The Office of Defense Cooperation of the U.S. Embassy in Uruguay is constantly working on building and strengthening bonds and institutional ties to promote the security, stability, and prosperity of Uruguayan citizens through a wide array of programs, donations, and exchange initiatives. The COVID-19 pandemic was not the exception, since the United States and Uruguay worked from the beginning to enhance response capabilities throughout the country.
From the moment the Uruguayan government declared the state of health emergency in March, U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), through its Humanitarian Assistance Program (HAP), made eight donations of medical equipment to clinics, hospitals, and Uruguay’s National Emergency System (SINAE, in Spanish) to cooperate with the Uruguayan government’s response plan to COVID-19. The donations, which were made in different stages, included blood scanners, vital signs monitors, ICU beds for hospitals, and personal protective equipment for hospitals and clinics. The most recent donation consisted of 88 tablets so children and adolescents from Uruguay’s National Institute for Children and Adolescent Affairs (INAU, in Spanish) can study remotely during the pandemic. U.S. Ambassador to Uruguay Kenneth S. George presented the tablets to the president of INAU, Dr. Pablo Abdala, in August.
During the event, which was held at the INAU headquarters, Ambassador George said it is important to help young people reach their academic goals despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. “We are proud to be delivering these 88 tablets today, which will allow children and adolescents who receive care at INAU centers throughout the country to continue with their studies in spite of the pandemic,” Ambassador George said during his remarks. “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a particular impact on children and adolescents who do not have parents or other adults taking care of them, or who live in vulnerable situations. This assistance from SOUTHCOM will allow these children to continue participating in the educational process.”
U.S. Air Force Colonel Gary Symon, senior defense officer from the U.S. Embassy’s Office of Defense Cooperation in Uruguay, expressed his satisfaction with the advances of the many examples of U.S. assistance to Uruguay through SOUTHCOM’s HAP.
Col. Symon also pointed out that the joint work done since the pandemic reached Uruguay is just the most recent example of SOUTHCOM’s HAP in the country. During the last 20 years, the Office of Defense Cooperation has managed over $9 million in construction projects in Uruguay, including a medical and dentistry clinic that opened in Santa Catalina (Cerro) in 2007, and renovation work done at the Artigas Youth Center (Salto) to make it accessible. These renovations were presented in April 2010, and they included building an accessible pool, renovating lockers, bathrooms, and running track, and renovating the ring at the Equestrian Center. The work done with the SOUTHCOM funds at this center allowed it to host the first regional paralympic games in October 2010.
Other projects highlighted by Col. Symon were the construction of a warehouse for SINAE to use in case of disasters, which opened in 2011, the construction of a medical and dentistry clinic in Chapicuy (Paysandú) for $1.5 million, and the historic donation of $3.2 million to build a kitchen and industrial laundry rooms at the CEREMOS Center (former Etchepare) in San José, which opened in 2018.