Uruguay History in the 1980’s

By | December 20, 2021

The human rights violations perpetrated by the military since their seizure of power in 1973 cost the Uruguay a resolution condemning by the 9th General Assembly of the Organization of American States (La Paz, October 22-31, 1979). According to the reports compiled by Amnesty International and by a special commission of the United Nations, the Uruguay at that time it had the highest percentage of political prisoners in relation to the population: one for every 600 residents (for a total of about 5000 people), and one citizen in 400 had been tortured, while hundreds were the cases of missing persons. Harsh repressive measures were also in force against the press, the Church, teachers and those who participated in the cultural life of the country.

The plan for the return to democracy, formulated by the military in 1977, foresaw for November 1981 the holding of presidential and political consultations open only to the blanco and colorado parties. This plan was virtually annulled by the rejection, in the referendum of November 30, 1980, of a constitutional project that aimed to institutionalize the role of the armed forces in the political life of the country. The military leaders were therefore forced to seek dialogue with political parties, from which the left-wing formations, which had been outlawed in 1973, were however excluded. For Uruguay history, please check historyaah.com.

In July 1981, talks began between the Military Commission for Political Affairs and the representatives of the blanco (or Partido Nacional, PN, conservative), colorado (PC, liberal) parties and the Unión Cívica (UC), a detached center-right formation. from the Partido Demócrata Cristiano (PDC); in the same month the government approved an amendment to the 1966 Constitution which increased the members from 25 to 35 and extended the powers of the Council of State (the military appointing body that had replaced Parliament in 1973) and established the provisional character of the subsequent presidential mandate, destined to last until the restitution of power to civilians.

On 1 September 1981 the mandate of General G. Alvarez began; the new president, chosen by the United Council of Armed Forces, announced presidential and political elections for November 1984, setting the final return of power to civilians for March 1985; his government, made up of 10 civil ministers out of 11, after having readmitted the activity of the trade unions, in accordance with the directives of the International Monetary Fund, launched an emergency economic program in March 1982: import taxes were increased, hires and salaries were frozen in the public sector for a year and devalued the peso. In May 1983, talks began between the Military Commission for Political Affairs and the three ” legal ” parties to amend the 1966 Constitution, which was unsuitable, according to the armed forces, to avert the danger of future subversive actions. Claiming the full restoration of the Constitution, the majority faction of the blancos, called Por la patria, withdrew from the negotiations at the end of the month, soon imitated by the rest of the PN and the other two parties; the military responded on 2 August by banning all political activities for two years. Despite the bans, the summer and autumn of 1983 saw the succession of anti-government demonstrations organized, as well as by ” legal ” parties,(PIT); the latter organized a 24-hour general strike on January 14, 1984 (the first since 1973) to protest against the increases in the tariffs of public services, launched by the government in December 1983, high unemployment (15% according to official data, 30% according to the trade unions) and inflation (51.5% in 1983).

Thanks to the mediation of the Uruguayan episcopate, in July 1984 negotiations resumed between military leaders and political forces, to which this time the representatives of the Frente Amplio were also admitted, constituted not only by refugees from the two traditional parties, but also by the Partido Socialista del Uruguay (PSU), the PDC and the Partido Communista del Uruguay (PCU); the PN did not participate instead, to protest against the arrest of its leader, W. Ferreira Aldunate, who had just returned from exile. In early August an agreement was reached: the date of the elections confirmed (November 25, 1984), the military obtained the constitution of a National Defense Council which would include the three commanders-in-chief of the armed forces. With Aldunate in prison and the leader of the Frente Amplio, L. Seregni Mosquera, deprived of political rights by the military until 1986, the presidential elections were won by the Colorado JM Sanguinetti.

In the elections the CP obtained 38.6% of the votes, 41 of the 99 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 13 of the 30 seats in the Senate; 32.9% of the votes went to the PN, with 35 deputies and 11 senators; the Frente Amplio had 20.4% of the votes, 21 deputies and 6 senators; UC got 2.3% and 2 deputies. In Colorados they went 12 departments of 19, while 7 he aggiudicarono the blancos. Sanguinetti tried to ensure maximum support for the unborn government, discussing some basic political, economic and social issues with the parties, trade unions and student associations, but was unable to establish the executive of national unity he was aiming for. Taking office on March 1, 1985, Sanguinetti presided over a government made up of colorados, by a member of UC and two members of the PN, present in a personal capacity; abolished the restrictions that were still in force against the press and against some political forces (including the PCU), the new government declared that it wanted to tackle the difficult economic situation (inflation at 83%; unemployment at 12%, but more than double according to the unions; foreign debt of nearly $ 5 billion) by applying a series of spending cuts and increasing production destined for export. On March 9, Parliament approved an amnesty law for political prisoners, which also benefited the leader of the Tupamaros, the lawyer R. Sendic; in December he transformed the movement into a legal political party (Movimiento de Liberación Nacional, MLN), renouncing the armed struggle and announcing its intention to join the Frente Amplio.

