Vazquez, Mujica and the United States: A Friendly Relationship
The Frente Amplio’s (Broad Front’s) attitude toward the United States has had a healthy improvement since the fiasco eight years ago, when President Tabare Vazquez initially accepted but later rejected the free trade agreement the U.S. offered to us. A few among the left alliance still harbor a Cold War mentality, which was a time when ideological militancy, as a duty, meant demonizing Washington in everything. Yet the Frente Amplio’s main leaders have recognized and accepted, for some time now, the convenience, and even the necessity, of maintaining as close a relationship as possible with this world power.
When Vice President Joseph Biden gave the order to speed up practical attempts at getting closer to Uruguay, which ultimately came from his boss, Barack Obama, he essentially confirmed the effects that this change in attitude will have. This policy really took off after a telephone conversation that Biden had with President Jose Mujica in August and is due in large part to the excellent ambassadorship of Julissa Reynoso and her cordial relationship with the Frente Amplio government. The New York Times claimed that Biden’s phone call was to pressure Mujica into expediting the arrival of six Guantanamo prisoners who our government has agreed to receive. This version of the story given by the newspaper was denied by Biden’s office, Ambassador Reynoso and Mujica himself. The president definitively stated that exactly when the prisoners arrive is something he’ll decide when appropriate — without interference from anyone else. It should be noted that when the government reported about the prisoners, Mujica mentioned that this agreement would not be without consequence for the United States since he would then send Obama his “bill of sale.”
Whether Biden’s announcement that Uruguay would be receiving additional aid will be part of the presidential tab or not is of less importance. The bottom line is that the Frente Amplio has solidified its political turn toward the United States; the U.S. has shown signs of support for our nation long before these prisoners were ever discussed, and regardless of the fact that the left has governed our country for nearly a decade. This change began when President George W. Bush offered us the free trade agreement in 2006. Vazquez and other sound leaders of the Frente Amplio accepted it, but this was reversed when faced with the combined forces of the Frente [Amplio]’s more conservative parties, in addition to Mercosur’s senior members. Even Vazquez said some time ago that he had asked Bush for help when Kirchner’s hostility made him afraid that Argentina would attempt a direct intervention on our soil.
Mujica’s meeting with Obama in May rekindled his desire for a close relationship with Washington, which is now especially evident in light of the fact that Biden is planning to expand Uruguayan exports to the U.S. market, to remove the visa requirement needed to enter the United States, and to bolster scholarships so Uruguayans can travel there and study, among many other benefits for our country. Anyone with any common sense would but insist upon closer ties to a democracy that is not only the world’s leading power, but also its largest economy. The Frente Amplio’s majority decision to accept this obvious advantage finally gives to our entire party system a stance that must be a political constant and not an ideological swing brought about by those still living in the last century.