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Julio María Sanguinetti

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Julio María Sanguinetti


Julio María Sanguinetti Coirolo (born 6 January 1936 in Montevideo, Uruguay) is a Uruguayan politician, lawyer and journalist, who served as President of Uruguay (from March 1985 until March 1990, and, again, from March 1995 until March 2000) for the Partido Colorado.

A lawyer and journalist by profession, he was born into a middle-class family of Italian origin from Genoa.[1] He studied Law and Social Sciences at the University of Montevideo. He received his law degree in 1961, and later combined his legal practice with work as a journalist. He had already been writing for the press, first in the weekly Canelones and later, since 1955, as a columnist for Acción, a newspaper established by the then-President, Luis Batlle, for which he covered events such as the Cuban Revolution (1959) and carried on until the 1970s.

Both media outlets were connected to the Colorado Political Party (Partido Colorado - PC), the historical liberal grouping where progressive and conservative sensitivities shared ground (a mixture of doctrines and styles that was frequently an obstacle to classifying it according to ideology) and which had as its rival the experienced National Party (PN) or Blancos ("Whites"), creating a 2-party system that dominated Uruguayan politics during its history, although on most occasions the governing force was the PC.

Early Biography

In 1963, when he was 27 years old, Sanguinetti became a member of the national parliament representing part of Montevideo for the Partido Colorado (PC). In 1964 he was a member of the Uruguayan delegation that participated in the establishment of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva.

In 1966 he served as a member of the USSR. He also became Deputy Editor of Acción.

In March 1972, the new President, also from the PC Party, Juan María Bordaberry, brought him to the government once again as Minister for Education and Culture. That same year, Sanguinetti was a founding member of the National Commission for the Historical, Artistic and Cultural Heritage of the Nation.

Civilian-military administration 1973-1985

The breach of the constitutional order by the Armed Forces in June 1973 deprived him of his positions in the Government and in the House of Representatives, where he had renewed his seat once again in 1971, as well as his position as Deputy Editor of Acción Newspaper - which was closed down - and President of the National Council of Visual Arts, to which he had been appointed in 1967. In 1976 he was prohibited from undertaking any political activity.

During the following years, Sanguinetti worked as a journalist, working from a viewpoint that was critical of the de facto Government, in El Día Newspaper (1973–1981), Visión Newspaper (since 1974, as an opinion columnist, a collaboration which he has continued up until today), and in the weekly publication Correo de los Viernes (established by him in 1981 and edited until 1984), as well as in the promotion of cultural and sports activities as the President of the Regional UNESCO Centre for the promotion of books in South America (1975–1984) and Vice-President of the popular Peñarol Football Club.

Following the rejection of the constitutional project on 30 November 1980 and having had his political rights restored on 29 June 1981, Sanguinetti headed the PC delegation in the political party negotiations with the army in order to allow a peaceful and ordered transition to democracy. The negotiations ended with the signing of the Naval Club Agreement on 3 August 1984. In 1983 he was elected Secretary General of the Executive Committee of PC and in August 1984 he obtained the majority nomination for the presidential elections which were to be held later that year, putting an end to 12 years of dictatorship.

President of Uruguay, first term (1985-1990)

On 25 November 1984, general elections were held. Sanguinetti won 31.2% of the votes, defeating the best PN candidate, Alberto Zumarán; thus on 1 March 1985 he was sworn in as president with a 5-year term substituting the temporary president, Rafael Addiego, who had in turn substituted the military president, Gregorio Álvarez, on the previous 12 February. The ceremony was attended by 72 foreign representatives as an expression of support from the international community towards that new era in Uruguayan politics. (At the time, Sanguinetti had been unwilling to participate in an office-conferring ceremony together with Álvarez, and thus the interim arrangement with Addiego was worked out with the agreement of the parties concerned, but in later years Álvarez found a not so unlikely defender in Sanguinetti, who argued that Álvarez's legal troubles since the coming of the Broad Front government in 2005 were unnecessarily one-sided, since known former Tupamaro insurgents were being ignored by Uruguayan justice.)

Considered at the time a progressive politician in political questions and more conservative in economic questions, Sanguinetti managed to rehabilitate the image of a party that included a great variety of ideological diversity, the more conservative sectors of which had supported the coup d'état in 1973. He immediately lifted the ban on political parties and leaders that had actively opposed the dictatorship and signed an amnesty for political prisoners.

