Uruguayan farmers are angry, and so is president Tabare Vazquez who was involved in a high tone incident, far removed from what is his normal style of an oncologist having to communicate bad news. On Monday afternoon Vazquez unexpectedly attended the first round of talks between disenchanted farmers’ lobbies with government officials to discuss a raft of measures to overcome some of the long standing complaints.
Vazquez announced some support measures for dairy, rice, horticulture and livestock farmers referred to lower fuel and power costs, reduction in land taxes, allowing cattle to graze next to the roads system, and even considered the possibility of government declaring a drought emergency in the north of Uruguay. This opens the way for soft loans and helping with water supply, fodder and other foods for livestock.
Although farmers were uncommitted about the announcements, since they wanted to read the small letter of the decrees, the meeting with the president was respectful and serious. However when Vázquez left the Ministry of Agriculture, a group of small farmers and farm workers were waiting outside, and an argument broke out. Basically the complaint was that these small farmers had not been invited to the talks and the discussion turned rather heavy tone because announced measures were insufficient, a joke, and Mr. President why don't you try working in a farm.
This was followed by some ironic questions from Vazquez and a barrage of accusations continued referred to the bloated government budget, to the bankrupt oil and distribution government company, insecurity and the lack of police action when a teen ager remains on the run after having shot dead three people. And the tone of discussion kept rising with crossed accusations of liar and crook, with the president appealing to language and slang expressions more appropriate to his past as president of a football team, and not as an academic.
Finally Vazquez head for the vehicle waiting for him and then people started chanting Uruguay, Uruguay, so he decided to return and join the crowd chorus. But when he joined the crowd kept silent. It was then that someone in the crowd said keep lying Mr. president, and a furious Mr. president returned and asked face to face, are you calling me a liar, I'm here because I always say the truth, I never hide. The man, a farmer insisted why weren't we invited to the meeting?. Vazquez again asked if he had called him a liar and the farmer insisted he had personally brought a letter of request to attend the meeting to the presidency.
Vazquez replied he never received it, so the farmer asked who runs the place, me the president, and I don't lie.
A third party intervened and argued nobody was saying the president was lying, and the face to face incident cooled down. Vazquez again returned to the car and several people made some strong but not insulting comments including one who farewelled and told the president we'll meet at the polls, and we are going to kick you out.
Vazquez again returned and replied, Yes thank you, I like what you said, this simply confirms what I have stated all along: you are a political party, yes we will meet at the ballot
Before the car started there was a last condemnation, we're going to kick you and your inept gang out.
Later the farmers' lobbies at the meeting, unaware of what had happened outside with the president rejected the incident and took distance from the dissident farmers, while the ruling coalition expressed full support for the president. A president who also showed his other, coarse, side.