded by European authorities who accused him of smuggling Edward Snowdon out of Russia. However, he also faced a major crisis in 2010 after raising the price of state-subsidised gas, a decision he eventually reversed after a week of widespread protests (the ‘gasolinazo’). Meanwhile, the plan to construct a major international highway running through the TIPNIS indigenous territory sparked major protests in 2012 and created some divisions within the party’s support base.

Other challenges remain if he is elected, as expected, for his third term. Poverty levels have fallen by around a third since 2005, but at around 40% are still high in regional terms. After easing some of the country’s worst economic ills, the long-term future will require greater industrialisation and diversification to reduce the heavy dependence on primary exports from extracting oil, gas, and minerals. Finally, the government is facing growing pressure to tackle social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion, which are both prohibited.

Samuel Doria Medina (Frente de Unidad Nacional, FUN)
VP: Ernesto Suárez
Coalition: Concertación Unidad Demócrata (FUN+MDS)
Current support in opinion polls: 14-17%

The business magnate will run against Morales for the third time. In 2005 and 2009 he came third with less than 8% of the vote, though opinion polls this time rank him as a comfortable second. Despite being involve in politics for more than 20 years, Doria Medina is still better known for his business exploits. Since 1987 he has been the president and main shareholder of the Sociedad Boliviana de Cemento (SOBOCE), one of the largest companies in the country, while his portfolio has expanded to include the local franchise of fast food outlets such as Burger King and Subway.

Doria Medina says he offers an alternative to Morales’ authoritarian style and unsustainable economic model, proposing more market-friendly policies including providing foreign investors with a greater share of Bolivia’s oil wealth in return for an injection of capital. He also calls for more investment in renewable energies, technology, and services, which he claims this will provide more jobs and help reduce crime. However, Doria Medina he has failed to unite the opposition – which includes ex-president Jorge Quiroga (Partido Demócrata Cristiano, PDC) and leftist challenger Juan del Granado, of the Movimiento Sin Miedo (MSM) – behind his cause.

 

URUGUAY: 26th October

What: General election to choose president, vice-president, and complete renewal of both legislative houses in the General Assembly.
Run-off: If no presidential candidate achieves an absolute majority in the first round, a run-off will be held on 30th November.
Term: New president and legislators will be sworn in on 1st March 2015.

From left to right, Tabaré Vázquez, Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou, Pedro Bordaberry  (Photos via Wikipedia)

From left to right, Tabaré Vázquez, Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou, Pedro Bordaberry (Photos via Wikipedia)

José “Pepe” Mujica has won the hearts and minds of the global media as “the world’s poorest president” who legalised marijuana, but he is forbidden by the constitution for seeking re-election. His predecessor and Frente Amplio colleague Tabaré Vázquez is currently favourite to return for his second term, though latest polls suggest a second round run-off is likely and could be a close call. Education reform and crime are two of the key campaign issues.

Candidates:

Tabaré Vázquez (Frente Amplio, FA)
VP: Raúl Sendic
Support: 40-43%

Oncologist Tabaré Vázquez, president between 2005 and 2010, is looking to secure another five-year term at the age of 74. The country’s situation has changed significantly since he first came to power a decade ago: poverty has fallen from around 40% to just over 10%, while unemployment is at historic lows. The country has also become one of the world’s most socially progressive after decriminalising abortion, legalising same sex marriage, and regulating the market for legal marijuana.

Vázquez says a third successive Frente Amplio government would be “committed to improving even further the life of every Uruguayan citizen” by consolidating these social and economic advances and tackling problematic areas. One of his key electoral promises is to increase education spending to 6% of GDP (from around 4.5% currently), another the introduction of a Nordic-style ‘national care system’ to increase state support for families with dependants (infants, disabled or elderly relatives).

If triumphant, however, Vázquez will face a challenge to keep the more radical leftist factions of the Frente Amplio coalition in line, especially if a weak parliamentary majority or direct minority results in new concessions to a rejuvenated centre-right opposition (he has already made overtones about reaching “broad agreements”).

Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou (Partido Nacional, PN)
VP: Jorge Larrañaga
Support: 29-33%

Son of former president Luis Alberto Lacalle (1990-1995), 41-year-old Luis Lacalle Pou was a surprise winner in the primaries, something that is considered an advantage for the main event as his rivals were preparing to face a different candidate (Jorge Larrañaga, who has since become Lacalle Pou’s running mate). His campaign has sought to play up his image as a fresh and youthful alternative to Vázquez, and he has promised a renewal of politics with “action, not reaction”, preferring to talk about policy management rather than ideological concerns.

