The president of Uruguay, José Mujica, praised the co-operative enterprise model in his speech at the 50th anniversary of the Uruguayan Federation of Worker Co-operatives (FCPU).
Mr Mujica praised the federation for its work throughout the years, sustaining and promoting co-operative development across the country.
He said: “It is easy to theorize about worker solidarity, but it is not so easy to apply it. Capitalism is present everywhere and selfishness can become a natural tendency for human beings.
“Much more important than teaching solidarity is actually spreading this principle through the media, which tend to be against creating a culture of solidarity, and instead try to create a purchasing and consuming culture.”
Mr Mujica added it can be difficult to join efforts for the common good because profit would need to be re-invested and not spread among those who helped with the work.
He said: “This is why I have to congratulate you [the FCPU], because the idea is marvellous and it is great because it has managed to survive in spite of having faced the worst conditions, fenced in our society.”
The president also highlighted some of the challenges faced by co-ops in Uruguay, one of them being the difficulty of getting finance to fund their projects.
He said that when it comes to granting loans, “banks prefer businessmen, even if these are broke”. He added that banks might think a worker who wants to set up a co-operative along with other fellow workers cannot present strong guarantees.
In spite of these challenges, Mr Mujica said the co-operative movement in Uruguay continues to develop because “it has something very valuable: the attempt to become one’s own boss, to learn how to govern and get to know the others. Working together this is a principle of superior rank, it is an essential part of our human condition”.
Mr Mojica also added that co-operatives tend to face crisis better than other enterprises because they are more unite and manage to compromise and find solutions whilst maintaining jobs. Their main aim is to protect their members and they are not solely focused on profit making. This makes them more resilient in times of crisis, said the president, adding that on long term co-ops usually re-gain what they have lost during crisis.
The president also said that strong co-ops need strong banks to support them.
“We have to spread this enthusiasm to everyone else,” said President Mujica in his concluding remarks.
Founded in 1962, the FCPU aims to promote worker co-operatives as a successful and fair enterprise model, whilst working together with similar co-operative organizations from across the world.