Uruguay’s ruling coalition is celebrating its fortieth anniversary with a massive political rally in downtown Montevideo where the main speaker will be the former Brazilian president Lula da Silva.
The Broad Front was officially born 26 March 1971 with a huge political demonstration and at the time represented less than 20% of the Uruguayan electorate.
The celebration takes place in the open space next to Town Hall, where it was born four decades ago.
However thirty four years later in 2005 the Broad Front was elected by 50.9% of votes cast and five years later repeated although with a run off.
The political movement is a catch-all coalition extending from former guerrilla groups, anarchist and the Communist party to conservative groups such as the Christian Democrats and splinter groups from Uruguay’s two main parties that monopolized the political scenery for over 150 years, precisely until the October 2004 election.
When the Broad Front emerged to political life it was described by one of Uruguay’s historic parties, (the National party) as “a quilt of rags”.
At the time Uruguay was deeply divided as a consequence of an urban guerrilla movement that took arms until what was then considered an “exemplary democracy” comparable to Switzerland.
Excesses and provocations from both sides ended in a coup in June 1973 with the military ruling the county until December 1984, when free elections were held.
Although legally banned, the Broad Front accompanied negotiations between Uruguayan political leaders and the military starting in 1982 which led to the return of democracy.
Under the leadership of deceased retired General Liber Seregni the Broad Front accepted all the terms of the political agreement reached between the military and political leaders (the so called Pact of the Naval Club) thus opening the way for the return of free elections and democracy to Uruguay.
This happened in spite of the fact that hundreds of guerrillas and political militants, mostly from the Broad Front were still in jail or exiled.
Seregni also accepted, together with the main leaders of Uruguay’s National and Colorado parties, the ban from running in the 1984 elections which was finally won by an overwhelming majority by the Partido Colorado and its second leader Julio Maria Sanguinetti.
The Colorados were the main negotiators with the military and the ballot support was interpreted as an approval to that initiative.
On the first day, March first 1985, the newly elected Parliament discussed and voted a general amnesty for all prisoners in military jails and pardoned all guerrillas that took arms against the Uruguayan state including those involved in killings, torture and kidnapping.
An amnesty for the military and police officers involved in human rights violations between 1973/1984 was a more cumbersome process but was finally approved in 1986, and twice ratified by referendums in 1989 and 2009.
A controversy has erupted because President Jose Mujica has anticipated he would be attending the political rally.
Opposition leaders have warned this is a breach of the Uruguayan constitution which specifically bans the head of the Executive from all partisan activities.
Mujica was one of the leaders from the Tupamaro guerrilla movement of the sixties and late seventies, who was in prison when the 1973 military coup and only freed following the amnesty.
In recent interviews he has admitted that choosing violence, when he was young, only contributed to promote the military coup.
The political branch of the Tupamaro movement the Popular Participation Movement, MPP, only joined the Broad Front in the late eighties.
Since 2005, the MPP has been the senior force inside the Broad Front.