He owed it to economic history and to the team led by Alejandro Atchugarry, of which Carlos was a key player in his capacity as Uruguay’s Financial Representative in Washington, D.C. This was the team responsible for the evaluation of the causes that led to the crisis and for suggesting alternative solutions to President Batlle. Carlos owed it to himself for his dedication and commitment to the best defense of the country’s interests during those very difficult years.
In their search for a Uruguayan way out from the crisis the team had to face multiple barriers and conquer almost insurmountable obstacles. The first obstacle doubtless was the complexity of banking and financial events, never easily explained to, or understood by the general public, especially in times of crises, and always open to manipulation by opportunists of all kinds. Moreover, as the crisis was mostly a backlash from the Argentine default, aggravated by domestic economic and financial problems, the Argentine solution had a strong impact on local politics and kindled highly ideologized views regarding foreign debt.
Finally, and no less importantly, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the guiding institution of world finance, could not simply accept that a small country such as Uruguay could find a way out of the crisis by means other than those chosen by its larger neighbour. The starting line for the economic team was simple and is very well described in this book. The country had a liquidity problem and not a solvency problem. Fresh resources, new terms and time were needed to overcome the problem. The team fiercely defended that thesis and counted on the support of the President of the Republic who, with great courage and historical foresight, took the right decisions. In facing these obstacles Uruguay counted on major and in certain respects unexpected allies. I’m referring specifically of the role played by that distinguished academic and upright official of the U.S. Treasury Department, John Taylor, who believed in and supported the Uruguayan solution. It allowed us, especially at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and other international financial institutions (IFIs), to mobilize resources, which without his support would have been impossible to place at the country’s disposal to achieve the Uruguayan solution to the crisis.
But there were other no less important allies, who Sténeri remembers well. These were political leaders, private sector entrepreneurs, trade union leaders, and the public at large, who by lending their overt support, or by quietly allowing things to be done, or by simply placing their trust in the country, opened up the path taken by the government. It has been again made clear that one of the greatest attributes of modern democracies is knowing how to build the indispensable compromises that history calls for in difficult economic, social and political times. Today, the solution that Uruguay adopted during its crisis is remembered as one that should perhaps be emulated in the delicate moments of crises that the international community is living through. Our small country and its democracy were able to serve as a creative example that confers honour upon it, especially in the face of orthodox ideas and generalized solutions. This book provides an excellent account of those events, told by someone who minute by minute lived the anguish of each and every moment and who searched for solutions in the face of insurmountable obstacles that seemed to be everywhere. Sténeri’s opinion, because he knows and acted in both worlds, the foreign world and the domestic world, has immense historical value, which is broadened by his great intellectual and personal honesty that is a great tribute to him. I personally had, at the IDB, the unique opportunity to support the Uruguayan way out of the crisis with great conviction. Enrique V. Iglesias
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