When speaking to businessmen at the ADM luncheon series, Defense Minister Javier García vindicated the role of the Armed Forces in society, assuring that they “are an inherent part of our democracy,” that they “play an irreplaceable professional role.”
In his speech, the minister highlighted the process of modernizing military equipment, the implementation of the national system of international airports, the support for Mides in social policies and the policy on human rights, ordering “from the first day to give birth to all the information that was requested about that past, and that was often kept or hidden in striking darkness and secrecy.
Below is Minister García’s speech regarding management in the Ministry of Defense:
I thank you very much for taking time at noon to listen to me. Really, the mere fact that ADM dedicates one of its lunches to the Minister of Defense, in this case already reiterated for being the second consecutive year, speaks a lot about you, about the interest in an area that was not usually on the agenda and that in this year of ours government wanted to give a new definition. As you know, the political system itself historically allocated very little time and importance to National Defense. The Defense committees in Parliament used to be the last to be elected, they were dropped by rejection and not by election.
The political parties were not interested in the military issue, except in moments of institutional crisis, or derived from issues related to human rights and the recent past. Strange thing, especially considering that 4 of the five main parties were founded by them.
Defense now, in our concept, is no longer a corporate issue, the exclusive domain of the military, but rather a matter of political definitions, where the military fulfills an irreplaceable professional role, but where the institutional perspective far exceeds the mere military issue. . Defense is human security, as we define it in our defense policy decree, it is care of our sovereignty, it is security on land borders, in our sea, in our airspace, it is defense of our environment, collaboration with the institutions of health as we did in the pandemic, it is infrastructure for development as we did with the international airport system in the interior of the country, or at border crossings, it is collaboration with science as we do in Antarctica or as we will do soon with the oceanographic vessel that we will acquire, is the support for social policies as we do with the Ministry of Social Development (Mides) in the polar cold plan or preparing food dishes throughout the country when requested, or distributing with transparency, and without detours, food. The participation of the Armed Forces meant that every kilo of food that left the MIDES warehouse reached the picnic area or the pot without getting lost along the way.
All of the above is the most visible, but we must not forget the essence: the existence of Armed Forces is defining of our democratic and sovereign Nation-State. The Armed Forces, far from being a democratic threat, are an inherent part of our democracy. There are sectors of public opinion that still question its necessity based on sixties ideological prejudices from the Cold War. We as a country do not have a hypothesis of war, we live in a continent of peace. Our threats are not war with another State. But be careful, today the threats are more serious than that. The greatest democratic and institutional threat is drug trafficking and its economic power to corrupt and infiltrate institutions. Believing that we are oblivious to that is part of ignorance or naivety. Added to this is terrorism, from which our continent is not immune as we suffer here nearby, with money laundering, as economic support. Today no one can deny, or rule out, the terrorist threat. We had it nearby in Buenos Aires at the Israeli Embassy and at the AMIA. We cannot be naive. In passing, I express our deep solidarity with Argentina. It is the second country, after Israel, with Hamas victims in the weekend attacks: 8 dead and 14 missing until today.
With terrorism there are no half measures, nor relative condemnations. What Israel suffered is an attack by a terrorist group, criminals who deny the other and whose cause is only one: death. We must not confuse the Palestinian cause with fundamentalist Islamic terrorism. No relativism with terrorism. It is not yes I condemn, but… With terrorism and authoritarianism nothing. You have to be clear on which side of life you stand on.
I return to the threats.
Cybercrimes, of which we are also subject, increasingly frequent and damaging extreme climate events, pandemics, the extraction and theft of our natural resources such as fishing, water care, among others, are the threats that challenge us. as a Nation. Armed Forces prepared to face them give us democratic solidity and independence. Only adolescent anti-militarism can maintain that it is better to be defenseless. The world knows about Uruguay’s military professionalism, even with the technological deficiencies we have. Leadership in UN peacekeeping missions was not given to anyone. It is of an oriental style. Our soldiers have an added specialty: they are specialists in making peace.
That is why the existence of the Armed Forces is essential to a sovereign State. Its existence is vital in the face of new threats to our human security.
I want to be very precise, because Uruguay does not have to be an exception: Political parties can fight about everything, but we should find ways so that the fight against drug trafficking is a national issue that finds all parties united. Only collective conscience and the strongest political decision can confront these criminals. They have corrupted and destroy the very basis of democracies, institutions and human rights; they cannot be confronted without unity of political parties. There should be an agreed commitment of the entire political system to face it without divisions.
We are in the months before starting an electoral campaign and almost 4 years into our administration. Let me briefly give you an account.
