So the "Poder Ejecutivo" Tabaré Vázquez ordered the Army "Comandante en Jefe" Guido Manini Ríos to be arrested with intensity for 30 days because he made a comment criticizing the nominally ruling Fat Forehead coalition's changes to military pensions. Because "How dare the Army Commander" criticize the government run by the a shitshow of lefty rebels whose terrorism triggered a period of protective dictatorship in the 1970's during which many current Uruguayo politicians were arrested for the usually commie terrorist crimes like armed robbery.((Eventually during the 1980's they did their own sort of `Truth and Reconcilliation` deal where they became an `Our Democracy` state again either pardoning or immunizing everybody depending on which side they were on. The commie rebels got involved in Politics, took over in the 00's, and now they have gone full circle and become `The Man` keeping everybody down. )) Ok, so on the surface the driving narrative appears to be commies ruthlessly enforcing restrictions on political speech because "our democracy" and fear of "muh dictatorship" lingering around.
But while the Uruguayos are not a happy people, a lot of them remember the not quite so bad times of the 90's and the 00's. Uruguay is an expensive country full of poor people. Wages are incredibly flat across professions for the Uruguayos who are employed. Gainfully employed people engage in habits like hoarding plastic grocery bags. Sure a good number of Uruguayos mine dumpsters to find items of value to flip while in Venezuela people are mining dumpsters for potential dinner. Meanwhile the value of the Peso Uruguayo is slipping, but it isn't outright cratering like the Peso Argentino. The Chinese buy increasing amounts of Uruguay's agricultural output while farmers make less. Grocery prices aren't that far out of line with North American standards. Unlike the Argentards, the Uruguayos tend to be aware they are poor and they usually resign themselves to that. Their attitude to the fact that they are getting poorer seems more complicated than the simple resignation to their poverty in general, but it is hard for me to suss out a general sentiment.
In this environment the Fat Forehead coalition keeps on pushing unpopular things as is the way of the eternal pantsuit. In this Uruguay where the fact free plastic grocery bags included with grocery purchase has spawned numerous cultural norms around bags and their uses, a ban on stores giving the bags away is about to come into effect. I have not met anyone in this country who wants this ban, and and the reaction it induces seems to be viscerally negative. Yet Frente Amplio is trumpeting this incredibly unpopular measure. Now Uruguayos are very good at bottling up and hiding their anger till they snap, so it is very possible they think they did something popular. Similarly the Frente Amplio sitting at the Intendencia of Montevideo gender neutered the Queen of Carnaval in a very unpopular move.
Meanwhile the opposition National Party1 is pushing something they call "Vivir sin Miedo" which is a plan to let the police do night raids and give the Army a law enforment role.2 I am disappointed they aren't pushing to go back to the "no rules" attitude towards guns they had until 2002, but this is a culture of low expectations outside of football and even then they over-moderate their enthusiasm.
In this environment the Comandante en Jefe Guido is trying to quietly return from his current mission in Mexico to quietly serve his 30 days while the opposition parties are stoked on rallying at Carrasco International Airport. Rallying that Guido is trying to discourage with an indeterminate amount of sincerity.3 While it is too early to predict Frente Amplio beated at the ballot box, Military Coup, Bolivarian Revolition, or "Make Uruguay Great-ish Again" happening there's enough here for local politics to get interesting. I have doubts4 that there's enough capacity for action in the population here for anything too dramatic, but there is a non-zero chance5this country gets interesting.
- Formerly known as the White Party though the papers occasionally still refer to them as the Blancos. [↩]
- The Navy already does Coast Guard style water and shoreline law enforcement while the Airforce does airport security. [↩]
- Uruguayos aren't the easiest people to read. [↩]
- This is still some distance for meeting the Qntra bar. [↩]
- In which case this piece will surely be linked from Qntra. [↩]