LUIS LACALLE POU, President of Uruguay, said there was no plan for confronting the pandemic. Each country developed its own formula for doing so. Noting that COVID-19 revealed weaknesses and strengths, he acknowledged the great work of scientists and researchers, teachers and professors who devised ways to provide education. Work changed in a unique way. “In short, humanity showed its capacity to adapt and survive a crisis of such dimensions,” he said. That is the best version of the story. However, the pandemic also revealed the structural inequities and ethical issues within all societies.
Emphasizing that Uruguay has an immense “democratic vocation” and values individual freedom, defined as the purest state of the individual, he said the pandemic also revealed unequal access to various tools. What “landed with a thud” is the false dichotomy between the presence of the State and individual freedom. In some countries, the State protected the most vulnerable and gave them access to tools to exercise their freedom, he said, noting that internal policies often have external repercussions. Freedom cannot be conceived without conceiving of it with responsibility and solidarity. In Uruguay, people showed that with the use of responsible freedom, they were able to manage a significant part of the pandemic without major reversals. Solidarity of community was present in many great acts and reflected in acts unknown to the larger public.
At the international level, he said there was a race against time to develop vaccines, which ultimately were developed in record time — and yet, there was a shortage of supply. A country had to “go out and buy for itself”, he emphasized, an important point, as the vaccine is vital for recovering freedom in all countries. Also during the pandemic, countries needed the freedom to trade, compete and access markets. As Uruguay is opening more to the world, he called for coordination among the world blocs and great powers. There were violations of human rights by Governments too. “We cannot remain silent about these violations,” he said, stressing that the abuse of power is a detriment to freedom and pointing out that some Governments are afraid of their own people. He closed by calling for the creation of finance mechanisms so that countries can make progress on sustainable development.