The Lessons to Take from Uruguay

There are a lot of countries in the world that have become real symbols, synonyms, and, models for sustainable growth and development. The developing countries mainly focus on Euro-Atlantic area or pay special attention to reforms conducted by the countries like: Singapore, Japan, China, etc.

However there is a country in Latin America that attracts a special attention and is not observed sufficiently well. This country is Uruguay. 

The remarkable standard of living, stable economic dynamics, freedom of speech, transparent business environment, effective healthcare system and low corruption rank are only few indicators that match to the successful democratic transformation of Oriental Republic of Uruguay. 

Last 20 years were extremely successful and inspiring for Uruguay. During the rule of Frente Amplio the country has become a real beacon of democracy in Latin America and Caribbean region. However in November 2019 ruling party had lost the elections and new government has been formed. Despite of this fundamental political change, power transition is being carried out without any hindrances or difficulties … as in other fully democratic countries of Europe.

“On March 1 the leader of National Party, Lacalle Pou officially became a President of Uruguay wrapped up by the five parties of his alliance, which ranges from the center left of the Independent Party to the extreme right of the Open Council. The main challenge of the new president will be to keep his Government together.

The new president ends fifteen years of governments of the Frente Amplio (FA), thanks to a “multicolored coalition”. Lacalle Pou won the Executive Tower in the second round of the presidential elections of November 24, boosted by the five parties of his “multicolored coalition”, thus tracing the defeat suffered in the first round of October 27, in the one that prevailed Daniel Martínez, of Frente Amplio.

Forced by the result of October 27, Lacalle Pou has endeavored to reissue a coalition government that will consist of the two historical formations of Uruguay, the conservative National Party and the centrist Partido Colorado.

Apart from the bowel struggles, Lacalle Pou’s main challenges will be economy, tackling growing crime and attracting foreign talent and money, something in which ‘a priori’ there would be consensus among government partners.

Uruguay has grown at an annual average of 4.3 percent, but at the same time has accumulated a fiscal deficit of 4.8 percent, the highest in 30 years, so it will be one of the battlefields of Lacalle Pou, which also intends to lose weight the State saving 900 million dollars and liberalize the energy sector.

In social terms, more and more Uruguayans are worried about citizen insecurity. In 2018, crime shot up 46 percent, with 414 homicides compared to 283 in 2017, which made this issue one of the axes of the electoral campaign.

The one who will be Minister of Interior, the ‘national’ senator Fernando Larrañaga, advocates a ‘hard hand’ policy. He promoted the 2014 referendum to reduce the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 16 years and another in 2019 on the ‘Live without Fear’ plan, with which he intended to create a National Guard and the life sentence. In both he won the ‘no’.

Lacalle Pou did not support the ‘Live without Fear’ plan, although the fact that he had rethought Larrañaga for his Executive could anticipate a similar policy. “A reduction in crime could be a way to retain support, even if other areas of government do not have significant results,” notes ‘Americas Quarterly’, which recalls the popularity of presidents like Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil or Nayib Bukele in El Salvador who have opted for this approach.

Finally, the president-elect has advanced that he will try to turn Uruguay into a magnet for foreigners with talent and money. Specifically, it persecutes 100,000 Argentines who intends to seduce with tax advantages and residence facilities.Uruguay’s advantage in the face of this historical change, according to ‘Americas Quarterly’, is that “the level of polarization is low”, so “although there are serious disagreements they should not lead to divisive policies that have been seen in other parts of the region and the world,” (Infobae.com).

Yes, current social situation illustrates the challenges that country but it cannot decline or cancel that impressive political maturity (with extremely low political polarization) that Uruguay has achieved. 

May be in the past Uruguay was a perfect teacher of football with 2 world cups and many successes in Copa America but today this beautiful country can proudly show off with its remarkable democratic and economic transformation.

Grigol Julukhidze

Senior Scholar

I am extremely grateful to Infobae.com for publishing a marvelous article: “Lacalle Pou asume como nuevo presidente de Uruguay y pone fin a la era del Frente Amplio con una “coalición multicolor” some fragments of which I translated and used in this short letter: https://www.infobae.com/america/america-latina/2020/03/01/lacalle-pou-asume-como-nuevo-presidente-de-uruguay-y-pone-fin-a-la-era-del-frente-amplio-con-una-coalicion-multicolor/

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