With respect to foreign relations, Sanguinetti re-launched relations with Spain and re-established contacts with communist countries. In the nearer geographic arena, on 26 May 1987, and as a colophon to several preparatory meetings, he signed the Montevideo Agreement with his colleague, Raúl Alfonsín. This agreement was decisive in giving an impulse to regional economic integration according to the objectives outlined in the South American Integration Association (ALADI).

Alfonsín had already been negotiating an ambitious agreement to dismantle tariffs in bilateral trade with the Brazilian Paraguay, all this work led to the creation of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) in 1991.

In the economic area, Sanguinetti's Government had the reduction of the USD $510,000,000 million foreign debt as one of its most important objectives. This is an enormous figure which is close to the level of national production. Likewise, Sanguinetti was an active member of the Support Group (Uruguay, Peru, Brazil and Argentina) of the Contadora Group (Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Panama), an informal consultative forum dedicated to exploring preventive measures against the expansion of armed conflicts in Central America, which, in December 1986 decided to merge with the so-called Group of Eight, which in turn was called the Río Group in October 1990 coinciding with its expansion to include Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. Sanguinetti presided the II Group of Eight Meeting, in Punta del Este on 29 October 1988.

In his first presidential term, the Uruguayan economy, which had suffered from a deep depression until 1985, registered positive indicators with production growth, a reduction in inflation, stabilization of unemployment and an increase in exports. The confrontation with trade unions -which demanded separation from the IMF and non-payment of the national debt- was compensated with opening up agreements among political parties to strengthen the consensus between the parties in order to bring forward legislation which was in the general interest. The result of this consensus was the National Agreement which was signed on 1 April 1986 by PC, PN, the left-wing Broad Front (FA) and the conservative Unión Cívica (UC).

Towards the end of his presidency, in spite of the agreements reached for its re-financing, Uruguay's foreign debt kept on increasing, always slightly below GDP, which was also reduced to a virtually inexistent growth rate. Inflation also experienced a strong increase and 1990 ended with a 130% inflation rate.

A very particular aspect of his first term in office was the handling of the military issues. Uruguay had endured 12 long years of military dictatorship and the transition to democracy was very hard. Many opposition leaders and human-right organizations fought for truth and justice, and hundreds of cases were brought to the courts; but the military refused to cooperate, a political crisis was about to take place and, at the end of 1986, the very controversial Law on the Expiration of the Punitive Claims of the State was passed by the Parliament.

On 1 March 1990, Sanguinetti handed over the Presidency to Jorge Batlle.

Among the several prominent politicians who served in his government can be mentioned: Enrique V. Iglesias, Antonio Marchesano, Ricardo Zerbino, Juan Vicente Chiarino, Adela Reta, Hugo Fernández Faingold, Luis Brezzo, Alejandro Atchugarry and Ariel Davrieux. Opposition leader Wilson Ferreira Aldunate played a key role in the definition of the most difficult issues for the democratic institutions.

President of Uruguay, second term (1995-2000)

In 1994 were held once again Alberto Volonté who received 14.9% of the vote.

In reality, Vázquez was the individual candidate who received most votes, but according to the Ley de Lemas still in force at the time, the winning candidate was to be the most voted candidate from the most-voted party or political grouping and not necessarily the most voted individual candidate (in practice this only affected the two biggest parties). This is what occurred on this occasion since the Colorado Party, adding the votes received by Sanguinetti, Batlle and Pacheco, received 32.3%, higher than the 31.2% received by the three PN candidates and the 30.6% received by Vázquez's Broad Front. On 1 March 1995 Sanguinetti started out on his second presidential period as the third leader to be re-elected in the country's history.

Sanguinetti formed a coalition Government with PN which received 4 ministries, the Gobierno del Pueblo Party (PGP) - created by those who had broken away from the PC- whose leader, Hugo Batalla, was given the Vice-Presidency-, along with an independent cabinet minister with Unión Cívica ties.

This alliance framework allowed him to bring the budget through a parliament divided in equal parts between the three main groups each year until the end of his term along with the reforms of the Social Security Law –attacked by worker and pensioner organizations- as well as the constitutional reform. Guaranteed the backing of two-thirds of the parliament, this reform, which eliminated the almost hundred-year old Ley de Lemas, was supported by 50.45% of the votes and came into force on 14 January 1997.

