Sunday, August 26, 2007

Uruguay, Religion and Taxes

Uruguay, Iglesia Univeral del Reino de Dios, ex Trocadero

Right after the economic crisis of 2002 a Brazilian Pentecostal church, called Iglesia Universal del Reino de Dios, spread all over the country, like a virus. They launched a very aggressive mediatic campaign including one hour spots in Uruguay air channels on a daily basis. Their slogan is Pare de Sufrir (stop suffering).

They are highly criticized for their methods, even among other Christian groups, since they grant special powers to physical objects, and they sell them. For example they launch campaigns like: "Buy the blessed candle" (and you will have God's blessing) or "Touch the mantle of discharge", of course only after you "donate" a reasonable fee.

They operate as a multinational corporation, they are huge in Brazil, and they have presence all over South American countries, including Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, and of course Brazil.

In Uruguay they usually took for temples what used to be cinemas. Probably the most popular case, is what used to be "El Cine Trocadero", a beautiful building in the middle of 18 de Julio, where now stands a branch of this church. This was yet another sad consequence of the economic crisis of 2002, another change in the urban landscape, where we traded cinemas & culture, for sects. It's the perfect business since religious activities are exempt of certain taxes in this country.

Under the new law, started in July 2007, the new IRPF tax, where do religious group's activities stand? Nobody was certain, until the first days of this month when all the religious groups received with surprise an increased bill (now they have to pay aportes patronales).

Catholic, Protestant, and Hebrew religious groups are planning to sue the government. They claim to be exempt and this taxing could be called unconstitutional, depending on the interpretation of the new law.

Now, I wonder, if I were the government, how could I do to tax sects like the Iglesia Universal del Reino de Dios which are clearly profit based and leave other true non profit organizations alone?


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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Chavez came to Uruguay

Everybody's been talking about Chavez's visit to Uruguay over the last couple of days, so I figured it would be worth it taking a moment and writing some thoughts on the matter. Chavez is doing a tour across south american countries to nail his acceptance in the Mercosur block, yet to be definitively approved. As a part of this tour it has visited Uruguay. Visit which took place yesterday and today. During his stay Chavez talked about the sea of oil Venezuela has, which is willing to share with his south american friends. Uruguay and Venezuela signed today an Energy Security treaty which in Chavez words will assure Uruguay a provision of oil and natural gas for a hundred years. On the other hand, Uruguay continues to play this game where with one hand shakes Bush's grip, with the other it taps Chavez on the back and welcomes him to the Mercosur party. Uruguay wants to be everyone's allied. Uruguay's president, Tabare Vazquez publicly expressed his support for Venezuela's membership acceptance into the block. In my opinion the entrance of Venezuela benefits Uruguay for sure in the short term. It provides a new actor in the Mercosur scene that will shake the Brazilian-Argentinean hegemony of power in the block, giving the smaller members a greater chance to be heard on their claims, plus it's always good to have a friend with plenty of spare oil. At the same time the constitution of the Mercosur states that all member countries must be democracies. Chavez was elected democratically, no question about that, but the direction of his actions, and of his government are not(when can it be said that a man is a dictator?) So, the question remains if including someone with this dictatorial tendencies will be good in the long term, when everyone that criticizes Chavez actions is labeled by him as a puppet of Bush, shutting up everyone that thinks different than him....

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Uruguay Places, Colonia de Sacramento

We’ve recently been to Colonia de Sacramento, Uruguay with my girlfriend, and I feel like paying a tribute post to the place. If you’ve never heard of it, check out the post where I introduce Colonia in this blog. It’s basically one of the top five places worth visiting in Uruguay.

Sometimes when we feel like recharging batteries we go to Colonia de Sacramento. It’s the sort of place you go when you want to escape from the city, noise, technology, etc. Make sure to take your special someone and a good book. That’s pretty much all is needed to spend a great weekend there.

What do you do there? Well, you walk the cobbledstone streets. You browse the crafts offered by the artisans, you enjoy the sun in the mini port, you eat some sea food. You dine in some romantic, candle lighted, stone walled restaurants.

You probably don’t want to be there more than two, or three days or you may get bored.

It caught my attention the number of tourist we saw there this time, we could hear English, French, and German being spoken at our sides. It's been always a very touristic place, but argentineans used to be the only foreigners around. Now the place seems so much more cosmopolite, I guess it's been included in the visit buenos aires one week circuit.

We stayed in a little familiar place, called Hotel Leoncia for 55 bucks a night. The place is not great, it's ok, and we had dinner in a place in the historic part of the city for around 27 usd both of us.

Here are some pictures of our retreat to Colonia...


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