Friday, 29 August 2008

Uruguay-Israel friendship: Bienvenido, Presidente Vázquez

Source: TJP

"Some true friendships, between countries as much as between individuals, are no less charming because they are minor.

This year, Uruguay's President Tabaré Vázquez will be celebrating his country's independence day, August 25, in Israel. Vázquez, an oncologist, has been here before. He studied for half a year at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, and visited in 1992 as mayor of Montevideo. But yesterday he arrived for his first state visit, a five-day trip during which he will meet Prime Minister Olmert, President Peres, and Foreign Minister Livni.

Elected to a five-year term in 2004, Vázquez is Uruguay's first left-wing president. His Frente Amplio (Broad Front) government is based on a coalition that includes Communists, social democrats and former Tupamaro guerrillas. His country, wedged between Brazil and Argentina, is not large. Slightly smaller than Oklahoma, its population is half that of New York City.

But it is also South America's most solid democracy - and one that happens to bear a long and rich relationship with Israel. At the 1920 San Remo conference, Uruguay strongly supported the Balfour Declaration. Before World War II, thousands of European Jews - from Germany and Hungary in particular - found refuge in Uruguay; in 1939 alone, some 2,200 Jews entered the country. (...)

In 1947, Uruguay's pro-Zionist UN delegate, Rodriguez Fabregat, was instrumental in getting the partition plan passed. Three days before it did, he posed a question to the General Assembly at Flushing Meadow, New York: "Why is it necessary that there should be a Jewish State? Precisely to put an end to that form of discrimination and alienation, [and] persecution of a section of humanity." The decision to create that state, he said, "will go down to history as the first great moral victory of the United Nations." The next year, Uruguay became the first Latin American country to recognize the State of Israel, and it later became one of the few countries to recognize Jerusalem as the capital. Uruguay's capital, for its part, boasts a Golda Meir Square. (...)

After his election, Vázquez reiterated that his country's friendship with Israel stands regardless of which party holds power. Welcome to Israel, Mr. President, and Happy Independence Day!"

- Acuerdos y sorpresas para Vázquez en su visita a Israel, Espectador
- Israel signs free trade agreement with MERCOSUR, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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