His Excellency Mr. Jorge Battle Ibáñez
I promise that I shall be very brief.
I am the President of Uruguay, as was stated by our friend Paco Flores. Uruguay is the smallest country in South America. We have 3.4 million inhabitants and 187,000 square kilometres. Fortunately, we have no illiteracy. We have overcome that. Our education is free. I personally went to public school, public high school and the university of the Republic, as have all other Uruguayans. Of the population, sixty-five per cent own their own homes. There are 500,000 computers in my country. Our telephone system is 100 per cent digital and covers the entire national territory.
In addition to this, we have free elections. There is freedom of the press. There are no prisoners of conscience. Our President is elected and changes every five years through a free, secret and universal voting system, and there is no re-election. We do not stay in power for 40 or 45 years.
The reality of 50 years ago, which gave rise to the world’s course in terms of the various global institutions and organizations, has not yet been adapted to the changes that have since occurred. We are still in the times of Malthus and Hobbes. There has been a huge increase in the population, of which the weakest are the fastest growing in terms of the family unit, if it still exists. There is an enormous concentration of population in urban areas – Latin America being one example. They are populations who cannot maintain themselves on economies based on family agriculture and who move to the cities. Indeed, this situation even affects rural populations of countries with strong subsidies.
This situation, combined with a definite dichotomy in the treatment of trade structures and customs barriers that are high for agriculture, which are essentially managed by the developed countries and, at the same time, from GATT to now, has induced us to show the benefits and efficiency of low custom barriers for industrial products and services. Uruguay agrees with that second point of view. The weakest countries, instead of being able to improve their situation, have seen it worsen. This has also meant that these three elements combined have become an explosive mix in the world today that not only prevents the improvement of the weakest, but worse still, causes regression, because only the negative factors increase. That this weakens governments should also be considered. It weakens their capacity to exercise their functions and confuses the population about the appropriate solutions for their problems.
Uruguay is happy to participate responsibly, as it always has, in forums such as this one. We are grateful to Mexico, its people and President Fox for the fine job they have done in organizing this important meeting. We welcome the effort being made by the international credit institutions of which we are members and with whom we have always worked successfully and shall continue to do so; with the International Monetary Fund, whose statement made by Dr. Köhler here we applaud and agree with, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the strong participation of the World Trade Organization, whose statement Uruguay endorses.
We welcome the actions of developed countries, particularly the Government of the United States, whose President, Mr. Bush, has sent clear signals of increased aid to the poorest countries. However, we stress that a true opening of markets remains the best way to fight poverty.
Finally, Uruguay wishes to reiterate that diseases are cured by attending to their causes, not by reducing their symptoms.
* The text of this statement has been transcribed from audio recordings as the original was not submitted to the Secretariat.