Lacalle Pou has said that education, security, and infrastructure were three “emergencies” that his administration would treat.

Pedro Bordaberry (Partido Colorado, PC)
VP: Germán Coutinho
Support: 11-15%

Another son of an ex-president, though this time former dictator Juan María, Bordaberry represents the country’s traditional right-wing Colorados. Bordaberry has promised deep education reform, including a guarantee for a 200-day school year and decentralising decision-making. He has also put security at the heart of his camping, pledging to reverse the legalisation of marijuana, lower the age of criminal responsibility for serious crimes, and use the military to support police operations.

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Book Review: The Militant Song Movement in Latin America


militant song“Without an understanding of the emotional component of political involvement it is impossible to fully understand a movement for social change such as the one operating in Latin America at that time. Without an account of how music was pervasively used in the construction of these emotional components, the political and social explanation of what occurred in Latin America during that period will be always inexcusably partial.”

Pablo Vila’s introduction to ‘The Militant Song Movement in Latin America: Chile, Uruguay and Argentina’ (Lexington Books, 2014) succinctly defines the complexities of a movement whose narration differs across the three countries discussed in the book.

The militant song, which emerged as a powerful movement from the 1950s until the mid 1970s, swiftly became an expression of “el pueblo” – the people. The political mobilisation of the masses, constructed upon the validation of subaltern experience and memory, incorporated traditional folklore, as well as the ramifications of poverty and social injustice. The triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 increased anti-colonial sentiment in Latin America and emphasised the importance of cultural dissemination which, in Cuba, was epitomised by its own variant of militant song known as “Nueva Trova Cubana”.

The book incorporates history and memory, as well as the processes that have constructed divergent forms of remembrance with regard to the militant song movement. While the militant song departed from common objectives – namely the repudiation of colonial and imperialist influences – the memory frameworks in Chile, Uruguay and Argentina differed following the brutal dictatorships and subsequent transitions towards a democratic framework.

Thus, while political mobilisation against oppression provided a common foundation in all three countries, the memory processes in the aftermath of their respective dictatorships reflected the variations in remembrance of the militant song. In Argentina, songs that nurtured the militant song yet lacked a militant element took precedence within the country’s collective memory. The de-politicisation of songs, aided by the emphasis upon aesthetics and poetry, became a characteristic of Uruguayan memory. On the other hand, militant song in Chile emerged as the strongest with regard to memory, owing to the dictatorship-imposed rupture on society.

La nueva canción chilena was the militant song movement that had a profound impact on Chilean society (Photo courtesy of Memoria Chilena)

La nueva canción chilena was the militant song movement that had a profound impact on Chilean society (Photo courtesy of Memoria Chilena)

Three phases characterise Uruguay’s militant song: the triumph and inspiration of the Cuban Revolution, cultural resistance to dictatorship, and the 1985 return to democracy. While the emphasis upon resistance to colonial influence and the incorporation of local traditions remained for a time, within a limited audience, exposure to the intellectual society and the international left by Daniel Viglietti aided dissemination. Viglietti, a radical Uruguayan singer who collaborated also with Chilean nueva canción musicians, stands out as the epitome of the militant song genre in Uruguay.

Uruguay’s militant song encouraged dialogue between the singer and the audience, placing value upon aesthetics and the literary quality of the songs as the primary means through which to combat dictatorship oppression. As the inspiration of “el pueblo” becomes a disseminated collective experience, political oppression is challenged through “simultaneous and complicit engagement”, according to Maria Figueredo. The prominence of aesthetics in Uruguay’s militant song, while failing to act as a deterrent for the exile of more radical singers such as Viglietti, enabled the manoeuvring and rewriting of songs in a manner that challenged authority within censorship restrictions. However, the shift in focus is also testimony to the later trend of depoliticisation, thus minimising remembrance of Uruguayan militant song and its fusion with politics.

Atahualpa Yupanqui, pioneer of the militant song movement in Argentina is considered to have vindicated previously inaccessible social commentary departing from the subaltern and the consciousness of the indigenous, marginalised for a long time by successive governments. A reflection also of the silence imposed upon the indigenous, Yupanqui’s militant song is immediately distanced from the “hegemonic collective imaginary”, particularly with regard to the song “El arriero va”, which is considered to be the first song endorsing critical commentary about social conditions in 1944.

