Spain's prime minister praised Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez on Wednesday for his efforts in bringing the South American nation out of social and economic poverty.
"He took a country that was almost in the social and economic doldrums and in just over two years, Uruguay is a country that is walking again, which is concerned about the weak and which has plans and results in social areas," Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said at a joint news conference with Vazquez, who arrived Tuesday for a two-day visit. Zapatero said Vazquez took over a country "of 3.5 million inhabitants with a million poor people and he has reduced this by half." During their meeting, the two leaders discussed the upcoming Iberoamerican summit in Santiago, Chile, immigration and terrorism. Zapatero said the two agreed to organize a campaign to better inform Uruguayans of the requirements needed to enter Spain to ensure they are not turned away on arrival. Vazquez, for his part, pledged full cooperation with Spain in the fight against terrorism. In the past, some members of the outlawed Basque separatist group ETA have sought refuge in Uruguay. Vazquez also thanked Spain for its efforts to try to resolve a dispute between Uruguay and Argentina over Uruguayan plans for a paper mill on their border. On Tuesday, Vazquez attended a gala dinner with King Juan Carlos, Zapatero and several ministers. He also met with Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz Gallardon. Later Wednesday, Vazquez flew to neighboring Portugal where he was to meet President Anibal Cavaco Silva. On Thursday, the two will hold a news conference. Also Thursday, the Uruguayan leader was to meet with Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates and visit the country's parliament