A few incidents of vandalism were recorded in 2004, and
the community detected an increase of swastikas and antisemitic graffiti on the
walls of main streets and neighborhoods of the capital Montevideo.
The Jewish community of Uruguay is estimated at about 25,000
out of a population of 3.2 million. Conversos were among the earliest
settlers of the region; however, today most Uruguayan Jews are descendants of
twentieth century immigrants of both Sephardi and Ashkenazi origin. The
majority of Jews live in the capital Montevideo, with a smaller community in
the city of Paysandú. Jewish families are scattered throughout other
parts of the country but not in organized communities.
The Comité Central
Israelita del Uruguay (CCIU), embracing some 60 communities and organizations,
functions as the national Jewish representative body. There are a number of
well-attended Jewish day schools and several publications.
parties and groups
The national elections held in November 2004 resulted in a
historical upset. A coalition of parties from the left, including Socialists,
Communists, and the former guerilla movement Tupamaros, as well as Christian Democrats
and several politicians, from the two traditional parties campaigned as a
united front. They won the elections in the first round, defeating the two traditional
parties which had ruled Uruguay since the 19th century.
Relations between the community and the
government remain good and there is no state antisemitism.
Vandalism, Threats and Insults
A few incidents of vandalism were recorded in 2004, and the
community detected a rise in swastikas and antisemitic graffiti appearing on
the walls of main streets and neighborhoods of the capital Montevideo. There
was no increase of antisemitism in the press or in the propaganda of extremist
Desecration of synagogues is
unusual in Uruguay, but on the night of 22 September the synagogue in the Goes
neighborhood of Montevideo was broken into, and some of its contents were stolen,
defiled or burned.
Following the burning of one of
the security pillars at the entrance of a Jewish school on 20 January, four under-age
youngsters under the influence of alcohol were detained briefly by the police,
but released. Police suspect they were sent by an adult but have no further
Graffiti was a common means of
expressing antisemitic sentiment. Extreme right-wing groups appear to have been
responsible for several daubings, while symbols of anarchist groups were left near
others. Graffiti under the signature ‘BAC’ (Aria Canaria Brigada), accompanied
by slogans such as “Heil Hitler!” Death to all Mason Jews,” “Waffen SS,” with
their symbol, and swastikas, were smeared on walls at the Jewish cemetery of La Paz, the main cemetery of the Jewish community in Uruguay, on 20 April, the anniversary of
Hitler’s birthday. The BAC is active in the city of Las Piedras located near
The slogan “Sharon is a murderer”
appeared on the wall of the synagogue of the Ciudad Vieja neighborhood, Montevideo, on 26 October. Similar graffiti, accompanied by swastikas, appeared in several areas of Montevideo: for
example on 20–21 May, and again on 9
August, in the neighborhood of Pocitos, where a great number of Jews live (“Sharon is a murderer,” “We say No to Yankee-Zionist Imperialism”,
“Criminal Zionism”), as well as in central Montevideo on 14 June.
The anarchist symbol (an ‘A’
inside a circle), accompanied by slogans such as “Heil Hitler” and swastikas,
was reported in central areas of Montevideo on 30 August and 1 December.
Several threats were received by
members and officials of the Jewish community during 2004. For example, on 4
January the secretary of B’nai Brith Uruguay received an e-mail claiming that a
bomb had been placed there. On 13 March children and parents entering the
building of the Jewish Betar movement were threatened by a group of persons
standing nearby. Antisemitic remarks were posted on 23 November on the Internet
site of a theater group linked to the Jewish community.
Some 15–20 young people rallied in front of the Israeli embassy on 23
October to mark International Palestine Day. The group held placards with
anti-Zionist slogans such as “Zionism will pass” (El sionismo es
On 16 June Raul Papa, a professor
of economics and administration, claimed during one of his lectures that awarding
the Nobel Economics Prize to Joseph Stiglitz in 2001 was a mistake, in addition
to the fact that he is a Jew.
While there is no antisemitic press in Uruguay, some journalists and commentators are very critical of Zionism and Israel and its policies. For example, columnist of the left-wing weekly Caras y Caretas,
Rafael Bayce, stated on 10 February 2004 about the film The Passion of the
Christ: “… if Mel Gibson and many other people did not like what the Jews
did to Jesus, and even if in a way he dramatizes Jewish cruelty excessively,
you have to remember that this is nothing compared with what Jews used to do in
those times, and it is nothing in comparison to their religious marketing, and
of course it is nothing compared with what they do today in Palestine.”