Brazilian former president Lula da Silva underlined the significance of Latin America’s left and its responsibility as a model for developed countries in crisis, during a political rally in Montevideo to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Uruguayan ruling coalition, Broad Front.
“In the last decades the main left wing movements and currents entered a period of crisis. Many were left without political or ideological references”, said Lula da Silva at a packed closed stadium Friday night, next to Uruguay’s President Jose Mujica and his predecessor in the job, Tabare Vazquez (2005/2010).
Lula da Silva was the main speaker at the celebration where he emphasized the importance of regional integration and the performance of left wing political groups in the continent which contrasts with what is happening in a developed world in crisis.
“With us (the Latin American left) it has been different. We never abandoned our political convictions or our commitment to life and peace with the destiny of oppressed peoples” said the former Brazilian president recalling the four decades of the Uruguayan ruling coalition born 26 March 1971.
“The left in Brazil and in Uruguay knew how to change, but without changing sides…That is why our government experiences are a reference not only for Latin America but also for other regions of the world”, he remarked although adding that “we are not here to teach lessons”.
Lula da Silva compared his Workers Party with the Broad Front saying they are both “plural organizations, profoundly democratic” and revealed that the launching of the Uruguayan left-wing coalition in Uruguay in 1971 was an inspiration for Brazilians who nine years later 10 February 1980 created the Workers Party.
The Uruguayan ruling coalition is a catch-all movement covering an arch from former guerrillas, anarchists, radical groups, Communist party, Socialists to conservative Christian Democrats and splinter groups from Uruguay’s two middle of the road political parties, National and Colorados, that dominated the country’s politics since its independent inception in 1830 until 2005.
Growing disenchantment with the so-called Uruguayan historic parties particularly their Jurassic leaderships helped boost the Broad Front option which incidentally is under going a similar process with the average age of the decision making body in their seventies.
Before the rally Lula da Silva met with president Mujica, and compared him with the South African leader Nelson Mandela. He pointed out that Mujica, a former guerrilla leader who spent fourteen years in jail, Mandela and the current Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, a former guerrilla militant have no resentment towards those who tortured them while they were political prisoners.
“Pepe Mujica is for us Latinamericans as Mandela is for South Africans: a man who spends so much time on the run, so much time jailed, when they return to full political activity they do so with greatness, with generosity and more comprehensive”, said Lula da Silva who added he has “great love” for the Uruguayan people.
The Brazilian leader also met with former president Vazquez and had a special message for the twenty years of Mercosur on Saturday, March 26.
“Mercosur is going through a glorious moment, in 20 years it has increased trade ten times from 4.5 billion in 1991 to 45 billion in 2010”.
Brazil is Uruguay’s main trade partner with bilateral trade reaching 3.1 billion USD.
But Lula da Silva also pointed out that trade is not the only issue in the integration process: “true integration can’t only be commercial: peoples must learn to know each others better”.
Uruguay to the south of Brazil, fiercely disputed between the Spanish and Portuguese empires and the first independent Brazilian and Argentine governments that followed, has a population of 3.5 million people compared to the 190 million Brazilians.
Members of the Uruguayan opposition said it was very unwise to bring a former Brazilian president to lead the ruling coalition’s main celebration. They recalled that Brazil still is fully impregnated of its imperial past ambitions, its mercantile trade policy and its advancement on clue sectors of the Uruguayan, Argentine and Paraguayan economies, the other three members of Mercosur.
Nevertheless they also pointed out that the fact Lula da Silva was the main speaker was a clear symptom of the difficulties inside the ruling coalition: “they couldn’t agree who was going to speak, for how long or in what pecking order, so they invited Lula”.
“We all know that Mujica and (former president) Vazquez and their groups are involved in a ferocious battle to see who keeps control of the country as of 2014”, said opposition Senator Alberto Heber.