Uruguay: “The Pandemic is Misery for Those who Were Already Poor and More Wealth for Those who Were Already Rich”

By Carlos Aznárez and María Torrellas – Aug 6, 2020

Talking to Jorge Zabalza serves to renew the idea that all those who are fighting in different parts of the Third World are not wrong, but are part of an ideological reserve that does not conform to the brutal onslaught of capitalism. Zabalza was, is and will continue to be a revolutionary. He speaks as he thinks and lives in accordance with his revolutionary ideas. From Uruguay, where the humblest people fight it as best they can, Zabalza continues to call for revolt, using Chile or the streets of the United States as an example that there is still much to be done.

We began the interview by making a solidarity statement:

What I want to make clear is that the missing militant youthFacundo Castro has to appear alive, it cannot be that all the obstacles that have been put in the way of the fight for Truth and Justice. Argentina is the most advanced of all the Plan Condor countries, but they keep disappearing and that is what they call democracy. The police keep disappearing people. The issue of Facundo Castro is much more profound, it shows, in democracy, that there will continue to be state terrorism. There are no systematic disappearances like those carried out by civic-military dictatorships, but there are disappearances. That is a threat that stands up to all social fighters. In the southern cone it did not become systematic. In Colombia it is systematic, in Mexico it is systematic

In Argentina, in this quarantine there were numerous people killed by the police. That is what this confinement was also for, and there is no possibility of going out on the streets to protest against this kind of thing. There are comrades in the most humble neighborhoods who are doing this, and it is healthy that these kinds of atrocities are denounced.

I think that in reality the Coronavirus came as a good thing for the system, stopped all kinds of mobilizations in Argentina and the world. All that popular movement, was stopped. Besides, with a valid excuse: “it is for the health”, we worry about the health, with that excuse also to the service of stopping the economy. The big companies, the big owners of capital in the world who have become rich, are going to start imposing a deep neoliberal policy. The pandemic is misery for those who were already poor and wealth for those who were already rich. In addition, they are preparing us psychologically, all the people, they are introducing the ideology of political control through modern means. State-of-the-art technology is designed to control. On the other hand, consent, because the coronavirus justifies everything.

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Are you surprised that the taming or appease theory has been so well accepted. Except for the ruptures that are occurring in Chile or on the streets of the United States, that people are putting up with being thrown out of work, put up with having their salaries cut, with disappearing young people and all that we are seeing in these last few months?

We have to look at Chile; they are a kind of laboratory. On the one hand, the popular mobilizations, and on the other, the forms of those who make control, that in Chile the whole political spectrum has collaboration. There, elections end up institutionalizing a hegemonic system. On the one hand it is ideological but it is also very concrete, stick and grill. The people are advancing. Those of us who maintain the struggle, those of us who have a revolutionary idea, do not depend on what one says, nor on political fatigue. The children jump the turnstiles of the subway and everything jumps. One day a comrade is suffocated and killed in the U.S. because he is Black and there is a revolt. There is a boiler that is adding pressure and any justification can provoke it, and this has nothing to do with the ideological teachings of the world. I found out through Resumen Latinoamericano, about the black militias that have emerged in the United States.

This is a phenomenon of the streets crowded with young Afro, Latino and also many white people, but also armed militias in the style of the “Black Panthers” of the 70s.

Weapons which until now were free to buy in supermarkets, which until now were the basis of supremacist groups, are now used for the self-defense by the African-American people. The truth is that this need for popular self-defense arose in Chile too, it hasn’t taken the form it did in the United States, but it’s pending. One thing that no one has been able to avoid is this virus, which is a product of capitalist forms of production. So this that is a consequence of the new capitalist forms of production, today is ending up being a factory of capitalist gravediggers. Because they produce misery, look at the growing number of unemployed in the United States.

And how does all this affect Uruguay?

In Uruguay, the falsehood was created of taking people out of poverty by means of social assistance, and today those who boasted of escaping from poverty are once again in misery, with hunger, living on popular solidarity, because there is no solidarity in Uruguay. The solidarity within Uruguay is insufficient. People eat thanks to the popular pots. The reserve army has grown, and it is a salaried army. The people in the settlements, in the favelas, are wage-earners excused from the wage movements, wage-earners expelled from the projection of the state. They don’t have clear jobs, they work in the black market, they work as odd-jobs, in fairs, they live selling what they get. It is not the figure of the lumpenproletariat who are outcasts of the state, it is the figure of a new division of the proletarian class. These are the outcasts of the state, of political life, outcasts of social life. These peoples demands, will grow, are growing, and need a political response. There is no political response, no party response, no parliamentary response, no response through elections, so they have no choice but to defend themselves, the solution found by African Americans in the United States, by the Chilean youth, is the only way out they have left. What are the Mapuches going to do, they are going to defend themselves, they have no other solution. What are the Bolivians going to do in the face of this year-end onslaught, they are going to defend themselves. They are going to go on general strike and they are going to have to confront the state apparatus. What are the leaders, the social activists, the ones who believed in giving up their weapons, going to do? They are going to be exterminated and they are going to have to defend themselves. There is no other solution, it is time for self-defense.

On the other hand, the idea of working hard on land grabbing and food sovereignty has been put into practice in other countries, because if one thing is clear in the “new normality” it is that it is the old, made-up abnormality. People are going to have to find ways to manage their own food, because the state is not going to give food to everyone. How do you see the issue of land grabbing and food sovereignty?