The amendments strengthened the executive power against the legislative power and undertook a profound reform of the electoral system. Among other points, it introduced the presentation of only one presidential candidate per party and the need for a second round in the elections if no single candidate received an overall majority in the first round.

The expansionist economic policy of his Government brought about a reduction in the recession of -1.8% which had been registered the previous year, partly due to a fall in exports, and gave way to high growth rates that didn't generate inflation. The opposite is true in fact, this variable experimented a continuous fall until it reached around 6% in 1999. The positive results in trading and in key production sectors generated employment that gave way to improved salaries and pensions, a general increase in income that in turn increased investment and internal consumption.

This boom panorama was drastically affected by the Brazilian crisis of 1998-1999, which reduced the products it bought from Uruguay; Brazil was the destination of more than a third of total Uruguayan exports. This interdependence was created within MERCOSUR, whose IX, XIII and XVII summits were hosted by Sanguinetti, respectively on the 7 December 1995 in Punta del Este, 15 December 1997 in Montevideo, and, again, on 8 December 1999, also in Montevideo.

On 1 March 2000 his term as President ended and he handed over the Presidency to his colleague Jorge Batlle, who had won the elections on 28 November 1999.

Among the many prominent politicians who took part in his government can be mentioned: Didier Opertti, Guillermo Stirling, Luis Antonio Hierro López, Álvaro Ramos, Luis Mosca, Luis Brezzo, Lucio Cáceres, Juan Antonio Chiruchi, and Ariel Davrieux. The Nationalist leader Alberto Volonté was pivotal in daily affairs of the government coalition.

Post-2000

Always active in journalism and in the cultural world, during his break from presidential duties between 1990 and 1995 Sanguinetti was a columnist for the EFE Press Agency and El País Newspaper, both Spanish companies. His link with Santander.

Since 1996 he has promoted the work of individuals from the political and intellectual world, including the former Colombian President Belisario Betancur, the former Spanish President, Felipe González, the former President of Chile, Ricardo Lagos and the former President of Brazil, Fernando Cardoso. This group is known as the Montevideo Circle.

Since 1990, he has also been President of the Atlanta, Georgia.

He professed support for the same-sex marriage bill recently approved by the Uruguayan legislature.[2]

Writings

He has received honorary doctorate degrees from the Universities of Brasília (1985), Moscow (1990), Asunción (1994), Genoa and Bucharest, and, excluding short articles and studies, he has published the books entitled Alcances y aplicaciones de la nueva Constitución uruguaya [The Scope and Application of the New Uruguayan Constitution] (1967), La nación, el nacionalismo y otros ismos [The Nation, Nationalism and other '-isms'] (1978), El temor y la impaciencia Fear and Impatience (1991), El año 501 [The Year 501] (1992), Un mundo sin Marx [A World without Marx] (1993) y Meditaciones del milenio [Meditations of the Millennium] (1994).

Awards/Honours

He has been awarded the order of Boyacá (Colombia), San Carlos (Colombia), Sól (Peru), Malta, Isabel La Católica (España), Order of José Matías Delgado (El Salvador), Quetzal (Guatemala and Honduras), Cruzeiro do Sul (Brasil), Merit (Chile), Mariscal Francisco Solano López (Paraguay), Order of the Liberator General San Martín (Argentina), Libertador (Venezuela), Andrés Bello (Venezuela), Águila Azteca (Mexico) and Manuel Amador Guerrero (Panama), among others. He is a Knight of the Great Cross (Italy) and a holder of the Great Cross of the French Legion of Honor.

In 2007, Sanguinetti was awarded the prestigious FCG International Award for a Lifetime Achievement by the Cristóbal Gabarrón Foundation from Spain (FCG International Awards).

Family

He is married to the historian and journalist Marta Canessa; they have two children, Julio Luis and Emma, both of them lawyers.

References

See also

Political offices
Preceded by
Rafael Addiego Bruno
President of Uruguay
1985–1990
Succeeded by
Luis Alberto Lacalle
Preceded by
Luis Alberto Lacalle
President of Uruguay
1995–2000
Succeeded by
Jorge Batlle


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