Today in the Americas, Uruguayan Democracy

julio-maria-sanguinetti-un

Today in 1985, 24 years ago, Julio Maria Sanguinetti was sworn in as president of Uruguay following a decade of military domination.

There will be another place to discuss Jorge Pacheco and Juan María Bordaberry and their actions as presidents of Uruguay in the late 1960s and early-1970s and their using the military to crush opposition MLN (Tupamaros) dissidents. Yet, in 1973, the military, under the guise of national security, took over the country. In 1980, with aid from the US shrinking and legitimacy being the new thing for dictatorships across the Southern Cone, Uruguay tried to pass a new constitution through popular vote, which ended with 57% voting against the changes and, thus, the direct of the country, but the reign went on unabated.

In 1984, as other regimes were faltering across Latin America, Uruguay spoke loudly that it was tired to military control. After a national strike and massive protests in Montevideo, the military announced its relinquishing of power. That year, Sanguinetti was elected as president from the Colorado Party (he’d be re-elected in 1995 as well).

He was a conservative dressed up with vaguely liberal social policies. He came to the presidency following military rule (for one) and under the ideological fad that was, and is, neoliberalism. From the “Lost Decade,” Sanguinetti was able, like many, to pull Uruguay out of its hole and post impressive growth yearly. While Sanguinetti stood for democracy, which included transparency and the opening of the political process, he also acted against the will of the people and the manipulation of the military.

He let the army off the hook – he appealed for impunidad (amnesty) instead of criminal trials. Although given to the people as a vote twice, declined twice, there is a moral issue at play as well as manipulation issue at play. Many view, because of Sanguinetti, Uruguay to be the most consolidated democracy in Latin America – unfortunately, that title, like Chile, is gained through not rocking the boat with military crimes.

Sanguinetti is remembered for restoring Uruguayan democracy after its decade of military rule, much like other leaders in Chile, Argentina and Brazil. Today, Uruguay is one of the most consolidated states in Latin America and host to three powerful political parties that have all succeeded since the restoration of civilian rule. It is clear that Sanguinetti had enemies, but that he allowed elections to be held and stepped down from power after five years was an impressive first step that many of these nations had to take.

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~ by Daniel on March 1, 2009.

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