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Gen. Liber Seregni, Founder of The Frente Amplio  - A Broad United Front in Uruguay

Interview Conducted in July, 2000 by Escenario2, a Political Bulletin Published out of Montevideo, Uruguay

( Translated to English from the Original in Spanish by
Adelbert S. Batíca, Gugma Han Samar Cyberspace Movement )

About the late General Líber Seregni (1916-2004):

General Líber Seregni1 was a career Uruguayan Army officer who rose from the ranks. He was a hardcore nationalist and a progressive. As a young lieutenant in the 1930’s, he openly expressed his solidarity with the Spanish Republicans who headed Spain’s constitutional government that was eventually overthrown by Generalissimo Francisco Franco. Seregni was arrested and jailed for his solidarity with the Spanish Republican cause.

Reinstated after his imprisonment, he served in various capacities, including as military attaché in Mexico. He became Army Chief in 1965, at the height of the Tupamaro rebellion. One of his accomplishments during the campaign against the Tupamaros was the militarization of Uruguay’s banks, which minimized the rebels’ success at robbing banks.

In 1968, at the height of anti-government protests led mostly by students and unions, Seregni refused to use force against protesters, even after a direct order from Uruguay’s president. He quit his post as Army Chief rather than authorize the slaughter of innocents.

In 1971, he founded Frente Amplio (“Broad Front”), an umbrella organization of left-leaning parties that years later also included social democrats, Christian democrats, defectors from the traditional parties and finally, his former nemesis - the Tupamaros (led by Raul Sendic and Jose Mujica).

In 1973, after the Uruguayan military staged a bloodless coup that toppled the civilian government, Seregni led a massive demonstration to protest the military takeover. He was later arrested and sentenced by a military court to 14 years’ imprisonment for “subversion”. While in jail, he continued to lead the opposition to military rule, via smuggled messages encouraging his supporters to boycott elections and referendums sponsored by the military junta.

He was released in March, 1984, after serving 11 years in prison. He resumed his post as chairman of Frente Amplio, continuing to reach out to all sectors of Uruguayan society. In 1989, the Tupamaros (now renamed Movement for Popular Participation), who by now had renounced violence, were admitted as a member of Frente Amplio.

Gen. Seregni died of pancreatic cancer in July, 2004, three months before the election that catapulted the Frente Amplio to power, capturing the presidency, the Senate, and the Lower House.  Former Tupamaros Jose Mujica and Nora Castro are Senate President and Speaker of the House, respectively.  Tabaré Vasquez, a medical doctor and former Mayor of the capital city of Montevideo, is the incumbent president.  He is a socialist.


Shortly after his return from a trip that took him to Mexico and Chile, Liber Seregni welcomed the Escenario2 correspondent at his home in Montevideo.  After a brief recounting of his trip, spiced with interesting anecdotes and concise and definite political opinions, and over mate (Uruguayan herbal tea), Escenario2 proceeded to the main purpose of the interview.  Escenario2 proposed talking about “Rethinking the Left”.

Escenario2: “General Seregni, we have the impression that a reflection on the Left, its challenges, perspectives on the future, its renewal has developed in an insufficient form, without continuity.  Escenario2 proposes that we gather opinions, stimulate debate and encourage new reflections.  Let’s begin from your vantage point, that you have a lot to say about the subject matter.”

Seregni:  “I don’t have the slightest pretension that I’m a theorist for the Left.  I was, yes, a political operative and now – barely a critical observer.  From this perspective, for sure, and at least in our country, there have been individual efforts, some brilliant ones, excellent work, but there has  been no symmetry in the work.  Let us start from the beginning.  At the Center for Strategic Studies-1815, I have discussed this point at great length.  I feel that the realization of the weaknesses of the Left is made the first step, the historical weaknesses.  Capitalism, from the time it was invented and until now – has gone through crises and always found solutions to make it move forward; the Right always found the fitness for the march towards distinct situations that came along.

