A much awaited brief but significant embrace between the two main leaders of Uruguay’s ruling coalition took place Monday in the port of Montevideo, an event which should help the incumbent candidate in the run up to Sunday’s presidential election.
Presidential hopeful Jose Mujica who has had trouble lately for speaking out his mind and soul heartily embraced with President Tabare Vazquez before tens of photographers and television camera-men, at the beginning and the end of a protocol ceremony which turned into a political milestone.
Uruguay’s Navy academy schooner Capitan Miranda was returning from a 270 day world tour and President Vazquez with several ministers and military commanders was at the port of Montevideo to receive them.
So was the ruling coalition candidate Jose Mujica, who had previously tried on several occasions to meet with the president (and his strong public opinion support) in an attempt to heal some of his verbal excesses that have been eroding his support and questioning some of his policy positions.
President Vázquez apparently had been avoiding the meeting arguing he had to remain neutral in the electoral dispute, and possibly trying to forget some of Mujica’s comments on the workings of the ruling Broad Front which the popular leader had described as “stupidities”.
The opening and closing embraces of the two leaders should help to seal unity inside the Broad Front, which has been exposed to much internal bickering since they are both “temperamental characters” said sources from the coalition’s campaign command.
President Vazquez made short but conciliatory remarks admitting there have been differences with Mujica, both during his tenure as Agriculture minister and as the head of the main group inside the coalition, but “we are a plural organization and these things are natural, sometimes positive and happen”.
According to all public opinion polls Mujica leads in vote intention for Sunday’s presidential election, but he is short of the 50% plus one vote needed to avoid a run off in November.
President Vazquez, who was elected in October 2004 with no need of a run off after almost five years in government (March 2010) is leaving office with the highest approval ratings since the return of democracy to Uruguay in 1985.