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The ten most important news pieces of the year in Uruguay

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The reopening of borders after 20 months of closure due to covid-19; and soccer – with the celebration of the three continental finals in Montevideo and the dismissal of Óscar Washington Tabárez as coach of the national team after more than 15 years – were some of the most outstanding issues in 2021 in Uruguay.

The country, which maintained its concept of “responsible freedom” in the management of the pandemic and achieved a high level of vaccination compared to its neighbors, also saw the exit of its first ‘unicorn’ to the Nasdaq index in New York.

REOPENING OF BORDERS

After 20 months of closure due to the pandemic, during which only nationals, residents, and foreigners under exceptional circumstances were allowed to enter the country, on November 1, Uruguay reopened its borders to any vaccinated person (i.e., arriving 14 days after completing the vaccination schedule) and with a negative PCR test.

In addition to offering a booster dose to those foreigners who wish to be vaccinated during their vacations, the South American country eliminated the requirement of a second PCR seven days after entry.

Coach Óscar Washington Tabárez.
Coach Óscar Washington Tabárez. (Photo: internet reproduction)

END OF THE TABAREZ PROCESS

In this secular country where soccer is a religion, the departure of coach Óscar Washington Tabárez after a series of poor results in the South American qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup became a national debate.

On November 19, his dismissal was announced after more than three quinquenniums, when Uruguay won a Copa América, finished fourth in the World Cup in South Africa, and had its players as stars of the most important teams in the world.

REFERENDUM AGAINST LACALLE POU’S STAR LAW

A strong campaign of social organizations, headed by the trade union central, the PIT-CNT, and the Frente Amplio (FA), a left-wing coalition, which governed Uruguay between 2005 and 2020 and today is the leading national opposition, achieved the 671,544 signatures required to put the Law of Urgent Consideration (LUC), flagship of Luis Lacalle Pou during his electoral campaign, to a referendum.

There will be 135 articles, including issues related to economy, education, and housing, which will be put to a referendum next March 27. The collection of signatures amid the most challenging moments of the pandemic in Uruguay showed the muscle of the left in one of the blows suffered by the Government in 2021.

CABINET CHANGES

If the first year of Lacalle Pou’s term of office (2020-2025) closed with the resignation of his appointed Chancellor, Ernesto Talvi, who Francisco Bustillo replaced, and the creation of the Environment portfolio, held by Adrián Peña, 2021 registered the change of five of the 13 ministers (today 14) who formed cabinet on March 1, 2020.

The death of Jorge Larrañaga, Minister of Interior, led the then head of Transportation and Public Works, Luis Alberto Heber, to assume that role, while José Luis Falero took over the latter’s role; those of Social Development, Pablo Bartol, and Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries, Carlos María Uriarte, were dismissed and relieved by Fernando Mattos and Martín Lema, respectively; and that of Tourism, Germán Cardoso, resigned and Tabaré Viera took his place.

FIRST UNICORN IN NEW YORK

The company dLocal, which specializes in payment solutions, and which became Uruguay’s first unicorn in September 2020 after reaching a valuation of over US$1 billion, went public on the New York Stock Exchange on June 3.

In this way, it became the first company to jump to the ‘parquet’ (in this case, Nasdaq index) in the 21st century. It did so through an IPO (public offering), whose high demand in the previous day raised the placement price from the US$16-18 initially expected to US$21.

More than 75% have the complete scheme, and even 1.5 million of the 3.5 million inhabitants of the country have a booster dose.
More than 75% have the complete scheme, and even 1.5 million of the 3.5 million inhabitants of the country have a booster dose. (Photo: internet reproduction)

VARIANTS AND VACCINATION

From being an exemplary country in the fight against covid-19, Uruguay went from being one of the worst countries in terms of deaths per million inhabitants in the second quarter of 2021, when the entry of the P1 variant coexisted with the ratification by the Executive -descending scientists- of not going to confinement and maintaining the motto of “responsible freedom”.

The confidence in the vaccines -whose administration is not compulsory- and the high level of adherence of the population -more than 75 % have the complete scheme, and even 1.5 million of the 3.5 million inhabitants of the country have a booster dose- have led the health authorities to eliminate the PCR test in asymptomatic persons, even if they have had contact with a positive person if they have three doses.

A WEEK OF DRINKS

Between November 20 and 27, Montevideo dressed up to host the final matches of the South American women’s and men’s Libertadores Cups, an unprecedented event in the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) tournaments.

Five Brazilian teams and one Colombian team fought for the continental titles. Brazil’s Palmeiras, Athlético Paranaense, and Corinthians celebrated in a macro-event that combined sport and business as the arrival of tens of thousands of fans brought extra income for the hard-hit tourism sector.

THE “NEW” CENTENARY

Linked to the previous news, the venue that hosted the first World Cup final in history (1930), the Centenario Stadium, underwent a remodeling process for several months, which led the national team to play outside its natural venue to host the Sudamericana and Libertadores finals.

The US$6 million financial injections from CONMEBOL made it possible to renovate the press area, the booths, the dressing rooms, and the stands, as well as to install state-of-the-art lights and a turf transferred from Brazil to elevate the Centenario to the category of an aspiring host of the 2030 World Cup.

THE MERCOSUR REBEL

Uruguay’s critical stance towards the Southern Common Market (Mercosur), exhibited since Lacalle Pou’s inauguration, reached its highest level at the last Summit, held on December 17, when it blocked the reduction of the Common External Tariff (CET), agreed by its partners (Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil).

The intention to make the bloc more flexible and “open up to the world” has led the Uruguayan Executive to confirm the first steps towards future Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with China and Turkey, whose negotiations will take place in 2022.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC IN URUGUAYAN WATERS

To explore Uruguayan waters to depths that have been little studied, National Geographic Pristine Seas undertook two voyages to obtain unprecedented images of the area’s biodiversity.

The idea of this mission was to achieve an audiovisual and scientific product that would help the South American country to catch up in marine conservation and to be able to create marine reserves.

With information from EFE

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