On his first visit to Cuba, Eduardo Lorier, Secretary General of the Communist Party of Uruguay, told Granma newspaper that changes are taking place in his country since the election of the Frente Amplio.
"We believe that there are advances and important achievements by the Frente Amplio (FA) government that are reflected by the performance of the different ministries, particularly that of Social Development led by Marina Arismendi, former secretary general of our Party. Arismendi is undertaking the Social Emergency Plan described by President Tabare Vazquez as the leading program of his administration."
A FREE TRADE AGREEMENT WITH THE UNITED STATES WOULD HAVE A BIG EFFECT ON OUR COUNTRY, SAYS EDUARDO LORIER.
Nevertheless, Lorier noted that the Uruguayan government’s performance is still burdened by the debate between those who seek to keep in place the economic policies inherited from past administrations and those who want to change that economic model. "[This process] is ultimately taking its toll on the pace of the country’s insertion into the leading regional group of [nations] that are advancing towards an alternative model to that imposed by the North."
In early March, 2005, several programs were implemented to address the social debt, which included the distribution of a monthly payment to those in need and programs to stimulate job creation.
These efforts, he acknowledges, have not been quick enough to meet the country needs, because of the government’s own economic policies.
An economic policy that accepts the conditions imposed on the previous government by international financial institutions and domestic creditors forces Uruguay to make an enormous fiscal sacrifice in terms tax collection to gather funds to pay the debt.
"In interest payments alone, we paid $850 million US, which left us with not enough resources for public spending. There have been some setbacks, which we are concerned about along with the repercussions these could have on investments, education funding or delays in the development of a comprehensive healthcare system, something which is a top priority for us."
Are these setbacks related to the issue of the international insertion of the Frente Amplio government and, above all, with the efforts being undertaken in some circles to favor relations with the United States to the detriment of regional integration?
"In this very partisan setting, our party was the only one that said No to the Investment Protection Treaty. That is to say that within the FA, the Communist Party was opposed to the approval of that treaty, from which a movement rejecting and mobilizing against the Free Trade Agreements was born. Forces from other parties, social movements, unions and university organizations joined ranks under the banner of the Movement for the Defense of Sovereignty, which led to President Tabare’s decision that the government was not going to proceed with the accord."
What implications would signing the Free Trade Agreement have for Uruguay?
"The first would be leaving Mercorsur, and the second, would mean granting the United States special rights in terms of intellectual property and services, that is education and healthcare; and on the ownership of public companies, circumstances that would change the country.
"The national pharmaceutical industry would disappear as a result of the issue of intellectual property. We would have to open public services to transnational capital, because that is one of the demands of the FTA. It is well known that, as a result of the efforts of the Uruguayan people, the country was the only one amidst neoliberal Latin America that kept state control over the oil, telecommunications and water industries and the mail delivery system. These are all areas that we cannot expand today due to lack of resources, since the money is being funneled to pay the debt.
"Within the government, there are people who support the Free Trade Agreement and who even adamantly oppose an increase in the percentage of the GDP that is earmarked for education."