Uruguay’s working class, which enjoyed expansion of various rights and benefitted from several social policies during the 15-year rule of the former left-wing government of Frente Ampilio, has been feeling increasingly attacked under the current right-wing government. Since June, workers from diverse sectors have been taking to the streets to protest the anti-people policies of the Luis Lacalle Pou administration.
Most recently, on July 29, thousands of Uruguyans hit the streets of the capital Montevideo in defense of their right to housing, and against the neoliberal economic policies of the Lacalle Pou government. In the afternoon, a massive demonstration was held in front of the Ministry of Housing and Territorial Planning (MVOT). It was followed by an even more massive march in the evening. Over 10,000 Uruguyans, including men, women, senior citizens and children, marched from Ciudad Vieja to Plaza Libertad, while stopping by the Executive Tower.
The mobilizations were called for by the Uruguayan Federation of Housing Cooperatives for Mutual Aid (FUCVAM) in rejection of the article 304 of the new accountability and budget bill. The FUCVAM condemned that the article eliminated the subsidy for families facing issues with repayment of their housing loans. The federation demanded that the government withdraw the article.
The subsidy law, enacted in 2017, provides a special subsidy on installments to families that face a decrease in their income due to some reason so that they don’t lose their home. It applies to all families that registered with a housing cooperative before 2017, and are in the amortization period, paying back the money to the National Housing Agency (ANV).
Holding banners such as “subsidy should not be touched”, “housing is a right not a commodity,” “article 45 of the Constitution says that every citizen of the Republic has the right to enjoy decent housing, and it is the State’s responsibility to enforce the Constitution,” among others, thousands of Uruguayans called on the government to annul the article 304.
FUCVAM leaders and citizens also condemned that the government didn’t increase the budget for the sector, rather established further budget cuts in various public services such as education and healthcare. They criticized that budget cuts and loss of wages had continued for the second consecutive year, while the country recorded economic growth of 4.5% of GDP in 2021. They also decried that the rising cost of living with an inflation of 9.35% (the highest in over 20 years), was in contrast to the extraordinary gains made by the agro-exporting sectors.
The accountability and budget bill is being debated in the lower house of the parliament. The General Assembly of Uruguay has until the end of September to pass or reject the bill. In light of the same, the FUCVAM has called for a protest in front of the Legislative Palace on August 18, and a national assembly of the cooperatives to evaluate the situation on September 4.