I am not here to waste your time talking about the past, about the Broad Front governments. It would be very poor of me. The only reference I will make regarding that time will be the situation from which we started: lack of institutional and political support for the Armed Forces and equipment in critical condition in both the Navy and the Air Force. We committed in the Coalition’s program, “Our Commitment to the Country” to turn this situation around. And we have done it. It’s still missing, yes. But we are enormously better than we were.
First: The Armed Forces once again had, because it was not exercised, civil and political command. We came to take charge of political and constitutional authority and we exercise it. It is inherent to democracy and indispensable for a vertical and disciplined institution. We do it out of respect for the military and from the conviction that their service is essential for the country. Uruguay has constitutionalist and republican Armed Forces. And with a government that respects them and because it respects them, it takes charge and responsibility for them.
We do not accept under any circumstances, therefore, that the mere fact of being a soldier means a demerit or a political or social condemnation, no matter how few want it. His uniform is Artigas’ and he deserves respect.
We are carrying out one of the processes of greatest modernization of ships of the National Navy, as we had committed. At the end of our mandate and will continue in the first years of the next government, the National Navy will have eight ships arriving in the country: three Coast Guard boats, donated by the United States and with national investment to get them ready, an important patrol vessel donated by Korea and a German rescue boat. An American oceanographic vessel that we will acquire and that we have not had since 2015, and the two OPV ocean vessels. Regarding the latter, I want to say it very clearly: business interests are legitimate, but they cannot be stronger than the national interest of defending our sovereignty and our natural resources stolen every day in our sea, as well as taking care of our environment and fighting crime. organized. The entire political system agreed to buy them, but they could not be acquired for 20 years because powerful economic interests constantly blocked it. Was over. We decided to acquire it because Uruguay cannot wait. The president has just signed his award.
In the Air Force we acquired two Hercules transport aircraft, and two helicopters were integrated into the United States support system. We received criticism for the purchase of the Hercules, and we were even questioned for political reasons. But everyone knows how useful they were and are. At this time my recognition goes to the Uruguayan Air Force and the crew of the Hércules. 150 people, including many children, were rescued from the war. No Uruguayan was forgotten and in danger no matter how far away they are. In the pandemic we also repatriated, we brought ultrafreezers, they distributed laboratories and vaccines, they brought respirators when some predicted the collapse of the CTI, they improved Antarctic transportation, and now we rescued dozens of Uruguayans from the war. They were not moved, of course, stubbornly, nor were they used for political tourism as happened in the past.
We have a must in fighter planes. International circumstances and economic limitations have not allowed us to advance as we want.
In the case of the Army, we are planning to modernize its fleet of trucks, light and armored vehicles.
Machines are important, but our soldiers are even more important. We face a firm salary increase process recently confirmed in accountability. 58 million dollars in incremental salary mass. The gap with an entry-level administrative official in the central administration since we took office until now has been reduced by half. The administrator earned 40% more, now 20%. The real salary increase in soldiers was 15%. It’s not just asking or thanking, you also have to pay well. That is part of institutional respect.
The salary increase for soldiers is an act of justice for the most neglected public servants and to whom all governments turn when the chips are down. To recognize some have prejudices, but to ask them they never had them.
I would like to briefly point out the airport infrastructure works with the six airports concessioned in the interior and the signing of Rivera’s binationality. In the first days of November the binational airport there will be inaugurated. This is connectivity, tourism, logistics, trade.
Also the important work that we will do and that was put out to tender and that we have just awarded, at the Fray Bentos border crossing, which will dignify the work of the transporters, and be a friendly area for entering the country and whose contract we will sign in two weeks . Also in that place is the new western base of the National Navy, recently inaugurated.
Regarding human rights and the so-called recent past, I want to say very clearly: we have no ties, debts or commitments to the past. The only thing that matters to us is the Constitution, the law, transparency and the truth. That is why we ordered from the first day to release all the information that was requested about that past, and that was often kept or hidden in striking darkness and secrecy. That past is painful, but it is our past. Its knowledge is the right of everyone and not of a few who censored the truth. The constructed and repeated story became a culture that sought to take over that past. I don’t know if there were two or twenty demons, but surely there were fewer angels than we think. Or perhaps some who were angels by day, and demons by night.
This year marks 50 years since the Coup d’état. That is why it is time for things to be said without fear of the constructed and repeated story, or of the intellectual pathoterism of some leftists who do not admit views different from their own and try from an imaginary podium to tell us how the past should be interpreted. The MLN never fought against the dictatorship. It’s a lie as big as the universe. It was dismantled a year before June 1973. And just as the MLN did not fight against any dictatorship, the military coup leaders cannot justify the coup in the existence of political terrorism. The two founded their attack on freedom on a historical lie.
That is why our policy is transparency, collaboration with Justice, and the whole truth. The whole truth, without limits or censorship.
Global Seas photo