EspañolOn March 1, Tabaré Vázquez took office as president of Uruguay for the second time, now with Raúl Sendic as his vice president.
Vázquez, a socialist, belongs to the same coalition of our former president and greatest pop icon, José Mujica.
Sendic, meanwhile, is the son of the founder of the National Liberation Movement “Tupamaros,” who together with Mujica committed various crimes in the 1960s, including robberies, kidnappings, and even executions.
Despite flirtations between Uruguayan socialists and Chavistas in Venezuela, the vice president made clear just two days after taking office that the Uruguayan government does not support Maduro’s assertions of foreign interference in Venezuela.
Maduro was quick to respond, and for a moment, the affair appeared to be over.
In a televised speech, the Venezuelan president referred to “a great friend to the south, who has an important position in the government,” who “was not aware of the interference from the United States in Venezuela.”
In what appeared to be a sort of swan song, he added: “What a shameful statement. We are being attacked, seized, threatened, and there are still some people who say that in Latin America.”
Maduro then added his typical threats and attempts at intimidation: “I do not let anything pass, from anybody, whoever he is. This is the school of Chávez. Venezuela must be respected.”
It was an undoubtedly tense moment. In Uruguay, you could not hear people talk about anything else, either on the street or on social media. Both supporters and opposition cheered Sendic’s comments. Finally, a socialist government had stood up to Maduro. Uruguay, once a liberal society and a defender of democracy and human rights, could feel proud again.
Sadly, that feeling did not last long. Only a few days after his controversial statement, Sendic said he believed Maduro had not committed any human-rights abuses in Venezuela, and that Uruguay “has favored the process led by President Chávez.”
The Foreign Ministry, on the other hand, showed its disapproval of Maduro’s statements in a press release, a meeting with the Venezuelan ambassador, and the suspension of an extraordinary meeting of UNASUR chancellors in Montevideo. Meanwhile, sales from Uruguay to Venezuela have dropped by 77 percent, when in 2014 the “Bolivarian Republic” was Uruguay’s fifth best customer.
The Foreign Ministry’s statement, however, did not reflect the feelings of the entire socialist coalition. Broad Front President Mónica Xavier ratified a “major solidarity agreement with the Venezuelan government,” and claimed that the United States threatens Venezuela’s sovereignty.
It appears Maduro does have a few friends left who are willing to validate his arrogance and intimidation tactics. At home, however, the president who imprisons opponents, kills political prisoners, murders and represses students amid a growing economic crisis is losing popularity.
According to the polling firm Croes, Gutiérrez & Associates, 70 percent of Venezuelans want Maduro out. Without the military and militarized police force, Maduro would have nothing left — nothing except, perhaps, his friends in Uruguay.
Translated by Rebeca Morla. Edited by Guillermo Jimenez.