In turn, there has been some sort of backwardness on the part of the Left.  It looks like a lie, because the spirit and above all, the processes for continued and actual renewal ought to be present.  One of the defects observed on the Left and one that needs to be admitted, is a kind of complacency or satisfaction with itself.  How much does it cost to recognize errors?  We have been remiss in recognizing errors and therefore, in processing them.  In the recent history, and especially after the implosion of those systems called “real socialism” and even before the events of a decade before, changes in the Left already begun to be processed in Europe:  the re-evaluation, innovation, and inventiveness in Italy since Gramsci; the substantial changes within the Left in Spain; the revolution within French communism; the search and proposals in England and Germany – all have marked stages where some willingness has been applied to find distinct forms of being on board a new reality, one that is changing, that continues to demand answers.  But, how do we change without recognizing errors?  How do we adapt to the new realities if we don’t learn to recognize them?  If the new realities don’t fit in the old framework of things, if they are not accessible through the antiquated tools of interpretation, we have to renew, abandon the pyramid-like framework and mechanisms.  We can’t set aside or abandon Reality.


Escenario2:  “What has happened in Latin America?”

Seregni:  “There are two forums being maintained in Latin America:  COPPAL2 – up to a certain point and fundamentally – the Sao Paolo Forum is a circuit that is rich in terms of discussions but to date, the proposals have not yet been synthesized.  The ideal is to achieve an alternative model, a model that expresses the thinking of the Left in the current reality.  Here we have to go beyond proposals.  We have to integrate these in a process that, from the beginning of a summation of accomplishments that are adequately deepened and discussed, a delineation coming from the theoretical field is found, one that has the necessary philosophical base, one with a serious doctrinal definition, so that later on we can reach a programmatic base, one that needs flexibility, sufficient adaptability, above all for ourselves, Latin Americans, children of one continent that is at times many (continents).

The attempts to apply a single formula that will serve everybody’s needs have always ended in failure.  It is important to recognize our diversity:  the Caribbean is one thing, Central America is another, North America and those of us in the South are quite distinct.  Therefore, the formulation of the thinking of the Left must have at times generality in theory and doctrine, with the necessary flexibility to fit the Left into different times, and into different regions.

The main difference has to do with values.  That is the legacy, the foundation of the Left.

Escenario2:  “In other words, we are talking about a reflection and a Latin American articulation, one that we have always had in common, and at the same time, one that recognizes our diversity.  And also, a renewed effort at understanding reality, what is constant, and what is continually changing.

Seregni:  “Exactly.  I feel that right here, in our own country, and also in other parts of America, we are behind on two aspects.  First, in understanding the tremendous revolutionary significance of the scientific-technological revolution and the harsh changes that it has superimposed on the entire society; in the relations of production, in social inter-relations and consequently, articulating distinct leftwing thought, the values…. the differences between Left and Right, the values and moral principles over and above everything else.  This is the legacy, the foundation of the Left and that is what needs to adapt to actual circumstances.  See how they are expressed, how these permanent, historic values are demonstrated in the new realities that demand new forms of responses, but still preserve the essence.

And then, we are also behind in understanding and operating vis-à-vis the issue of mundialización…I don’t like the term “globalization”, I prefer the other, as it is more Spanish.  Mundialización is a direct result of this scientific-technological revolution; it is a reality that we must learn to adapt to, one that we must learn to live with.  It is not about fighting against mundialización, but learning how we can take advantage of its positive aspects, the advances which the same (globalization) affords, in order to move ahead with the changes we propose in a positive sense for our fellow human beings.  Mundialización is a real phenomenon; if we must change reality, then we have to adapt to it, be part of it as a general principle, and this is what the Left still finds difficult to do:  how we can fit into this reality in which capitalism and the forces of the Right move with ease.”

Escenario2:  “How do we encourage this reflection so that we fill the field with all sorts of proposals and from a position that is conducive to active and transforming involvement in the new realities?

Seregni:  “I think we have to maintain the forums I already mentioned, for example, but strive to make them more mature.  The biggest difficulty we have had so far, in spite of the years of meetings and discussions, is our tendency to elevate it to a level that is beyond this planet.  We present the problems with such great magnitude, coupled with the diversity of the Milky Way, and therefore never arrive at any solution, and we don’t find common ground.  It appears to me that we don’t plant a list of topics that leads us to a few rules; the desired object should be advancing the definition of some principles that may serve as the “Decalogue” of the Left, arrive at a definition of the ten highest principles that makes the Left distinct right now, at this very moment.  And I believe this is possible.  There are thousands of thinking heads in our Latin America.  And they all share the common concerns.

