June 13, 2023 -- Tel Aviv—Uruguay President Luis Lacalle Pou today said both his country and Israel have the “greatness of democracy and freedom” in common and called the ties between the two nations “historic and unbreakable.”
In taped remarks delivered at American Jewish Committee’s Global Forum in Tel Aviv, Lacalle Pou also hailed the “shared history” between the two nations.
“I am more convinced than ever that what counts the most is the greatness of democracy and freedom. And the most important thing is the friendship among nations that uphold and cherish these values,” Lacalle Pou said. “Along with 75 years of independence for Israel, today we celebrate 75 years of friendship between Uruguay and Israel.”
Israel declared its independence on May 14, 1948. Four days later, Uruguay became the first South American nation to recognize Israel and the fourth nation overall. Uruguay was also home to the first Israeli embassy in South America.
“The ties between Israel and Uruguay are historical and unbreakable and predated 1948,” Lacalle Pou said.
Uruguay’s representative to the UN, Enrique Fabregat, was a member of the UN commission that visited Palestine in 1947 and recommended the establishment of a Jewish state. A street in Israel—in the city of Ramat Gan--is named after him, one of three Uruguayans with that honor, as Lacalle Pou proudly noted.
Lacalle Pou said Uruguay sees the yearly observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day in April as a time to pay respect to the victims of the Shoah as well as honor the refugees taken in by Uruguay after World War II.
“Our country received and protected them, and they had the opportunity to restart their lives and contribute to the greatness of our nation,” Lacalle Pou said
An estimated 16,000 Jews are living in Uruguay, according to the Jewish Agency, while about 15,000 Uruguayans live in Israel. In 2020, Uruguay adopted the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism, becoming the first Latin American country to do so.
“Both the Jewish community in Uruguay, so deeply rooted in the life of our country, and the many Uruguayans who live in Israel, serve as an invaluable bridge connecting the two countries,” said Lacalle Pou, who remembered fondly his trip to Israel with AJC’s Project Interchange institute in 2018.
AJC fosters trilateral ties among the US, Ibero-America, and Israel through its Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs (BILLA).
Last year, AJC signed an association agreement with Comite Central Israelita de Uruguay, the main Jewish communal organization in Uruguay. It is AJC’s 38th association agreement with Jewish communities around the world and the 15th with communities in Latin America, Spain, and Portugal.
“Uruguay has been an island of stability and democracy in the region and has warm historical ties to Israel,” BILLA Director Dina Siegel Vann said then. “We look forward to enhancing our ties with this great country and its admirable Jewish community.”
AJC is the global advocacy organization for the Jewish people. With headquarters in New York City, 25 offices across the United States, and 15 overseas posts, as well as partnerships with 38 Jewish community organizations worldwide, AJC's mission is to enhance the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel, and to advance human rights and democratic values in the United States and around the world.