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IW 03

Uruguay

URUGUAY

Frente Amplio vs. the piqueteros

Workers to center-left minister (see Workers Tribune headline below):
"Don't complain later when we start setting up roadblocks"

PT Uruguay

Upon taking office last March, the government of the Frente Amplio-Espacio Progresista-Nueva Mayoría (Broad Front-Progressive Space-New Majority) of Uruguay started off as it had promised: with a feroicious “adjustment” against working people. It announced a cut of 10% in public investment, and price hikes of 8% in the cost of fuel, and an average of 12% in electric energy (9% for residential; 15% for industrial rates).

This “austerity” plan had as its aim —according to the Broad Front weekly Brecha (1 Apr)- “of sending a message loud and clear to the IMF of the commitment of the entire government concerning the implementation of a rigorous fiscal policy (which) does not differ substantially from that developed (by the outgoing Batlle government)”. Within this same plan figures “the independence of the Central Bank”, that is, its complete dependence on the banks managing the financial paradise of Montevideo. The government, says Brecha, “seems to have fully accepted (the conclusions) of the seminar on the 'Brazilian experience' which Anoop Singh, a high-ranking official of the Fund, held in January with the present cabinet”.

Once fulfilled the tasks with the IMF and the yanquis, the president of the FA, Tabaré Vazquez, went to “confession”: in April he visited the leaders of the [Roman Catholic] Church to promise that he would veto any eventual law legalizing abortion; which provoked a reaction from numerous human and women's rights organizations.

With the cross and sword with which to do battle against the people, in April, the government made it clear that they will not respect the plebiscites held during the last few years against the privatization of state-owned companies. The vice-minister of the economy, Mario Bergara, assured, during a seminar organized by the World Bank and the IDB, that with the government of the Frente Amplio there will be no more consultations with the people: “Now it would be more difficult to think of anyone being able to activate mechanisms of direct democracy.” He added that the Front in government will not oppose dealings between state-owned concerns and private capital: “now, with us doing it, we can support it” (pro-Frente Amplio daily La República, 12 Jun). Based on this pro-privatization line, the government has authorized the transfer of control of the Gaseba company (distribution of gas in Montevideo) to a partnership between the Gaz de France group and Petrobras, and is aiming to do the same with the Pluna airline, which would pass from Varig into the hands of the British Ashmore (which has left the Uair company, after having declared bankruptcy).

These policies have sparked protests by public employee trade unions, who also reject the sellout to the private sector of new frequencies for cell phones, as well as the aim to privatize the railway.

Note: the Argentine newspapers have begun to worry that with the Frente Amplio, Uruguay has begun a non-traditional “import”: that of the piqueteros from the other side of the Río de La Plata.