Escenario2:  “…in spite of it we continue with a deficit in terms of articulation, or with a delay…”

Seregni:  “I believe we must ask ourselves how it is possible that, after a decade of efforts, we have not advanced any farther, and we have been unable to translate our thinking into common action.  It is a serious deficiency of the Left and I believe it has more to do with processes than the absence of ideas.  We have been unable to find the ways and means for processing these ideas and bringing them to a conclusion, which should be the way leading towards a model.

The banners of Peace, Human Rights, of democracy…”

Escenario2:  “Please explain further this idea of a “model” which you are referring to.”

Seregni:  “This is the idea:  All of us who belong to the Left come from camps that were deeply marked by Marxist ideas, though with distinct (and differing) shades.  Marxism is a coherent gathering that, beginning with a philosophical conception, is developed across theory until it arrives at the end result – the model.  Philosophy, doctrine, processes, plan, and program…The discussion and the articulation today should point to a similar direction, from general (universal) to particular, from the big political-philosophical definitions to the utilitarian and practical.

This is an enormous task that lies ahead of us, and it is a task that needs to get done. And today we can count on enormous facilities to discuss, to find ourselves. All of these, which the science and technology of communications allow us, with the Internet, with electronic mail – facilitate these contacts. To set up a conference, gather people to dialogue at the table, do not necessarily require moving people physically.  The thinking of the Left should be channeled above all, to these heights in the world. Given the experiences already gathered and reviewed from the vantage point of processes, there is a need to apply an ethic within the playing field - where the rules of the game are written. Playing according to the rules of the game, trying to modify them, but never skipping them. Concretely speaking, for example, in the roads where nobody has yet traveled, where nobody has ever been, that the Left hold up the banner of peace, as they should.  The banner of peace and the banner of Human Rights, are permanent elements, fundamental, but we have to apply them in this world, in this globalized world of today. We cannot uproot the banner of peace and the banner of human rights. But, man, it’s not just about having the banner, we have to take action, in today’s reality. Therefore, now that we have reflected and gone to great lengths, while we try to polish a discourse, let us act on the things we discussed. That, for me, is one of the critical points.

Escenario2:  “What can you tell us about the other banner, the banner of Democracy?”

Seregni: “In the end and in conclusion, what has been the thinking of the Left? A better society, conceived in terms of the real application of democracy, updating the claim asserted by the French Revolution: “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” Begin with the diversity of the human race, what pluralism expects and its corollary - tolerance in order to ensure co-existence in society. Respect for diversity, respect for pluralism, and the affirmation that there is no substitute for dialogue, taking all pains to resolve confrontation through dialogue in order to achieve that state of human co-existence that is intrinsic in a democracy. And this rests on the greatest tolerance, the widest breadth. It doesn’t in any way presuppose the abandonment of principles or banners. On the contrary, and really on the contrary - it is a tight adherence to the principles and the banners and, at the same time, acting with a level of flexibility that we don’t have right now.

In many cases, and also in our own Uruguayan situation, there is rigidity. Rigidity and immobility when the Left should always be - Search and Change.  And this leads to sclerosis, to fossilization, to death.  To rigor mortis.  And going back to the beginning, what do I attribute it to? What am I to blame for? The complacency we have within ourselves. Refusing to admit errors and to discuss errors.  Forgetting the vital necessity of the continuous exercise of self-criticism.  We shouldn’t be afraid of words.

Here we have made some words sound bad, twisting their meaning. I remember very well the discussions. For example, the word “agreement”. To seek an agreement was a shady deal, was a dirty thing. But no, my friend! To seek an agreement is a fundamental element of human co-existence. Another example: “coalition”. We identified the term “coalition” with “coalition with the government” and its anti-people model. But coalition, the formalization of agreements, is a necessary solution in multi-party systems in order to allow governance and effective action. The same thing happened with “self-criticism”. We identified self-criticism with the establishment of inquisitorial tribunals that find the guilty or scapegoats, cut their heads off and exhibit them in the public square, when self-criticism is a scientific process that allows the summing up of experiences through the discussion of good ideas and errors that may have taken place during the course of an action.”

