On Friday 3 June 2005 members of the Relatives of Disappeared Detainees association entered the garrison of the 13th Battalion of the Army, which is likely to have been used as a clandestine cemetery during the military dictatorship (1973-85). The group boarded a special bus at the Presidential Palace and entered the premises along with the Secretary of the Presidency. It was President Tabaré Vázquez himself who invited the relatives of disappeared people to watch a team of Argentinean anthropologists look for the remains of people who most likely died after being tortured and were then buried in the park surrounding the garrison.
Vázquez has been clear since the old days: his left-wing government would concentrate on fighting poverty (over 57 per cent of children in the country live under the poverty line) and giving an answer to the relatives of those disappeared nearly 30 years ago. And he is standing by his word.
The new government’s first measure when it took office on 1 March 2005 was the creation of a new ministry aimed at Social Development. It will implement the Emergency Plan called Panes (bread) to give every family a small allowance (about 50 dollars), full health coverage and an array of social services.
The government decided to install collective bargaining committees for every branch of activity and increased the national minimum wage, as well as giving peasant workers and policemen the right to unionise. The number of unions taking part of the central PIT-CNT has soared.
So, is there anything wrong with this Frente Amplio (Broad Front) government? Sure there is, say older leftists. To begin with, a few days after Pope John Paul II’s death, the president decided to place a monument in his honour in a main crossing in Montevideo, overruling both Parliament and the local authority of the capital city. In a deeply secular country like Uruguay, church and state have been separated since the end of the 19th century, and this was a blow to many. Vázquez went to visit the Catholic archbishop Nicolás Cotugno, a well known conservative who two years ago advised that homosexuals should be locked up until they were cured of their contagious disease, to tell him about the decision.
When Vázquez left the meeting, he was asked about his position on the abortion bill that the Frente Amplio proposed a year and a half ago. Stoking up the situation further, Vázquez answered that he would veto it. The bill was approved in the lower chamber but rejected at the Senate by three votes (two former guerrilla commanders and current senators, members of the Frente Amplio, did not vote for it). With the majority the left has now, social movements and pro-rights campaigners were confident that the bill would be passed in parliament. The split with the MPs was apparent in the press, when two senators of the Frente Amplio, Mónica Xavier and Margarita Percovich, announced that the bill would be presented to the new parliament whatever the President thought.
Other areas of concern for some are the signature of an investment agreement with the US and the permission given to two European companies to open cellulose plants on the coast of the Uruguay river. The latter was criticised by environmentalists on safety grounds and the attitude towards a referendum on nationalisation of all water services in the country. Vázquez’s government decided to gain control of 99.79 per cent of water connections and leave the remaining 0.29 per cent under control of a subsidiary of the French Lyonnaise des Eaux until the end of the contract with that company, in 2018. This was considered as a violation of the constitution by the right and a betrayal by some small sectors of the left.
But despite these small rumblings of discontent, Vázquez enjoys robust popular support, even greater than the 51 per cent who voted for him. At the moment the economy is performing well and a vast majority of the people feel their moment has arrived. Will the Uruguayan left be an island or an example for Latin America?
Yasmin Gunaratnam reflects on John Berger’s gut solidarity with the stranger
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
As man-made global warming gets closer to the tipping point, Andrew Simms finds reasons to be positive about averting catastrophic climate change
In this extract from his new book The Candidate, Alex Nunns tells the inside story of how Jeremy Corbyn scraped onto the Labour leadership ballot in 2015
Graham Jones proposes a framework for a diverse movement to flourish
Musician Eliane Correa reflects on the fading revolution
Trump's victory is another sign of the failure of the centre-left's narrative on climate change. A new message is needed, and new politicians to deliver it, writes Alex Randall
Siobhán McGuirk says the question we are too afraid to ask is simple - what kind of society leads to Donald Trump as President?
The battle lines are clear. Democracy is in peril and the left must take itself seriously electorally and politically. Ruth Potts speaks to Gary Younge, who was based in Muncie, Indiana, for the US election, about the implications of Donald Trump’s victory
We need a society built on openness, community and equality to truly defeat everything that trump stands for, writes Nick Dearden.
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Utopia: Industrial Workers Taking the Wheel
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry – and its lessons for today
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.
A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas
Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'
The Fashion Revolution: Turn to the left
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion
The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.
Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.
Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism
What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry