Uruguayan President: Uruguay was Lucky to have China's Support
Updated 18:04, 29-Apr-2021
Global Thinkers

Editor's Note: Uruguay has weathered the Covid-19 Pandemic better than most of its Latin American neighbors. Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou credits this to vaccines shipments and responsible governance that distributed the doses. So far over 32% of Uruguayans have been fully inoculated. Many of the vaccines in Uruguay were the China-made Sinovac. CGTN Host Tian Wei speaks to Uruguayan President Pou to find out how global cooperation is still outstanding in containing Covid-19 in Uruguay and beyond, as well as China's crucial role for the developing world. Opinions expressed in this video are his, and not necessarily those of CGTN. 

Tian Wei: Thank you for taking your time out of your busy schedule, tell me more about how the vaccine inoculations are going on in your country?

Luis Lacalle Pou: Today, we already inoculated more than 30% of Uruguayan population, 10% with two doses. We are happy with the fast process. People working in vaccination centers and all the logistics did a great job. People are very, very glad receiving the vaccine here in Uruguay. It's not compulsory. People go to get the vaccine if they want. There's lots of Uruguayans already decided to do so. We are in a tough moment, but the vaccination plan goes on as we planned and I can say best that we planned.

On Monday I will have my second dose. My age is from 18 to 55. I am 47 just now. My turn got in 4th or 5th group and the people in the health system are very kind, very professional. They are doing a great job. As I told you, a few minutes ago, the people willing to get the vaccines. The percentage is growing very fast. People are getting trust in these vaccines. And we started over 30% of people willing to get the vaccination. And now we are far from 70-80% people that will go to get this vaccine.

Tian Wei: What is the content of cooperation between your country and China in terms of vaccines?

Luis Lacalle Pou: Last September, I was sitting just here. And I made a phone call to President Xi Jinping. He promised to distribute the Chinese vaccines as a global public good. That was a very nice surprise. And he told us it would be available to people in every country besides China. That was a very good message, straightforward given by President Xi Jinping. We are very confident that China will supply more vaccines to Uruguay and other Latin American countries. They have already done it in a good quantity and in a very good time. This bilateral and multilateral mechanism are working with China, and we are very grateful for that. We are ready to upgrade our bilateral cooperation in the area of health. I would consider it very firmly to a new stage. This is done in the context of a strategic partnership, because we come increasingly comprehensive for us. We're living a in a good time of our relation with China.

Yesterday morning, I can tell you that the minister of health and the secretary of the presidency paid a visit, very important visit, to the ambassador of China here in our country. And in that occasion, my representatives stress the importance that my government gave to Sino-Uruguayan health cooperation, and in particular conveyed our urgent needs to continue receiving the vaccine from China. That cooperation between Uruguay and China over Covid-19 vaccine can be tremendously beneficial. I can tell you that honestly, that we are very grateful once again and happy of this cooperation we're having together.

Tian Wei: Mr. President, how do you see this global governance issue about the vaccines and vaccine nationalism? 

Luis Lacalle Pou: There is a big failure of the international bureaucracy related to health. We started with the COVAX that we should be receiving some vaccines. Time went past, and as you have said, big countries, powerful countries got from the laboratories, a huge amount of vaccines. Poor countries and smaller countries weren't able to enter in that bargain, let's say.

So today I was talking with a few presidents from Europe and the Americas. That was a criticism that I made, and we have to learn from this pandemic. We have to learn. We have to learn to be aware of other countries, our people. We live in the same world. Pandemics go through borders of the countries. We have to be prepared. Be much more generous. Thinking about others. And we cannot be once again in this competition where the strongest can win in the road of getting these vaccines, so I'm not happy about that. Uruguay was lucky because of China's support, was lucky because the government delivered.

Tian Wei: Mr. President, what do you see as the way forward?

Luis Lacalle Pou: Countries like Uruguay have a need greater than ever for a strong multilateral system in which international law prevails. That for us is the main issue. In time like this, we are most mindful of the relevance of these principles, which are the core of our foreign policy tradition. We're committed to an ambition where Uruguay can become a magnet for people from all world around. Our Chinese friends are also very welcome to explore opportunities of setting up in Uruguay. Our country welcomes foreigners with open arms. That's part of our history.

It is true that we live a in a world where geopolitics play a very important role. In this context Uruguay wants to be more a center of excellency, a hub of innovation companies for all Latin America. We're working on that strongly. We also want to make our rivers and our ports and Free zones and airports to be most efficient. That's a gateway in South America for Chinese, American and European countries. We are ready to work with the Chinese government. We are ready to work, respecting differences, embracing, understanding and cooperating.

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