…And also a moral obligation…..

Serengi:  “Yes, of course, it is a moral obligation, to improve in life.  It is part of our responsibility:  with what we have done, and above all, with what we are going to do in the future, so we can be more just, so we do not make unnecessary mistakes, so we can be more effective….

The “cheese-like smell” of government

Escenario2:  “General, this complacency or self-satisfaction – or lack of a self-critical vision – which you talk about, appears more strong and tempting during electoral successes…”

Seregni:  Ah!  Because we’re getting there. It has gotten out of theory and it’s putting us much, much closer.  What is happening in other countries, in other regions, what has happened?  In many places, the Left has assumed power and is now the government, and in other places it is still engaged in struggle.  Now, there’s a historic certainty that’s better expressed by the saying, “The cheese-like smell of government awakens indescribable passions.” And it’s very certain. What has happened to us? What is happening to us?  What is happening to us, FrenteAmplistas? To the extent that we are closer to governing, which we see as something tangible…how much and how the sectoral passions have been awakened, how much of our sense of globality and unity we have lost, because now the contest for the share of the power is beginning, dreaming with this piece of cheese that’s now touching you!  And how, during the course of our actions, we have forgotten the maxim: “First, the country; then the party; then me.” That is what we have to correct, we have to learn how to detect it and not refuse to discuss it. I believe it was (Miguel) de Unamuno who once said: “Spain hurts me.” The Frente Amplio pains me, and it hurts me tremendously that Frente Amplio, instead of getting better, has gotten worse.

We have grown quantitatively and we have worsened qualitatively. We have been losing basic principles of the Left: solidarity, what it means to have a discussion among comrades, the acceptance of self-criticism as a tool that is absolutely indispensable to our progress. This is what we have to overcome in the Left, because it is a disease that leads to division, frustration and the failure to accomplish our tasks.

Escenario2:  “Therefore, you see an oversight or failure in the present Left, as opposed to electoral growth…”

Seregni:  “I feel it is a reality, we have grown quantitatively, we ended up losing values.  What helps the Left is the possession of values. When I grumble and come out with criticisms, it is because I feel that we are losing the values, which made the creation of Frente Amplio possible. It’s not just the generosity, the greatness of the people who were there, at the creation of Frente Amplio. We have been losing our greatness and becoming more arrogant and this is bad…very bad. And therefore the ethical values and morals, the foundation of the Left…we overlook them in our actions. I feel we are emptying our ethical contents. We have to go back to the values, we have to work around values, and we have to recover them fully and absolutely, before Frente Amplio becomes more and more a traditional party in the bad sense of the term.  And that is the struggle and the challenge I go by.

To finish and with synthesis as the goal, I would say that we must work on two plains, in this magnificent and praiseworthy task that has been pointed out by Escenario2. Always collect and gather the lessons of history: No to self-satisfaction! (Translator’s note: a more literal translation of the Spanish autocomplacencia is – b.s, or “bilib sa saríli). Yes to continuing critical analysis of the present! And, therefore, on the other hand, the Left’s theoretical opening up to the light of the 21st century, in order to accomplish the formulation of a new paradigm, of a new model of society. And fit it into each spatial-temporal circumstance, to each society and each party. And therefore outline the strategy, the tactics and processes that correspond to that uniqueness or individuality. Ah!  But also try to fit the political tool, into that dialectical relationship between theory and praxis.

Let us learn from our recent experience, whose conclusions I have corroborated during the elections in Mexico in 2000. The people, the nation, demand real and possible changes, not promises. Let us understand that power corrupts, and it corrupts everything around it. We have to make the party structures adapt to new realities, because they too, grow old and suffer from sclerosis in the long run and slow down progress and change.  The structure that was suitable for 1971 does not correspond to 2001.  Let us not put our trust in spontaneous or instant growth; let us not confuse political will with volunteerism.  Let us not lose the foundations of (our) individuality, the profile of the political force, the Left. The Left will always be Left and can effectively accomplish a social paradigm and advance all the way without losing the values, the attachment to values. The two things: perfect the theoretical framework, yes, the theoretical re-evaluation, but at the same time attend to the practical revision of the processes we are following.  One can’t exist without the other.

