Uruguay: The Beast of Hunger & Looting Supermarkets

posted by Chris R on Saturday August 10 2002 @ 05:25AM PDT


By the Federacion Anarquista Uruguaya (FAU)

The policies of the government of Uruguay were no exception. They fully subscribed to the neoliberal aims that were spreading through a great part of the world. For more than two decades, the same path was followed: the indications originating from the international agencies as the IMF, World Bank, WTO, Interamerican Development Bank. As is known, the general blueprint of these policies is sketched in the principal centres of power such as the G7 (or G7+1). They refloated the already emptied Banks. The State saved them and later on they were cleaned out again by the transnational capitalists who had bought them out. The same thing happened years ago, for example, with the [Banco] Comercial. And, more recently, history has repeated itself. Previously corruption was in the public eye. An ex-Minister of the Economy was sent to prison: for a short period of time, of course, and in great comfort. People related to the government were investigated, even ex-President Lacalle was seriously jeopardises, but he managed to get off free. Personages linked to the Colorado Party such as Ganduglia got away with many million dollars under total impunity.

In this framework, the government of Jorge Batlle accelerated the neoliberal policies, with more frequent and faster privatisations. NAFTA has been privileged against MERCOSUR. A MERCOSUR trapped in multiple difficulties and distinct interests and with a very limited degree of independence with regards to imperialist designs. At the same time, the transnational companies dominate day by day more economic zones and enjoy greater political importance.

The financial sector received special privileges, and importations acquired a diversity and dimension that was almost absurd. Production in general, and especially medium and small companies, were punished. Only a few large transnational companies escaped this situation. Things got so bad that on Sunday 14th the Chamber of Industry itself retired its confidence in the economic leadership of the country. More and more factories and service industries were closed; reducing social policies bit by bit; diminishing budgets for Health and Education.

Unemployment grew even more, even precarious or odd jobs with miserable salaries, became hard to find. Alarming figures were reached: half of the Uruguayans were either unemployed or had problems with their jobs; nearly a third of the country does not have access to a basic diet; half of the children live in poverty. Speaking clearly, misery decimated the people "down below." Teachers and families denounced that there were children surviving on grass and herbs, the leftovers once fed to animals were being cleaned and represented the food of thousands of families. Hunger, fights, despair, tiredness of so much cruelly cynical speeches and falsehoods gave birth to a different type of culture.


While the misery of those "down below" grew and grew, the bankers received millions and millions of dollars. Saving the financial system was given utmost importance. And cash left like a flood of money. The bankers stole "with four hands," national reserves dropped in a few months from 3.100.000 million to 655 million dollars. It is true that foreign capital (above all from Argentina) had pulled out before, but after that the Peirano and Ron [families] carried on removing abundant sums.

The tariffs of essential services [water, electricity, etc.] were raised, supermarkets increased prices scandalously. An increase that was not even related to the important rise in the dollar. Basic items doubled their price in little time. Salaries stayed the same and there were hardly any more "moonlight odd jobs" available. Quite simply, hunger had taken over the world of the poor. Many families had nothing to eat, the perspectives of the following day left little place for hope. Where will we get something tomorrow??? It was like ground razed from above, by a small group that handled political and economic power at its whims. And there was repetition of slogans that said nothing to the oppressed: "we have to save our style of life," "the main thing is to preserve our democracy," "saving the financial system is saving the country".

Police forces covered the city: "to prevent possible crimes" according to the Ministry of the Interior. On Wednesday some fifty persons looted a supermarket. On the following day the inhabitants of different "carenciado" or "lacking" neighbourhoods (a euphemism used to describe those who live in utmost misery) took to the street. Hundreds of people "looted" supermarkets in different areas. Children, women, the elderly, entire families entered and took what they could: sugar, rice, noodles, flour, oil, etc. In some places, however, deodorants were also taken and the mass media protested in full steam. It is well known that the poor do not have a right to hygiene and that if they fall into misery they should not wash themselves.

The figures of lootings differ, but show that approximately sixteen were successful and another fourteen failed. "They are organised!" shouted the Minister and all the mass media scandalmongers echoing in chorus. "They acted under coordination and almost simultaneously," they added. "They want rock and destroy our lifestyle," stressing that this is "anarchy". "We shall seek the powers lurking in the background, the real guilty ones," different politicians declared. The majority of the Frente Amplio quickly defined responsibilities. They manifested their opposition and saw no future in the events. There was a common element shared by government coalition and the majority of the electoral left: the people on their own do not have the capacity to organise their own defence and to take their own initiatives. Consternation was also a common word to all of them.


The front-page of the rightwing newspaper, "El Observador," Observer" of 3rd August says: "The instigators of the pillage have been identified," adding that The Minister of the Interior, Guillermo Stirling, said the instigators had flustered the Police with false alarms. Intelligence services claim they have identified the responsible parties, and are investigating several Teja and Cera [working class] neighbourhood communitarian radios run by radical left-wing groups, not necessarily integrated in the "Encuentro Progresista" (or Progressive Encounter).

In inside pages the newspaper "El Observador" insists: "official sources informed that several communitarian radios in El Cerro and La Teja are being investigated as presumably responsible for having incited to loot and plunder. A Intelligence report indicated that one of these radios, located in El Cerro, incited to plunder a neighbourhood market". They are preparing the land to force these radios which are the voice of grassroot concerns off the air. This has been a desire of the government during years and it now wants to take advantage of the opportunity.

The other day, Sunday 4th, the likewise pro-governmental newspaper, "El Pais" dove into the task of criminalising those who had a coherent attitude of supporting and participating in these grassroot struggles. Its headline declared: "The Minister of the Interior [blames] 'Anarchist' for the looting ... These are people who want to destroy our style of life. They have an anarchist conception, a dissolving concept of society..."

And immediately surveillance activities were noted and they started breaking into the Communitarian Radios. "El Quijote" was the first to go, then they tried the same with another radio in the Colon district, but there was a great deal of people at the moment that stopped them from carrying it out. Now they are talking about a list that includes not less than 6 radio stations, including the ones that are already openly criminalised. The witch-hunt has begun. The agents of genocide, the hungermakers of our people, the ones who have actively handed over the country, the ones who have just signed an "agreement" with IMF that means kneeling down and surrendering what little we have left, the ones who with this new state of affairs have assured greater misery for our people, they are the innocent.

Like recently in Argentina, Bolivia or Paraguay (and so many others) our people have begun to walk. They are in a process of search, they have discovered that there are things that have nothing to do with their interests. They do not want to resign themselves to die of hunger, nor to carry on listening to lies, neither to watch how the banker-thieves rob millions with the complicity of the powers that be. They are looking for ways to organise themselves, they will reformulate struggles that are in our class imagination. They will not believe in illuminated vanguards, they will create adequate ways to improve conditions of the present, new never-seen structures will arise and thus they will go putting the angular stone of future social forms built on justice and solidarity. We will try to be, or to follow, inside that new reality.

7th August 2002: Federación Anarquista Uruguaya (FAU) New email: radowisky1@yahoo.com

NEWSBREAK: On 8th August the FAU informs that they are working together with other social and syndical movements, denouncing abuses, fighting for for freedom of speech and for the release from prison of those arrested for wanting to eat. They denounce a clear campaign to close down all communitarian radio stations (many of which are organised by FAU and other libertarian organisations). The mass media is continuing to blame the anarchist movement for "planning" the lootings.

Translation by Red Libertaria Apoyo Mutuo (RLAM) www.red-libertaria.net

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