I see a mountain

paso carrasco

Twenty five years is a long time and it corresponds almost precisely to the period of time that elapsed ,since I was privileged enough, to visit 4 latin american countries in 1989.
My memory played me a trick and I wrongly recalled going to Buenos Aires after São Paulo instead of the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo. Never mind, I am now putting it right…
Elections had just been held and coming out as winner was conservative leader Luis Alberto Lacalle. He held the post as president for the coming five years. This was a period of democratic stabilisation after years of persecution an dictatorship. It was also the first opportunity for the left to present itself in open free elections. The outcome for the left organised as Frente Amplio got 21%of the votes.
Montevideo seemed to me as peaceful city contrasting with the high buildings of the other capitals in the region. A curiosity was discovering many people sucking at their mate tea filled pumpkins or calabazas.Apart from that, there was some talk of the Uruguayan carnival with its typical Candombe music style coming up soon after Christmas. Carnival engaged many young people in activities. Our democracy supporting projects were useful in Montevideo.
At the factory FUNSA Swedish labour movement support had helped start a child care centre with 45 kids and 16 employees. ABF in Gotland through Stig Söderling supported this important investment.
Our next visit took us to Paso Carrasco where young people presented a Murga (a carnival musical presentation) outside their Casa del Pueblo. This was a meeting places very much shaped as Swedish Folketshus that were so important for the Swedish labour movement. Jörgen Eklund, Gunnar Falk and Maine Westin were pleased with what they saw and would even be more pleased at our final destination-Chile.

South America- 1989 AD

Guarulhos metal

In the beginning of 1989 I engaged myself in recruiting new contributors to the International fund (Ifonden). This fund was administered by the AIC – International Labour Movement Centre. Later this Centre would be renamed after party leader Olof Palme who was gunned down in Stockholm in 1986.

I was so successful in recruiting new contributors to the fund that I was invited to accompany a delegation from the member organizations of the Centre, to visit projects in South America that were financed and supported by the fund. Fortunately for me this was a special time in South America as dictatorships were giving way to democratic governments. We would be there in the middle of it all, culminating as it were, with the presidential election that would replace Augusto Pinochet’s 16 years in power.

We departed on the 2nd December and our first stop would be São Paulo in Brazil. As most people know this huge city is heavily industrialized so it was natural that the trade Unions of Sweden helped their Brazilian counterparts and I remember visiting the Metal Union in Guarulhos.

There was a lot of excitement and sober optimism as the ex-metal worker Luiz Inácio (Lula) da Silva was a presidential candidate. The first round had been on the 15 th November and Lula would contest the second round on the 17 th December against conservative candidate Collor de Mello. De Mello did win but Lula would also become president of Brazil in 2003. Brazil was not ready then for a president that had always fought from the bottom of society starting to work at 12 as a shoeshiner, before getting employment in the São Paulo industry.

The AIC member organizations are connected with Swedish Labour movement. These include more than Trade Unions. On the South American trip Trade Unions were well represented. For the record here they are:  Tuve Bergman from the Commerce Workers Union (Handels), Stig Söderling from the Central Trade Union (LO), Ronny Olsson-Municipal Workers (Kommunal), Yngve Vikström-Construction Workers (Byggnads) and Birgitta Johansson from Transport Union.

The immense city of São Paulo, larger than many countries found me waking up on the very early hours of the morning to discover enormous traffic jams outside the hotel. That is also a memory I keep.

On the picture above we can see Edmilsson Nery and Chicão from Steel Workers Union in Guarulhos. On the background Gunnar Falk.