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Uruguay: Two Plebiscites Fail to Pass

On the same day as the Presidential elections in Uruguay, two ballot questions were presented to voters. One of the questions asked whether the hundreds of thousands of Uruguayans living abroad should have the right to the epistolary or consular vote. The debate was based on whether or not those that live outside of the country should have the right to elect who will govern those still living in Uruguay.

At the website Voto x Uruguay [es] (I Vote for Uruguay), there are many videos with messages of support for this motion by Uruguayans living abroad. who want the right to vote. There were videos submitted from Canada, Spain, France, and the United States. This video created in the Spanish city of Ferrol shows a group of Uruguayan ex-pats, who gathered to simulate a vote, as a way to show their support for their right to vote.

However, the result on election day was “No,” with only 36.93% voting “Yes.”

The other plebiscite that attracted more attention and caused more sad and surprise reactions, was the question that attempted to annul the Law of Expiration [es]. This current Uruguayan law establishes that the crimes committed by the military and the police during the last civic-military dictatorship, which included multiple violations of human rights, would remain with amnesty.

The United Nations has observed the law, and it has also been repudiated by the Organization of American States [es]. However, in the end the vote results to annul the law reached 47.36%, and it did not reach the necessary 50% + 1.

This result caused strong and sad reactions from the various online communities. In Facebook, for example, in the two days following the vote, there were a large number of groups created, such as Parliament Should Annul the Law of Expiration [es], I Cannot Believe that the Law was not Annulled [es], National Mourning [es], and I Will Never Forget [es].

For some, like 19-year-old Mauricio P. Milano of the blog Montevideo Blogger [es] writes why he neither voted “no,” nor “yes” in the question:

Aunque ya saben que afortunadamente no me tocó vivir la época de la dictadura en Uruguay, con los pocos años que tengo ya he vivido lo suficiente como para escuchar cientos de relatos sobre esta historia, a favor de los militares y a favor de los tupamaros. Quizás el eclecticismo que me caracteriza sea propio de una generación que vino después que se calmaron las aguas, como la mía; pero la opinión que he venido a formar de todo esto es que ambos grupos estuvieron mal, hubo crímenes (secuestros, asesinatos) de los dos lados y en realidad ninguno de ellos puede lavarse las manos de lo que han hecho. Esto es históricamente innegable. Y no voy a volver a comentar lo hipócrita que es el simple hecho de que, ante tal evidencia, uno de los presidenciables en estas elecciones nacionales pertenezca al grupo de los tupamaros, porque ya me expresé sobre esto en la primera parte de este post (click acá para leer).

Lo que quiero decir hoy, a favor de la justicia y del derecho de elección que tienen quienes estuvieron involucrados en esta historia, es que considero inaceptable que mi generación deba cargar con la decisión de anular o no la Ley de Caducidad. Por el simple hecho de que no lo vivimos y nunca vamos a entender la verdadera profundidad de los conceptos que encierra, porque no tenemos nada que ver con eso. En pocas palabras, no tenemos por qué asumir las cagadas que hicieron los que vinieron antes que nosotros. Y decir esto no es mirar para el costado. En todo caso, es mirar para adelante. La sociedad, como cada una de las personas que la compone, tiene heridas. Y como heridas que son, es obvio que arden. Pero como heridas que son, cuanto más se las revuelva, más van a tardar en cerrar. No voy a dejar que lo que pasó antes contamine a mi generación, no quiero esa enfermedad social.

Even though fortunately, I was not alive during the dictatorship era in Uruguay, with the few years that I have already lived, I have already heard hundreds of stories about this history, in favor of the military and in favor of the (guerrilla group) Tupamaros. Maybe the eclecticism that characterizes me as typical of a generation that came after the waters subsided, like mine, but the opinion that I have been formulating from all this is that both groups were wrong, there were crimes (kidnappings, murders) from both sides and in reality, neither can wash their hands of what they have done. This is historically undeniable. I will not comment on the hypocrisy of the simple fact that one of the Presidential candidates belonged to the Tupamaros, because I have already commented on it on this post [es].

What I want to say today, in favor of justice and the right to choose by those who were involved in that history, is that I consider it to be unacceptable that my generation must bear the weight of the decision to annul or not the Law of Expiration. For the simple fact that we did not live it and we will never understand the true profundity of the concepts that it involves, because we had nothing to do with it. In fewer words, we do not need to assume the mistakes made by those that came before us. To say this does not mean to look the other way. In any case, it is to look ahead. Society, like each of the person who is a part of it, has wounds. Since they are wounds, it is obvious that they burn. Since they are wounds, the more that they are stirred, the longer it takes to close. I will not let what happened before, contaminate my generation, I do not want that social disease.

Finally, in Asi Ta'l Mundo, Botija [es], there are thoughts on why the law was not annulled. He writes that these plebiscites should not be conducted on the same day as elections because too many are overwhelmed and that the information does not arrive as it should.

Translation by Eduardo Ávila

1 comment

  • From my perspective, a crime, any crime against humanity, must be prosecuted. Amnesties might be an easy way to solve the short term problems. But a society forgetting and forgiving cruel murders, torture and other wrongs against innocent people will not have a bright future. You cannot build respect and a rule of law if you not deal with your past.

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