I believe that there is a right to take the land, that is, there is an emergency situation of such gravity, that people have to solve the issue themselves. As it happened in Santa Catalina (Uruguay) with 700 families of 3000 people did. They didn’t take over the land to speculate they did it because there was no other solution. The non-intervention of the state in social problems leads to struggle and the taking of land is a clear and more popular way because it is an evident need to have a roof over one’s head. With these winters, please, this is why it happened in Uruguay. We must unmask the double discourse of the progressives in 2006. Previously in Uruguay, land grabbing was dealt with by the civil justice system, that is to say, it was a civil problem. Elio Sarthou was the defender of almost all those who are now settled, who formed neighborhoods that includes 10,000 people. What was done in 2006? A law was passed that took the issue of usurpation out of the civil sphere and into the criminal sphere, creating the crime of usurpation. Now it is a question of prosecutors, of criminal justice.

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You are committing a crime, and if they didn’t take those 700 families to jail, it’s because they have nowhere to put them, it’s simple. So who was governing in 2006, who was in the majority in parliament and they all voted for the law: the Broad Progressive Front. It is now naked for all to see the concession they made to neoliberalism.

Comrades of the PVP, of the Communist Party, comrades who all voted in 2006 for the law that makes the occupation of the land a criminal offense and with that they gave the landowners a legal instrument to attack the most urgent need of the people. This exposes the double discourse of progressivism, which on the one hand claims to have reduced poverty to 10%, and yet with a pandemic, a problem appears, and it turns out that they haven’t taken anything away. They had injected social assistance and that made it so that as soon as there was a problem, misery reappears. Since I recently saw it in the articles of Naomi Klein and Chomsky, the richest capitalisms, 0.01%, have increased their wealth dramatically. The Banco República, in Uruguay, increased its revenue in the midst of the pandemic. While some are hungry, a few are not, they benefit from the coronavirus. Not to mention the pharmaceutical companies, which are going to sell us a lot of vaccines.

You were hitting the nail on the head when you said unmask the progressive. Nobody, in those sectors, wants to talk about revolution anymore. Chilean progressivism tries to minimize and somehow illegitimize the revolt of the Chilean youth with the discourse that they are lumpens, that they have no organization or party, and this is repeated throughout the continent. How do we get out of this discussion from the left? In the great forums, the discourse of progressivism always appears as the solution.

They are liberals, they believe in the freedom of debate, in the freedom of parliament, in electoral freedom, it’s all a lie, it’s a fraud. It is a fraud to passively dominate the people. I believe that this will be resolved as the people fight, the boiler cannot withstand the pressure. That is to say, we can discuss and help them, because discussion is necessary, political propaganda of certain counter-hegemonic ideas is necessary, like the struggle of social movements, of feminism, of anti-racism, of ecologists, are necessary struggles, the struggle for truth and justice are struggles that highlight, and awaken repression in some cases, the repression of the state, but they expose the worst aspects of the state, they also rebel against the failures of progressivism. I heard former Uruguayan President Mujica say in the film that Kusturika made of him: “I am an administrator of capitalism”. You are not an administrator of capitalism, you administer what Soros tells you what you can administer, what Rockefeller, what Bill Gates tells you you can administer. You’re not a manager, you’re an employee of theirs, you win the elections to be the butler of their ranch and their ranch is full of starving peons.

These are processes in which the struggle against land seizures, the struggle against feminism, the struggle against human rights, anti-racism, the struggle against soy and GMOs, against mining, becomes important. All of this is important because they reveal this association between progressivism and capitalism. That is to say, liberals like Lacalle here and Macri in Argentina, the progressives of the Frente Amplio here and Fernández in Argentina have the same model of a country: “we are going to benefit from foreign investment and we are going to give them a few more pesos. The only difference between Macri and Lacalle is pure capitalism. Progressivism is capitalism with social assistance and a left discourse. It is even cynical because the concern of the people is resolved at some desk of the World Bank or at some desk of another. How could a progressive discourse have a foreign minister like Almagro. How is it possible that from Mujica’s kidney came out an Almagro? Moreover, many more snakes came out that are crawling around Uruguay and are not known internationally. How is it possible that the popular movements and the left in Argentina, Chile, and Brazil don’t ask themselves, why was Mujica’s international right-hand man Almagro revealed to be an envoy of the State Department? How was it possible that Almagro became the secretary of the OAS? Who leveraged him to that level? That is for the Argentine left to ask themselves.

There is a recent theme that moved all of Uruguay, an attack on the memory of Daniel Viglietti, a well know Uruguayan singer. Apparently a niece accuses him of abusing a girl who was 12 years old. From there the media started a campaign: “Did you see who Viglietti was, they say” How do you analyze this?

This campaign, as Stella Calloni says in a letter, aims to destroy a symbol of the Latin American revolution. The last time Daniel sang he did so in Valle Grande on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Che Guevara, that is to say, Daniel’s commitment to struggle, his commitment to the poorest, is undeniable. He went to every social activity, he went to sing, because yes, even if he was not invited, he went and asked for permission to sing anywhere. He is not only Uruguayan, he is Latin American. Daniel sang with Chico Buarque, he sang all over America, he is Mexican, he is Cuban, he is recognized as a reference of the left. They are aiming to destroy him. It is not well known who he was. It is a fact that something happened in 67. But then the victim appears and says “no, nothing like that happened, there was no abuse”. But the hegemonic media already sowed doubt and stained his image and memory. This is a cultural policy that has had a lot of effect on many comrades and in many cases. The objective is to undermine and destroy the stature they have gained as pillars of the struggle for revolutionary change.


(Resumen Latinoamericano-English)



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Carlos Aznarez
+ posts

Periodista. Director de @ResumenLatino periódico, radio y TV.

Carlos Aznarez

Periodista. Director de @ResumenLatino periódico, radio y TV.