Uruguay’s president halts plan to turn bronze Nazi eagle into peace dove
By Christopher F. Schuetze
Two days after announcing a plan to turn a 700-pound Nazi sculpture of an eagle holding a swastika into a peace dove, Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou said that the project had been canceled after thousands signed a petition calling for it to go to a museum instead.
Lacalle Pou said Sunday that in the hours since he presented the idea at a news conference Friday an “overwhelming majority” had objected to the plan to recast the eagle, which was found on a sunken German warship in Uruguayan waters in 2006.
“If you want to generate peace, the first thing you have to do is to generate unity, and clearly this has not generated that,” he told reporters in Cerro Largo, Uruguay. Saying that he still thought it was a good idea, he nonetheless acknowledged, “It is up to a president to listen and to represent.”
The 6-foot-tall eagle was on the stern of a German warship scuttled by its captain in the Plata River after it had been damaged in one of the first major battles of World War II.
The eagle has been contentious ever since it was recovered: The private salvaging operation that found the bronze claimed it had the right to sell the sculpture, while the German Foreign Ministry and Jewish groups warned that it should not go to private buyers seeking to glorify Nazism. The bronze stayed in a Uruguayan navy storage unit while legal battles over its ownership wound through the courts. The Uruguayan Supreme Court eventually gave custody of the sculpture to the national authorities.
The project to melt down the eagle and recast it as a dove had been in the hands of a Uruguayan artist, Pablo Atchugarry, but after it was announced thousands signed an online petition calling for the sculpture to be preserved in a museum. Felipe Artucio, the petition’s creator, wrote, “Remembering the bad, keeping in mind the symbols that represent it, is an enormous responsibility to society, both local and foreign.”
A day after the president’s initial announcement, Guido Manini Ríos, leader of the right-wing Cabildo Abierto party, which is in a coalition with Lacalle Pou’s conservative National Party, came out against the idea of converting the sculpture and threatened to introduce a parliamentary bill to prevent the eagle’s destruction.
Atchugarry, the artist, said that he would continue to work on a “symbol of peace” but agreed with the president’s decision to cancel the idea of using the material of the Nazi eagle.
“A symbol of peace and union cannot be born out of discord,” Atchugarry wrote on Facebook.