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LatinNews Daily Report - 26 July 2013

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Fresh labour protests in Uruguay while Mujica is in Cuba

Development: On 25 July in Montevideo, hundreds of workers took part in a partial strike called by the country’s main labour union, Plenario Intersindical de Trabajadores - Convención Nacional de Trabajadores (PIT-CNT), in demand of better salaries.

Significance: The unrest underlines the discontent in the support base of the left-wing Frente Amplio (FA) coalition government led by President José Mujica. The two main secondary school teachers’ unions, Asociación de Docentes de Enseñanza Secundaria (Ades) and Federación Nacional de Profesores de Enseñanza Secundaria (Fenapes), took to the streets last month. The unions are upping the pressure on the government ahead of the scheduled approval next month of next year’s budget. There are reports of a split within the PIT-CNT, which the government could exploit.

Key points:

  • There were no official figures on the turn out. Local media reported that construction and transport workers adhered to the partial strike, which ran from 9am to 1pm. Health and education workers walked out for 24 hours.
  • The Montevideo branch of the Asociación de Maestros del Uruguay (ADEMU), yesterday announced plans for a 24-hour strike on 12 August, when the chamber of deputies is due to approve the budget.  Other education unions like the Federación Uruguaya de Magisterio (FUM) and Fenapes are holding meetings tomorrow and Sunday to discuss a plan of action.
  • Yesterday (26 July), the PIT-CNT coordinator, Fernando Pereira, recognised that there were some rebellious members of the PIT-CNT challenging the leadership of the PIT-CNT. He dismissed them as “myopic” and after their own interests. According to local press reports, this dissident faction is led by Richard Read, the leader of the Federación de Obreros y Empleados de la Bebida (FOEB).
  • The unrest comes as President Mujica is out of the country on a trip to Cuba that began on 24 July - his first official visit to Cuba since taking office in January 2010.  Mujica, accompanied by his wife, Senator Lucia Topolansky, like him a former  left-wing Tupamaro guerrilla, held an “emotional” meeting with the Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro. According to the Cuban state daily Granma, the two “evoked moments of the revolutionary struggle in both countries.”

  • Mujica, who also met President Raúl Castro, is due to attend the commemoration today (26 July) of the 60th anniversary of the failed assault on the Moncada barracks in Santiago, the event that signalled the beginning of the Cuban Revolution. Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro and other regional left-wing leaders also will be present.