Sunday, November 29, 2009
Pragmatic former revolutionary wins Uruguay presidency
Word comes from Uruguay that a former guerrilla leader turned politician has been elected president of the South American country after pledging to continue the leftist economic policies of his predecessor. Jose Mujica, 74, a Socialist senator who served 15 years in prison for his role in founding the radical Tupamaro insurgency that fought for years to install a Cuba-inspired Marxist government, was leading by 10 percentage points in Sunday night's runoff with 80 percent of the vote counted, according to the New York Times. Tens of thousands of turned out on the banks of the Rio de la Plata in Montevideo, the capital, to celebrate the election of Mujica, the candidate of the ruling Broad Front party. Current president Tabare Vazquez, whose socialist and market reforms helped lower Uruguay's unemployment rate while boosting economic investment, had enjoyed a more than 60 percent approval rating but was ineligible to run again, since Uruguay's constitution only permits a single term. “Tomorrow the commitment to our homeland continues,” Mujica said today in a speech, as Vázquez stood nearby. “Thank you, Tabaré, for the continuation of this government.” Mujica, who had caused a stir in the region by criticizing Argentina's president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, promised Sunday to "fight hard to have a good relationship with Argentina," the Times said. Mujica defeated National Party candidate Luis Lacalle, Uruguay's president from 1990 to 1995. Lacalle, who favored privatization of government-owned industries, also lost re-election bids in 1999 and 2004. He conceded the election in his own Sunday night address. The Broad Front coalition includes the Communist and Christian Democratic parties.