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In The News

Nationalist-Populist Success in Uruguay

Conservative presidential and vice-presidential candidates Luis Lacalle Pou and Beatriz Argimón

The latest country to be touched by the growing national populist wave is Uruguay, the most European country in South America in ethnic make up.

Until the 1970s the centre left Partido Colorado (Reds) and the centre right Partido Nacional or Blanco (Whites) alternated in office, but between 1973 and 1985 Uruguay was under military rule, as the armed forces struggled to repress the extremely violent Marxist-Leninist Tupamaro guerilla movement.

After democracy was restored in 1985, former Tupamaros formed the so called Frente Amplio (“Broad Front”), which has held power for the last fifteen years. Its “achievements” include inviting Syrian “refugees” and African immigrants to settle in the country to solve the problem of a lack of diversity.

Curiously, these changes have been accompanied by an explosion of violent crime in what was once South America’s most peaceful society, though the Frente Amplio’s belief that criminals are the victims of social injustice has certainly contributed more to the crime wave than the limited non-white immigration that Uruguay has experienced so far.

This month however a newly formed populist and nationalist party Cabildo Abierto has scored notable successes, taking a little over 11% of the votes cast, eleven of the 99 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and three of the thirty seats in the Senate.

Styled the “Vox” of Uruguay by the press, following the electoral successes of the Spanish national conservative party, it is in some ways more interesting than Vox itself, since Cabildo Abierto has adopted a mixture of socially conservative policies, notably on crime and immigration, but also strongly opposing abortion, combined with “left wing” economic policies, strongly referencing distributist ideals and supporting generous social provision for the poor, though not the work shy.

It is not therefore surprising that while some of its cadres come from the “traditional” parties (notably former Blancos, who think that their old party is now too socially liberal), and its leader, General Guido Manini Rios, was commander in chief of the Uruguayan Army till he was cashiered last year for criticising the vindictive policy of the Frente Amplio towards retired officers who had used vigorous methods to obtain intelligence from captured Tupamaros in the 1970s, much of its electorate is very working class and it is winning votes principally from disillusioned ex-supporters.

Readers who can speak Spanish will find its web site here.

A patriotic mural celebrates the 33 militant nationalists who sparked Uruguayan independence in 1825.

At the time of writing, it seems that the candidate of the Partido Nacional has won a very close fight with the Frente Amplio in the second round run off for the presidency. The PN candidate has been endorsed by a five party coalition including Cabildo Abierto. Uruguay’s elections court has yet to scrutinise some 30,000 questioned ballot papers before the result if officially declared.

In a world where national populism is thriving so near to us as the Pas de Calais, and so far away as Uruguay, the question must be asked, why not here in Great Britain?

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