As Carlos Molinero and Pablo Vila state in their chapter, the recognition of difference from within strikes the first challenge against the hegemony, thus bringing social inclusion of the masses to the fore. This also aided in the expansion and exploration of socio-political themes by other singers such as Mercedes Sosa, thus making the change from political representation to using song as a political weapon. With the singer as protagonist, the song is allowed the freedom to become the epitome of struggle – one particular reference and inspiration for the genre being Che Guevara’s utopian metaphor of the “new man”.

However, unlike the continuous experience of Chile, Argentine militant song was less widespread – a fact reflected in the remembrance of non-militant repertoire that nurtured the movement, rather than an affinity to militant song itself. For example, despite its lack of militant content, “Gracias a la Vida”, authored by Chilean nueva canción pioneer Violeta Parra but mostly associated with Mercedes Sosa, remains at the helm of Argentine remembrance of the genre.

A mural for Victor Jara in Santiago, Chile (photo: Wikipedia)

A mural for Victor Jara, one of the leading singers in Chile’s militant song movement, in Santiago. (photo: Wikipedia)

Chile, on the contrary, remains the embodiment of militant song. ‘La nueva canción Chilena’, incorporated within Salvador Allende’s Unidad Popular campaign, was an active movement of political mobilisation and consciousness that rendered the masses participants in political events. Vehemently shunning commercial snares, the nueva canción movement proved formidable in countering imperialist culture at a time when Chilean society was riddled with turbulence, military violence and the resonating clamour for social change. Nueva canción artists willingly pledged their support to Allende’s campaign, with groups and singers such as Inti Illimani and Victor Jara becoming deeply involved the process of rendering the song a viable political vehicle.

Perhaps the most poignant of all was the composition of ‘El Pueblo Unido Jamas Sera Vencido’ (The people united, will never be defeated’) in August 1973 by Sergio Ortega and Quilapayun, just a few weeks prior to the brutal US-backed military coup led by General Pinochet. The immense inspiration generated by the movement led to the detention and torture of several nueva canción singers such as Angel Parra and Victor Jara – the latter being brutally tortured and murdered in the aftermath of the coup. Other singers and groups, such as Patricio Manns and Inti Illimani, were forced into exile. Records pertaining to the nueva canción movement were destroyed along with other material that reflected the mobilisation of the subaltern, such as literature and indigenous instruments. The fusion of militant song with politics in Chile remains evident – particularly in the ongoing battle for memory and the challenging of dictatorship oblivion – a characteristic that is still enshrined in Chile despite the return to democracy.

Drawing upon valuable historical resources, interviews and a vast repertoire of songs, the book is a valuable reference that highlights not only the role of the singers in this enduring movement, but also the political dimension that is allowed to preserve its emotive aspect. A movement that “has outlived the historical conditions that engendered them,” as Nancy Morris states in her contribution, the relevance of the militant song, epitomised in particular by the Chilean experience of memory in relation to the epoch, needs a constant regeneration to avoid the pitfalls of the political periphery.

The Militant Song Movement in Latin America: Chile, Uruguay and Argentina‘ (Lexington Books, 2014)

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Uruguay Approves Bolivia’s Entry into Mercosur


Mercosur flagThe Uruguayan government sanctioned a law passed by Congress which approves the entry of Bolivia into the Mercosur trade bloc.

The process for Bolivia to join Mercosur began in December 2012 in Brazil, and it must be approved by the parliaments of all the member states. So far, the Uruguayan and Venezuelan have parliaments have passed bills in this sense.

The text of the law indicates that, within Bolivia’s joining process, they will establish instruments to reduce asymmetries within the member states, in order to favour “a balanced relative economic development within Mercosur.”

By entering the economic bloc, Bolivia agrees to abide by a number of treaties that regulate the resolution of disputes, among other issues. Once it has been formally allowed into Mercosur, the Andean country will have four years to gradually adopt the laws governing it.

Joining Mercosur would provide Bolivia with an exit to the Atlantic ocean via the Paraná and Paraguay rivers and a free trade area with its neighbours. Around 55% of Bolivian exports are sold to Mercosur countries.

The parliaments of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay are yet to approve Bolivia’s membership. In the meantime, the country participates in Mercosur as an accessing member, without a right to vote.

 

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

Uruguay: Parties Choose Presidential Candidates in Primaries


Ex-president Tabaré Vázquez casts his vote (photo: AFP PHOTO/Miguel Rojo/Télam/ddc)

Ex-president Tabaré Vázquez casts his vote (photo: AFP PHOTO/Miguel Rojo/Télam/ddc)

Uruguayans took to the polls yesterday to choose the candidates that will participate in October’s presidential elections. The three main parties will be represented by ex-president Tabaré Vázquez (Frente Amplio), Luis Lacalle (Partido Nacional), and Pedro Bordaberry (Partido Colorado).

