A History of Organized Labor in Uruguay and Paraguay

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Claimed by Argentina but annexed by Brazil in , Uruguay declared its independence four years later and secured its freedom in after a three-year struggle. The administrations of President Jose BATLLE in the early 20th century launched widespread political, social, and economic reforms that established a statist tradition.

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A violent Marxist urban guerrilla movement named the Tupamaros, launched in the late s, led Uruguay's president to cede control of the government to the military in By yearend, the rebels had been crushed, but the military continued to expand its hold over the government.

Civilian rule was restored in In , the left-of-center Frente Amplio Coalition won national elections that effectively ended years of political control previously held by the Colorado and National Blanco parties. Uruguay's political and labor conditions are among the freest on the continent. Paraguay achieved its independence from Spain in In the disastrous War of the Triple Alliance - between Paraguay and Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay - Paraguay lost two-thirds of its adult males and much of its territory.

The country stagnated economically for the next half century. Following the Chaco War of with Bolivia, Paraguay gained a large part of the Chaco lowland region. Roman Catholic Uruguay rates high for most development indicators and is known for its secularism, liberal social laws, and well-developed social security, health, and educational systems. It is one of the few countries in Latin America and the Caribbean where the entire population has access to clean water. Uruguay's provision of free primary through university education has contributed to the country's high levels of literacy and educational attainment.

However, the emigration of human capital has diminished the state's return on its investment in education.

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Its members included workers of various trades—bakers, bricklayers, carpenters, and typographical workers—since no group had enough members to form a union by itself. This sindicato had a so-called nationalist school in its headquarters in a working-class section of the town of Florida.

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Forty-two of these walkouts were in Montevideo, while thirteen were in the province of Salto. Thirty-three strikes were won by the workers, thirty-four were lost, and twenty-three were compromised.

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Most of these walkouts were for wage increases, while the reinstatement of workers, union recognition, and solidarity were other important causes. The strikers included such varied types of workers as launderers, electric company employees, bakers, packinghouse workers, 24 A History of Organized Labor in Uruguay and Paraguay bricklayers, sculptors, shipbuilders, glass workers, and typographical workers.

The strikes during varied in length from two hours to seventy-three days. The Montevideo port walkout lasted sixty-nine days. Three other stoppages were between fifty and seventy days in length. The anarchists were still dominant.


A syndicalist group that veered away from the pure anarchists of the FORU was aided by trade unionists in the Socialist Party. This group split away from the FORU in at the time of an ill-advised general strike called by the anarchists. The first claimed 30, members in December —probably an exaggeration. Then, within the Socialist Party, there were pro-Communist and anti-Communist factions.

The Socialist Party had grown considerably during the latter part of the war and in the immediate postwar period. In , the party launched its first daily paper, Justicia, under the editorship of Emilio Frugoni. The paper was excellent. It offered a page of sports news and its makeup was such as to be attractive to the average reader. Some idea of the attitudes of the party can be gained from the type of items carried in Justicia in its early days.

It also demanded abolition of the army and municipalization of the police; extension of the legal eighthour day to agricultural workers; labor inspection to be done by the unions; minimum wages for workers of both sexes; the progressive income tax; family allowances for children under fourteen; and regulation of the work of women and children. The former was adopted by 1, votes to and the congress went on to change the name of the group to Partido Comunista.

Only about 10 percent of the 2, members of the party at the time followed Frugoni. Then in the elections of and the Socialists failed to get any members of parliament.

It was not until that Frugoni was again elected to the Chamber. However, the CPUO did not welcome their attentions and in an apparent attempt to prevent Communist infiltration passed a motion closing its doors to all organizations founded after December 9, , on the grounds that they were not as class conscious as the older ones. It sent a delegate to the congress of the Red International of Labor Unions, but his credentials were not accepted. Other relatively sizable groups were to be found in the food industries and the leather industry.

There was a representative of these unions, Francisco Castrillejo, present at the tenth anniversary celebration of the Bolshevik Revolution in Moscow in November The majority of the executive committee of the Bloc were Communists, although it was claimed that some were not members of the party.

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These included walkouts of maritime workers, bricklayers, and packinghouse workers in Montevideo and Fray Bentos. Virtually all of these strikes were lost. Delegates were present from the printers, marine engineers, and various unions of industrial workers and clerks. President Gabriel Terra tended more and more to split away from his own party, the Partido Colorado Batllista, and to rely on the official opposition, the reactionary Partido Nacionalista, under the leadership of Luis Alberto Herrera. Working closely with him was Dr. Herrera, and for the next period these two were the dominant figures in the political life of the country.

The dictatorship lasted in a more or less attenuated form until , when Terra was succeeded as president by General Alfredo Baldomir. The Terra dictatorship was comparatively moderate. Almost a year after his coup, Terra permitted Congressional elections. There were some significant labor struggles during this period.

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The second strike had been in over the issue of giving new vendors one day of rest a week. The third had been for increased pay. The newsboys imported Buenos Aires newspapers in large numbers and sold them in place of the local ones. Terra, in an attempt to break the strike, prohibited the importation of any more papers from Argentina each day than had come in before the strike. The news dealers countered this move by getting the Buenos Aires papers to agree not to send any copies to Montevideo, by mail or otherwise.

For a while there were no papers at all in the Uruguayan capital. The printer—news dealers strike was finally lost because of an all-out attack by the government. However, the latter was said to have had only 1, members in and 1, in With the election of General Alfredo Baldomir as president of the republic in , democracy and the labor movement revived in Uruguay.

At the time it was organized it had about fifty unions and some 22, members in its ranks. By , however, the number of unions had declined to thirty—seven. Some Socialist-controlled unions were part of this group. To prove this there is the case of Damonte. His first step to favor the enemies of the working class has been to fight—and he did it with success!

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  8. They became the strongest supporters of the Allied cause. They pictured themselves as devout patriots and even went so far as to campaign for military conscription.

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    The executive committee consisted of six Communists, two Socialists, and one member of the Partido Colorado Batllista. The declaration of principles of the new group pledged that it would be free of interference by any political party. The political conflict between the two groups reached a climax during a strike in the packinghouses in January This walkout began in the Frigorifico Nacional to obtain the reinstatement of ten workers fired for union activity. In view of this attitude on the part of the UGT, the packinghouse workers turned against that organization.

    The Communists continued to denounce the packinghouse strike. The 5th column has force inside the packinghouses. And the activity of the 5th column is directed against democracy. The strike of these workers lasted three months, and finally brought the national government to declare the company town a legal municipality, putting an end to the complete The First Half Century of Uruguayan Organized Labor 33 and arbitrary rule by the employing company. The UGT denounced this strike and refused to support a one-day general sympathy strike organized by a number of unions.

    It was originally founded in and at the time it withdrew from the UGT it had over 10, members. The complete Communist domination of the UGT thereafter was demonstrated by the resolution on the international situation of its Second Ordinary Congress in July It said that until the chief enemy of democracy in the world had been Hitler and the Nazis, but that 34 A History of Organized Labor in Uruguay and Paraguay the United States had now taken the place of the Nazis, and the workers must fight the United States now as they had fought the Nazis before.