“Bernardo Berro is a character in history that has been ignored“This is how he begins by defining the Uruguayan journalist and writer Diego Fisher the figure of the fifth constitutional president of Uruguay, and first president of the white party (current National Party), whose way of being contributed to a tradition of dialogue and conversation between politicians of that country, where the other is seen “as an adversary, not an enemy“.
Born in Montevideo in 1961, Fischer studied journalism at the University of Navarra and Boston University, is a columnist for the daily The country, He has published more than 15 books and received the “Golden Book” six times. His last title “How little life is worth: Bernardo Berro: a sower in the gale”historical novel published by publisher Planetnarrates in an exciting way the life of an enlightened man who he longed to be a peasant and ended up being president of the neighboring country between 1860 and 1864.
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In dialogue with PROFILE, Fischer tells that the relationship between Berro and Venancio Floresleader of colorado partywas the kick to cultivate a characteristic of Uruguayan politicians, that of power “vehemently defend their positionsbut not be enemies.”
He also comments that this bond -not of friendship but of communication- between Berro and Flores arose from a trip to Argentinawhere Uruguayan political figures met with Justo Jose de Urquiza. On the other hand, he stated that he sees “common points” between Berro and the current president Luis Lacalle Pou.
– How did the idea of writing this book come about?
My books are based on journalistic investigations. For me to start investigating, something has to catch my attention. Watercress was a character that was on the list of people that interested me, because There are dozens of books published on Flores and even a movie. About Berro there were only two books and a relative had written them.
Flores and Berro were murdered on the same day, hours apart. Digging through the General Archive of the Nation I found some documents that they told another part of the story. It had not been said who the murderers of Flores were, and it was believed that Berro had sent him to kill. This was not the case and what I found on the character plus the documentation was a great find.
– How would you describe Bernardo Berro?
Watercress is a character in the story who has been ignored and forgotten. He never wanted to become president, he wanted be a farmer. What’s more, she lived on a farm to work the land with her hands.
He was a different man in many ways, to begin with he had no political ambitions and he became constitutional president. During his tenure he achieved stabilitya moment of peace after coming from revolutions and wars for the voracious appetite of Brazilalways wanting to get hold of the port of Montevideo, and of the always attentive eyes of Buenos Airesdue to the historic rivalry of ports.
After the big warwith the White party linked to Juan Manuel de Rosas and the Colorado that is closest to Brazil produces the fusion policy in Uruguay, with presidents who have to govern with internal rebellions. Watercress is elected by Parliament and proposes a policy of incorporating the historical adversary to the government. The historical currencies put aside their differences to form a government of national unity.
– Why do you say that he is a “forgotten and ignored” character? How was his presidency?
I was going against the grain from every point of view. At the time when politicians across South America looked to Europe, gloating in France because of the Enlightenment, Berro He said he hated Napoleon III and, this is textual, to “his monkey Simón Bolívar”. Imagine what that would have been like 20 years ago with Hugo Chavez live.
He said he admired the “founding fathers,” George Washington and the North American congressmenwho worked hard and in silence for their people”. he was facing with people from your own party And not to mention his adversaries. He was not a leader, he was not a “doctor”, in the time of the doctors, he was very free when it came to thinking, incorruptible, he had no commitments to anyone and he faced the Church.
With him began what is known as the “secularization of the state“; he provided the country with things that today seem very basic, such as the standard of measurements, promoted the civil and penal codes -which will not materialize in his mandate- made a very strong commitment to education and to promote agricultural production.
He also had a strong commitment to freed slaves. He wanted to incorporate them into society as a labor force and not as “slave labor.” This is because his father, Pedro Francisco BerroWhen he arrived in Uruguay, he acquired slaves to form an advanced agricultural production unit. I bought the whole families because he considered that “it was already too much pain” that they were robbed of their lands and trafficked.
– Do you see any points of comparison between Berro and any current Uruguayan leader?
I think it has some characteristics similar to the current president, Luis Lacalle Pou, besides being from the same party. Because he was a man of dialogue, very pragmatic and someone who always called the opposition. She had a good relationship with the dictator Flores, they talked, despite being at the antipodes.
There is one of the things that is characteristics in Uruguay today. Uruguayan politicians can be adversaries, vehemently defend their positions, but they are not enemies. Those who laid the foundation for it were Berro and also Flores. And there is a fact that has to do with Argentina, which was decisive for it. In 1855, the then president sent Berro and Flores together to talk to Urquiza.
There they meet, they live in Buenos Aires for three days. They ask Urquiza to define what was the 1851 treaty that set the limits of Uruguay with Brazil. engage a link of dialogue, of communicationI wouldn’t say friendship, but to know that Uruguay’s raison d’être was at stake. Following that trip, it begins to cultivate what is a tradition very important for the country, the conversation and dialogue between politicians.
– Argentina and Uruguay left a common territory but in this characteristic they seem to have distanced themselves throughout history. Why do you think this could have happened?
Perhaps that is because in Uruguay there has never been an event as tremendous as the one that was the overthrow of Juan Domingo Perón. As far as I know there were many deaths and he had to go into exile, as there had never been before.
May there always be a culture of dialogue and a way of being where the forces of that time, in the 50s we are talking about whites and colorados (at that time nationalists and colorados). There was also the socialist party, which was small but engaged in dialogue, and the communist party was a minimal expression. This was woven and the initial kick Watercress and Flowers gave it.
It is true that there were wars later, but negotiation always prevailed. The end of the Uruguayan dictatorship in 1985 was a pact. They negotiated bitter adversaries, people who were very feuding, and the exit was a pact. Perhaps the most dramatic years, where there was less dialogue, were those prior to the last dictatorship.
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