The Frente conducted a determined campaign in 1986 to prosecute military personnel guilty of human rights violations in the 1973-85 period, provoking protests from officers, who came to order their subordinates not to appear in civil courts if implicated in similar cases. After that in September the Parliament had rejected a bill by Sanguinetti for a full amnesty for the military, with the decisive support of the PN, on 22 December 1986 the law called Punto final was finally approved, entrusting the offices of the president with the task of investigating out of 164 cases of disappearances of people detained during the military regime. Against this law the Frente Amplio, the trade unions and humanitarian associations collected the number of signatures required by the Constitution for the holding of a referendum, which however confirmed the amnesty law on April 16, 1989 (57% of votes in favor). Equally harsh was the opposition of the trade unions to the government’s economic policy, fought with a flurry of general strikes (November 1987-June 1988); PIT and CNT (Confederación Nacional de Trabajadores) criticized in particular the executive’s acquiescence to the directives of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which, if it had served to obtain new international loans, had translated internally into a series of increases in the tariffs of essential services, in the loss of thousands of jobs in the state sector and a decrease in the purchasing power of workers.

Discontent with the ruling party resulted in its defeat in the elections of November 26, 1989, which brought blanco LA Lacalle to the presidency. In the elections the PN had 37% of the votes, 13 seats in the Senate and 39 in the Chamber; the PC received 30% of the votes, 9 senators and 30 deputies; the Frente Amplio (PCU and MLN) obtained 21% of the votes, 7 senators and 21 deputies; Nuevo Espacio, a center-left coalition formed by PDC (which left the Frente in March 1989) and Partido por el Gobierno del Pueblo (PGP), had 8.5% of the votes, 2 senators and 9 deputies. To the affirmation of the Blancosin 16 provincial departments out of 19 the victory in Montevideo of the Frente Amplio was opposed, which won the seat of mayor of the capital.

Lacking a clear parliamentary majority, Lacalle, in office since March 1, 1990, launched a government with 4 colorados ministers, which set itself the task of renegotiating the foreign debt (amounting to approximately 6.5 billion dollars), of proceeding with a gradual privatization of state-owned enterprises and of encouraging investments from abroad. However, this program was opposed not only by the trade unions, which in 1990 proclaimed seven general strikes, but also by some currents of the CP and of the PN itself which, opposed to privatization, withdrew their support for the government, forcing it to a series of reshuffles. The controversial privatization law, approved in September 1991, was submitted on the initiative of the opposition to a referendum (December 13, 1992) which, while partially rejecting it, did not induce Lacalle to change policy on the matter. L’ introduction (May 1993) of further structural adjustment measures suggested by the IMF was opposed by the trade unions with new strikes which in August involved, in addition to state and industrial workers, also agricultural workers. The presidential elections of November 27, 1994 sanctioned the return to power of JM Sanguinetti of the CP, while the contemporary legislative consultations were characterized by a strong advance of the left parties; presented under the name of while the contemporary legislative consultations were characterized by a strong advance of the left parties; presented under the name of while the contemporary legislative consultations were characterized by a strong advance of the left parties; presented under the name ofEncuentro Progresista (EP), the latter have in fact obtained 31 seats in the Chamber (as many as has won the PN and just one less than the PC) and 9 in the Senate (against 10 of the PN and 11 of the PC). In office since March 1, 1995, Sanguinetti has created a government open to four members of the PN, which has set itself the objectives – harshly criticized by the unions – of reforming the public employment and social security sectors as well as continuing in the fight against inflation and liberalization of the economic system.

In terms of international politics, on the basis of the provisions of the Asunción treaty of March 1991, MERCOSUR, a customs union between the United States, Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, entered into force on 1 January 1995.

Uruguay human rights