Partido Nacional was the party which obtained the most votes, with 43% of the total, whilst Frente Amplio got 28% of the vote and Partido Colorado 14%. Vázquez and Bordaberry both beat their party rivals by a landslide (obtaining around 80% and 75% respectively), whilst Lacalle’s victory was tighter, beating rival Jorge Larrañaga by 54% to 46%.

Smaller parties such as Partido Independente and Asamblea Popular also participated in the primaries, though with only one candidate each.

The country’s electoral tribunal reported a very low participation rate, with only between 30 and 35% of the electorate casting their vote. Mónica Xavier, president of Frente Amplio, said politicians should “reflect about the reasons why people don’t feel compelled [to vote]” and to “think about the parties’ responsibility in the low levels of participation.”

President José Mugica, also of the Frente Amplio, was one of many analysts who considered that the high absenteeism was due to the predictability of the results.

Presidential and legislative elections will be held in Uruguay on 26th October. The latest polls show that Frente Amplio candidate Tabaré Vázquez is favourite to succeed Mugica.

 

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Five Dead After Private Plane Crashes in Río de la Plata


Authorities have confirmed five dead after a light aircraft crashed in the Río de la Plata this afternoon. Another four people remain in hospital, according to reports.

The private plane, travelling from San Fernando in Argentina with nine on board, crashed less than 10km southwest of its destination Carmelo, on the Uruguayan coast. The pilot had allegedly reported a technical problem before communication was lost.

Map of the crash site (via Infobae.com)

Map of the crash site (via Infobae.com)

Emergency services were alerted by passengers calling from on board as the plane fell soon after 2pm and rescue helicopters and boats were immediately dispatched from both countries.

Early reports suggested one fatality, though the increased figure of five was later confirmed by spokesperson for the Uruguayan navy Gastón Juansolo. Two of the survivors were taken to Buenos Aires, and the other two to Colonia, where they continue to receive treatment for injuries.

Argentine Security Secretary Sergio Berni said that the causes of the crash were still unknown, though noted that “experience tells us its was an engine failure,” according to Pagina 12. Berni added that there was extensive fog in the region of the crash.

The plane is owned by Federico Bonomi, of the clothes label Kosiuko, though he was not on board today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups ArgentinaComments (0)

Chile: Six Condemned for Kidnapping Uruguayans After 1973 Coup


Enrique Pagardoy Saquieres, one of the disappeared Uruguayans

Enrique Pagardoy Saquieres, one of the disappeared Uruguayans

An appeals court in Santiago, Chile has condemned six retired military officers to six years in jail for their role in the disappearance of three Uruguayan citizens shortly after the 1973 coup.

Yesterday’s unanimous decision changed the first ruling from September 2012, which only sentenced one of the accused, Colonel Mateo Durruty. The other former military personnel now condemned are General Francisco Martínez, Brigadier Ander Uriarte, and subofficers Gabriel Montero, Moisés Retamal y Guillermo Vargas.

They will now be able to appeal this second ruling in front of the Supreme Court.

The three victims – Ariel Arcos Latorre (23), Juan Povaschuk Galeazzo (24), and Enrique Pagardoy Saquieres (21) – were detained on 29th September 1973, just two weeks after President Salvador Allende was ousted in a coup led by General Augusto Pinochet. They had come to Chile to escape the dictatorship in Uruguay, which was persecuting suspected members of the leftist guerrilla movement Tupumaros.

After the Pinochet coup, the three were captured, along with four other Uruguayan citizens, as they attempted to escape across the Andes to Argentina. According to the court, they were all taken to a military base in Puente Alto, where they were interrogated and tortured.

Later, all seven were being transferred to the National Stadium in Santiago, which was used by Pinochet as a prison, when a military officer ordered the three victims off the bus. Their whereabouts remain unknown today.

The verdict provides more evidence of the so-called Operation Condor, when military regimes in 1970s Latin America, backed by the US, shared intelligence and coordinated the assassinations of political opponents in the region.

According to Uruguayan newspaper La Diaria, in September 1973, the Uruguayan consulate in Chile gave local authorities a list of over 400 wanted people – including one of the three victims in this case, Galeazzo. Meanwhile, the official Uruguayan state investigation into the disappeared has a record of nine disappeared citizens in Chile.

 

 

Posted in News From Latin America, Round Ups Latin AmericaComments (0)

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On the 4th anniversary of the death of former president Néstor Kirchner, we revisit Marc Rogers' 2011 article analysing his legacy.

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