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Uruguay's Vazquez returns to office a decade later but with a different economic climate

Monday, March 2nd 2015 - 07:00 UTC
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The incoming and outgoing presidents effusively embrace in the stage mounted in the Independence Plaza The incoming and outgoing presidents effusively embrace in the stage mounted in the Independence Plaza
Vazquez and vice-president Sendic in the Fordson van are applauded and cheered by the crowd as they are driven to Independence Plaza Vazquez and vice-president Sendic in the Fordson van are applauded and cheered by the crowd as they are driven to Independence Plaza

Tabare Vazquez was sworn in as president of Uruguay Sunday, returning to office a decade after first leading the centre left catch-all coalition to power and drawing a curtain on folksy farmer Jose Mujica's colorful rule. Vazquez, a cancer doctor with a more buttoned-down style than the outspoken Mujica, won 53.6% of the vote in a November 30 presidential run-off, reclaiming the office he previously held from 2005 to 2010.

 Mujica, a former guerrilla fighter known for legalizing marijuana, gay marriage and abortion, handed the presidential sash back to his predecessor and Broad Front (FA) party colleague, reversing their roles from five years ago in this country that bars presidents from serving consecutive terms.

After taking the oath of office before the National Assembly, he called for dialogue on issues facing the country, at a moment when the parties that long dominated Uruguayan politics, the Blancos (Whites) and Colorados (Reds), are reeling from a string of FA victories.

“We can and we must analyze and dialogue respectfully together on the different paths to achieve the best public education for our people, to have quality health care for all, dignified housing,” he said.

Vazquez and his vice-president Raul Sendic were driven from Parliament to the Executive building in an open 1947 Fordson van. While studying to become a doctor the future president earned a living with a delivery in the small van which some friends recovered and refurbished for the occasion.

In the Independence Plaza, where all special guests including heads of state and government were seated, Vazquez formally received the presidential sash from Mujica and later took the oath of office to his cabinet.

Vazquez, 75, cuts a more sober figure than the outspoken Mujica, and has criticized some of his reforms -- including a still-unimplemented plan to sell marijuana at pharmacies, a key element of the new cannabis law.

The two allies have clashed at times within the FA, and Vazquez announced his new cabinet in December without consulting Mujica. However the former president steps down more popular than ever, with an approval rating over 60%.

The 79-year-old farmer attracted international attention as much for his lifestyle as his policies.

Under Mujica, Uruguay became the first country in the world to fully legalize marijuana all the way from the cannabis field to the joint, setting up a regulated market for cultivation, sales and use.

The leader, who will now become a senator, was also known for his candid -- and sometimes less-than-diplomatic -- remarks.

A live microphone once caught him saying: “This old hag is worse than the one-eyed guy.” It was a reference to Argentine President Cristina Fernandez and her late husband and former president Nestor Kirchner, who had a lazy eye.

Critics point to Mujica's shortcomings, including his failure to implement education reform, even as the country's academic achievements fell.

Vazquez inherits a country facing a tougher economic climate than when he first took office in 2005. Uruguay has enjoyed 12 years of unbroken growth and record-low unemployment, but the agricultural dynamo is now struggling to deal with the end of the global commodities boom.

Inflation is now more than one point above the official target range of three to seven percent, and Uruguay's giant neighbors Argentina and Brazil are both experiencing economic downturns.

Categories: Politics, Latin America, Uruguay.

Top Comments

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  • Frank

    How they ever let that obscenity of a building ( the one in the background in that shot) ever be built in that position is one of life's great mysteries...

    Mar 02nd, 2015 - 10:22 am 0
  • ChrisR

    Yes, the economic climate is much harder than when Vasquez was first president BUT he didn't inherit then the shambles and the 'money for the poor' crap that the murdering commie bastard Mujica set up.

    He is nothing other than a murderer who now, in more advance society 'regrets' some of the things he did. Read some of the blogs on him leaving the presidency and you will see a much different appraisal than this white washed crap.

    So good riddance to Mujica an a hope that his harridan wife doesn't get to be Major of MVD, though even she could not make matters worse with the crime levels.

    Mar 02nd, 2015 - 10:47 am 0
  • Britworker

    I wonder how long it will be before his neighbour forces him to make a Falkland Islands speech. Although Bachelet seems to have been very successful on not being drawn on the subject since her reinstatement.

    Mar 02nd, 2015 - 05:38 pm 0
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