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Russian vaccine: controversy in Uruguay over a statement by Alberto Fernández


Unofficially, the government of Luis Lacalle Pou denied the offer of help to access the Russian vaccine that Alberto Fernández said he had made to Foreign Minister Francisco Bustillo; the phrase generated strong criticism from the opposition Source: Archive

MONTEVIDEO.- The alleged offer of Alberto Fernandez aid to Uruguay to obtain the Russian vaccine led to a internal political controversy, with criticism of the opposition to President Luis Lacalle Pou.





What did the Argentine president propose? Did Uruguay ask you for something? When did Fernández and the Eastern Foreign Minister, Francisco Bustillo, speak? The episode, the fruit of an informal chat, will have no practical consequences, but it served to feed the debate politician in Uruguay. And that happens just when the Uruguayan government is rebuked by the opposition for not having a specific date to start vaccinating, or a contract closed with an international laboratory, beyond having joined the Global Access Fund for Covid-19 Vaccines (Covax).



The controversy opened on Sunday when Fernández He told Radio 10 that he was helping two governments in the region to get the Russian vaccine. “I spoke with the Uruguayan Foreign Minister, my friend ‘Pancho’ Bustillo, and I spoke with the President of Bolivia, Luis Arce. I told them that, as far as I could help, they were counting on me. I made myself available to help them and generate the necessary contacts to help them get the vaccine. “


But he went further: “I limited myself to the two of them because they were the two who they asked me […] Everything we can do to help them and those in need, we will do it. ” the statements of the Argentine president placed Uruguay as the origin of the request to obtain vaccines. Uruguay’s version is very different. There were no public statements, but both President Lacalle Pou and other government officials spoke in informal rounds.

He had never asked Fernández for help. There was no conversation on the subject these days. There was no intermediation, nor is it on the way. What happened then?



Alberto Fernández and Francisco Bustillo, during a meeting in Madrid, in September 2019
Alberto Fernández and Francisco Bustillo, during a meeting in Madrid, in September 2019 Source: LA NACION – Credit: Facundo Pechervsky

About 15 days ago, while Fernández and Bustillo, who are old friends, were chatting on WhatsApp, the Argentine president asked the Uruguayan foreign minister how the official visit to Moscow had gone and if he had made contacts about the vaccine. Bustillo told him that it had been a very good mission but that he was not dedicated to the vaccine (the Uruguayan government has preferred to explore other products).

In that dialogue, Fernández told him that if he wanted to negotiate with the Russians, he had a direct link on the issue. It was then that he shared a telephone contact with a Russian hierarch. Bustillo replied that he did not participate in the definition of the vaccine but that he would forward the contact to those who were in the matter. He did so, two weeks ago. That was it.

Uruguay continues other negotiations, with the Pfizer vaccine in the lead, without closing a contract for now.


Luis Lacalle Pou and Alberto Fernández, followed by Bustillo and the Argentine ambassador Alberto Iribarne, in the Anchorena presidential room
Luis Lacalle Pou and Alberto Fernández, followed by Bustillo and the Argentine ambassador Alberto Iribarne, in the Anchorena presidential room Credit: Presidency

In the Uruguayan government what Fernández said on Radio 10 called attention, because it was interpreted as a request for help and a management offer. They assure that it was not thus.

But from the opposition they came out hard against Lacalle Pou. The deputy of the Communist Party Gerardo Nunez he criticized the Uruguayan government for the delay in announcing vaccination and compared it to what is happening in Buenos Aires: “I was glad when I heard the president of Argentina trying to help Uruguay and Bolivia find a way to the vaccine.”

“It is not to believe: in the middle of a health crisis there are those who criticize the Russian vaccine with arguments of the cold war,” he added, noting that “it does not matter who makes the vaccine” and what matters is “if it is effective and helps to fight the pandemic “, because, he concluded, “Uruguay needs an urgent vaccination plan.”


Luis Lacalle Pou, Alberto Fernández, Francisco Bustillo and the Argentine ambassador to Uruguay, Alberto Iribarne, at the Anchorena presidential stay
Luis Lacalle Pou, Alberto Fernández, Francisco Bustillo and the Argentine ambassador to Uruguay, Alberto Iribarne, at the Anchorena presidential stay Source: LA NACION

The deputy for the Tupamaro Movement Daniel Caggiani, Meanwhile, the president of Argentina publicly congratulated: “Very nice gesture from the Argentine President Alberto Fernández offering to help Uruguay to get vaccines. “

From the same political sector, the mayor of Canelones, Yamandu Orsi, said: “Today we know that the Argentine government offers its support, there are several options and something needs to be resolved. Hopefully we will be on time. “

The senator for the ruling National Party Graciela Bianchi took away the significance of Fernández’s expressions: “I’m not aware of it at all and I don’t think he helped or offered help.” The legislator declared that “Uruguay has more than enough international prestige” to be able to reach vaccines, “much better than Argentina.”

Neither the Government House nor the Foreign Ministry wanted to issue an official statement, but Fernández’s statements did not go down well. In the government they reason linearly: Bustillo had been in Moscow with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergei Lavrov, and if apart from that contact at the highest level they needed a WhatsApp contact from a vaccine negotiator, it is because the diplomacy does not work.

Fernández left Uruguay in a position of weakness, asking him for help, but in Montevideo they assure that this was not the case, or similar.

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