1 During the month of July 2000, Líber Seregni – an adviser to the continental Left – was present at the historic Mexican elections as an international observer.  On his way back to Montevideo, he visited Santiago de Chile where he had a long interview with President Ricardo Lagos.  Upon his return, he met with the incumbent President of Uruguay to give his report, emphasizing the affirmation of Mexican democracy, and the manner in which the issue of disappeared detainees has been handled in Chile. 

2 Permanent Conference of Latin American Political Parties, of which Líber Seregni was vice-president.





Villahanons saving P65.6 million for own country

May 21, 2005

VILLAREAL, Samar  - By using their own funds and cash donations from helpful Samareños here and abroad in cementing the 8 kilometers provincial road that connects the Maharlika Highway to this coastal town of 23,604 population, Villareal’s own leaders could save for the Philippines some 65.6 million pesos.

This could be etched in Philippine history: a success of people helping their own community when the government could not afford to spend for its road access need.

Villareal mayor Renato “Boy” Latorre has effectively mobilized Villahanons in Metro Manila and some countries around the globe and got them involved in the task of providing his constituents with a cemented road - one dreamt of for long, long years, and a dream that remained as a repeatedly broken political campaign promise, until he came to lead his people in this highly ambitious but very much needed infrastructure, the town’s only road map to progress.

Mayor Latorre “was able to mobilize us and get our trust and support,” said Cesar Torres in an e-mail message posted in the Samar internet publication of Engr. Ray P. Gaspay in Catbalogan, Samar’s provincial capital.

Torres cited the Villareal Bayanihan Road Cementing Project as “something which has never been done in contemporary Philippines” in which mayor Latorre has “played a great part.”

Torres remarked: “Consequently, we are saving the Philippines some P65.6 million, assuming that the 8 kilometers are going to be cemented without running to ...the corrupt officials in Samar and the Philippines who are in the limelight.”

“Because of Mayor Latorre, and all the Villahanons all over the world, including you (referring to Addi Batica, a native of Basey who is also abroad), and including my friend from Calbayog, Terri Deresma, the Villahanons have saved the people of the Philippines some P65.6 million.”

Torres is a regular columnist of “The Filipino Insider”, a monthly supplement of the “San Francisco Chronicle”, one of the major newspapers in America with a circulation of 500,000. He can be reached thru his email address at

In an article for the April issue of  “The Filipino Insider”, Torres wrote thus: “With practically no assistance from the provincial and the national governments, the people of this fourth class town have been repairing and cementing an almost impassable 8-kilometer public road since October 2004 through voluntary work, known in the Philippines as ‘bayanihan’. This road connects the town to the Pan-Philippine Highway, which traverses the entire Philippine Archipelago from Northern Philippines to the Southern tip of Mindanao.

“So far, more than one kilometer has been cemented. Voluntary labor is provided by the townspeople. Even those coming from the island barrios or barangays volunteer their labor. The municipal employees work on the road on Saturdays. Some townspeople, who are not allowed to volunteer to work on the road because it is not their turn yet, are sometimes angry. They think they are being left out. They feel they are not important, hence they feel they do not belong.

“Even school children help.

“The enthusiasm is unflagging. At the moment, there is a stockpile of cement. More donations are pouring to the town. So far, about P500,000 – a little less than $10,000 – has been contributed to this road-cementing fund. They come from all over the world. The Internet has been an effective medium of communicating with the Villahanons. Civic leaders, some of whom were people who did not vote for the Mayor of the town, keep the donated funds.

“A check with Atty. Oscar G. Yabes, Secretary of the Philippine Senate elicits the information that it costs P10 million per kilometer to cement a public road if done by the government. In contrast, the imputed cost of this voluntary, bayanihan, road-cementing project is only P1.8 million. A difference of P7.2 million!

“This voluntary road-cementing project of the people in Villareal, Samar is a whiff of fresh air coming from the only colony of the US and the only Christian country in Asia which President Bush has dubbed the ‘second front’ in the fight against the deadly struggle against terrorism.”

Mayor Latorre personally helped in the actual concreting work. He was among those who kept a long line of volunteer men, women, and schoolchildren, toiling and sweating it out under the hot sun. When perspiration got all over him, he took off his shirt and went back to work.

