Uruguay offers “tremendous guarantees” for investors and is “a decent country”, said President Jose Mujica in his visit to Washington where he addressed 120 business people at the US Chamber of Commerce during a morning work-breakfast.
Mujica also announced that foreign investment in Uruguay in ten years has soared from a paltry 300 million dollars to almost 3bn dollars and this will continue “because Uruguay is going to have a new pulp mill, the largest in the world” to be located somewhere in the northeast of the country.
"As you know this year we are holding presidential elections and I honestly don't know who is going to win, but I can tell you that whoever wins will find himself with billions of dollars that have come to be invested”, Mujica said.
The president praised the foreign investment bill which took time to draft it but has helped to attract massive resources to a small country, helping to transform it from a country of landlords and speculators to a country “generator of resources” with an extraordinary jump in farming productivity.
”(In Uruguay) we're not very hard workers, so-so; we won't exhaust ourselves, but we are not corrupt, we are not pressing businesspeople or investors for kickbacks. This is a decent country, and not because of my administration, but because of the country and its people, and I also include the opposition and the whole political system”, insisted the Uruguayan leader.
Mujica also praised union leaders, (one of them was invited to join the presidential delegation to the US) and he said they “can't be sold or bought”.
“We're friends of business people, of investors but we won't sell them our soul or buy their pockets. From that point of view we are a country that offers tremendous guarantees. I repeat not because of my administration, but because the whole country is like that”.
Obviously “we're not chaste, we have a-whisky-too-much every now and then; we're not angels, just human beings” said Mujica to the approval of the audience.
However Mujica also admitted problems, the first of which infrastructure and mentioned that Uruguay is working to build a deep-water oceanic port with the support from Brazil. However in that country “the people linked to the ports' business are against it because they consider it competition; but for Uruguay it will be like having a new capital open to the Atlantic ocean and this will be useful for Brazil also”
Mujica also mentioned the lack of sufficient 'qualified people' because they leave and Uruguay needs tradesmen, qualified professionals and 'that is what I talked about with Obama yesterday'. He added “we need to take knowledge and opportunities to all the children living in poverty...nowadays nobody can manage a modern machine without knowing the digital language” and “we also need to prop our university with technology, scientific research”.
Regarding the need to integrate countries, particularly in the Americas, Mujica said the path was not “to sign and sign” free trade treaties, as has been happening, “because at the end you need street and traffic lights” to really understand commerce.
But Mujica not only promoted Uruguay as a market where to invest but also invited those who are retiring to find a home in peaceful Uruguay, as have done “the small bourgeois from Buenos Aires”.
“I think Uruguay is a great country to live in, and it can't be limited to the Buenos Aires bourgeois that are established along our coastline. Our security problems compared to the rest of Latin America and most of the rest of the world, are 'innocent'”
Mujica also mentioned his project to receive immigrants in Uruguay and increase the birth rate, to increase our labor force and our sovereignty, but the idea did not pick up: “we know that the nice 'blondes' from the north will not come, those who will come are the poor; maybe after all we say we are not racists..., but we need to increase out labor force, a younger labor force, and the private sector should help with ideas”.
Finally there was another strong stance in support of Brazil, as Mujica had done before Obama. “Brazil is an emerging power and who doesn't realize this, it's time to wake up; don't let yourselves be taken by the economic forecasts: silly and clumsy of us if we don't admit that continental size country”.
However after Mujica's speech Javier Carrau, president of Uruguay's Industries Chamber, supported much of the president's words but openly objected to statements regarding relations with organized labor.
“As you know a few weeks ago a bill was passed in congress which makes companies and managers criminally responsible for any accident in the factory or business. This will was literally imposed by the unions on government and we have an ongoing conflict regarding a soft-drink company which as you know has been unable to fulfill distribution for weeks”, said Carrau to the Uruguayan media that is covering the presidential trip.
Date: May 14, 2014