Montevideo’s first woman and Communist elected mayor, Ana Olivera took office on Friday promising to streamline the overweight administration of Uruguay’s capital and in six months, a spic-and-span city.
This is the fifth consecutive five-year mandate that the current Uruguayan ruling catch all coalition will be governing the capital of Uruguay and its 1.5 million residents.
“This is a historic day for Uruguay and of even greater responsibility; this is the fifth time the Broad Front coalition has been chosen by the people of Montevideo, but we have a long agenda waiting for us”, said Ms Olivera.
A Communist militant since her student days, Ms Olivera, 57, was exiled in France during the Uruguayan military dictatorship (1973/1984) and has held several posts in the Montevideo cabinet and in the last five years was Deputy Secretary for Social Development, a ministry created in 2005 when the Broad Front won the national election for the first time.
Among those present at the ceremony held in Montevideo’s City Hall was President Jose Mujica, several cabinet ministers and First Lady and Senator Lucia Topolansky.
Ms Olivera promised to advance housing projects to help eliminate “irregular squatter settlements” that abound in Montevideo’s periphery, “in support of President Mujica’s campaign” and also to turn the capital into a “clean shinning city”, putting an end to “garbage dumps” and filthy streets.
The city of Montevideo has an annul budget of over 500 million US dollars, an estimated 15,000 on the payroll and receives financial aid from the central government.
Montevideo has been under the Broad Front coalition control since 1990 consolidating support with solid electoral victories with 55% of the vote on the following three elections.
However this time, Ms Olivera only managed 45% of the vote and this is attributed to internal problems inside the ruling coalition and to the natural erosion after 20 years of ruling Montevideo.
On Friday also another 13 mayors of the 19 districts in which Uruguay is divided were sworn into office, including for the first time two women, in Lavalleja and in Artigas, plus the re-election of Omar Laluff in Rio Negro.
Laluff’s reinstatement is important since the capital of Rio Negro, Fray Bentos has been at the heart of the long standing dispute with neighbouring Argentina over the construction of a pulp mill along the shared waters of the River Uruguay.
Activists and environmentalist on the other side of a bridge linking the two countries, in the Argentine city of Gualeguaychú blocked traffic for almost four years since 2006 demanding the relocation of the pulp mill as a threat to the environment.
Presidents Mujica and Cristina Kirchner have agreed on a road map of a definitive solution to the dispute which is expected to be announced next month.