Some of the volunteers came from the barrios outside the poblacion. They arrived at the scene to help, knowing that the final result of their voluntarism and sacrifice would one day mean a faster socio-economic progress for their town brought about by a durable road that will make transportation of local products easier and accessible to all forward markets around the western coast of the province.

The day’s toil briefly created a festive mood when time came for feast on the big, crispy lechon baboy that the mayor and the local government officials prepared for the bayanihan.

A 10-minute video documentary on the daylong activity can now be viewed in the internet. It is made available for all the world to see: a first in the Philippines!  (download video)


During the fiesta celebration of the Villahanon Association in Metro Manila (VAMM) last September 11, 2004 at the Amoranto Hall in Quezon City, mayor Latorre sought the assistance of the Villahanons residing in the metropolis and its suburbs. Mayor Latorre told his fellow Villahanons of his plan to have the Villa-Kasang-an road cemented via the bayanihan or pintakasi or tiklos scheme. He said that the municipal government of Villareal would provide gravel, sand, reinforcement bars and lumber while labor would come from the barangays along the route to Kasang-an.

Engr. Artemio Murillo, a Leyteño married to Alice Rapanan of Villareal and who is vice-president and managing director for operation of the famed Pajara Construction, would prepare the program of work and cost estimate, as well as provide the project planning consultation and managing services, all for free even as he would shoulder his own travel expenses, mayor Latorre told them.

The announcement of the Villareal road project was “received with loud approval”. According to one who attended the VAMM’s fiesta, “Makaruruyag gud!!! The concept was proposed by the Villahanon Association in Metro Manila to Mayor Boy L. and I think after just one meeting, they came up with a concrete agreement.”

He further said that the sharing scheme of the three groups - the VAMM soliciting cement donations, the local government unit providing sand and gravel, and the barangay providing labor - was “fantastic”. He described it as a “stroke of genius, real Filipino, Sinamar, pintakasi, bayanihan, binurubligay.”

The agreement stipulated that the association would solicit bags of cement from all Villahanons “and those who love Villa and the Villahanons”, or cash equivalent of P140 per bag of cement. The donor could have the bags of cement directly delivered to the office of the mayor in Villareal or send a check payable to the VAMM which would then purchase the cement in behalf of the donor. All donations would be properly receipted and acknowledged by the association.


He posted an e-mail message, saying: “I am equally excited as the Villahanons, with the prospect of having a concrete road from Kasang-an to the poblacion, la villa real, through the effort of the PEOPLE OF VILLAREAL THEMSELVES. For many decades, the Villahanons have developed callused and ‘kiballed’ pugtots travelling that short but arduous, rugged road to Villa. It had been ‘completed’ many times in the past by many political leaders.”

According to Engr. Gaspay, who provided this writer with a printed copy of the e-mail exchanges, the Villa-Kasang-an road has been called “Panaaran” on account of the unfulfilled promises made by politicians at each election campaign period, who, to win the votes of Villahanons, always  promised to cement for them that road.


As of September 27, 2004, the VAMM solicited a total of 3,195 bags of cement, all coming from Villahanons in Metro Manila. There were also pledges from Villahanons in Norway and Canada.

A certain “Ruben” had created a website for this particular project in which to post all updates, including the names of donors from Norway and Canada, and their donations.

Addi Batica, a native of Basey, Samar who is residing abroad, had pledged 40 bags of cement, while one Luz Fallorina-Clark pledged 200 bags.

Engr. Murillo had said that one kilometer length of the road would need 9,000 bags of cement.   His computation of P170 per bag showed a total of P1,530,000 needed for each kilometer - or the equivalent of 27,321.42 dollars.

The association assumed the responsibility of soliciting 54,000 bags for some 6 kilometers of the distance.

The road actually stretches up to 9 kilometers from the town proper up to the highway. One kilometer of this was already cemented during the time of mayor Carlos Latorre. It cuts across sitio Lusong in Canmucat and barrios Nagkaduha, Macupa, Igot, Malunoy, and San Fernando. San Fernando is Villareal’s last barrio lying next to Pinabacdao’s barrio Bangon which borders the highway.

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