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Montevideo, June 1st 2023 - 23:30 UTC



Uruguay presidential debate focused on economy and security ahead of the ballotage on November 24

Thursday, November 14th 2019 - 09:57 UTC
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A cold and serious handshake ended the debate between the opposition candidate, Luis Lacalle Pou, and the ruling party candidate, Daniel Martínez A cold and serious handshake ended the debate between the opposition candidate, Luis Lacalle Pou, and the ruling party candidate, Daniel Martínez

In a tense debate a week and little of the second round of the presidential election in Uruguay, on Wednesday night the candidates offered profound differences both in terms of economy, public security and the country's positioning in foreign policy mentioning the dictatorship of Venezuela.

The engineer and former mayor of Montevideo, Daniel Martínez (62), candidate of the current ruling Frente Amplio (left), and the lawyer and former senator Luis Lacalle Pou (46), who heads a coalition led by the National Party (PN, center right), clashed strongly in the first debate organized by law in the history of the country, facing the second presidential round that will take place on November 24.

In 2005, when the Frente Amplio coalition came to power, “it had to do an ordination policy,” Martínez launched over the years prior to the management of his political force in which the PN and the Colorado Party, the two traditional forces of the country, simultaneously ruled. Uruguay became “the most equal country in wealth distribution in Latin America” with the administration of the left, he said.

With a stagnant economy, strong unemployment of 9.5% and red numbers in public finances of 4.9% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Uruguay, Lacalle Pou commented on his side that “the Broad Front program establishes raising taxes”, a strategy that the government has repeatedly used to make fiscal adjustments, despite the many promises to the contrary.

He questioned the ruling party for not fulfilling his promise by assuming in 2014 of not raising taxes. “People can no longer with taxes,” Lacalle Pou said.

In addition, Lacalle Pou proposed to make savings in a state that spends badly and is costly, in order to ”lower the rates of fuel (among the most expensive in the world) and electricity,“ further open the economy to the world to lower tariffs and achieve new trade agreements with the Mercosur block: Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay.

Martínez said a controversial investment by the Finnish multinational UPM to build a second cellulose processing plant in central Uruguay - strongly questioned by environmentalists - will generate 10,000 jobs as of 2020.

Lacalle Pou fired his darts by the proximity of the FA to the Chavez regime in Venezuela: ”Is it a mistake and a mistake to continue embracing the Venezuelan dictatorship?“ Asked the candidate, who accused Martinez of ”very close people“ of having done ”big business“ with the Venezuelan regime.

”It is a matter of human rights, of the dead, of torture,“ he said, noting that Uruguay ”has to leave the sad list that leaves us excluded in the world“ because of its proximity to Venezuela.

In a debate with a format that enabled interruptions among candidates, applicants appealed little to this resource until they addressed the thorny issue of citizen security, a priority among voters. Lacalle strongly criticized the government's management in that regard.

Uruguay recorded a 45% increase in the homicide rate in 2018 over 2017 and several large drug shipments arrived in Europe from Uruguayan soil by air and sea.

The official candidate proposed more intelligence to combat drug trafficking and increase the ongoing police operations, while his opponent accused him of having ”an ideological issue with security“ and the exercise of authority.

”They have had resources for 15 years. This issue is not due to lack of police or resources,“ said Lacalle Pou, who insisted on the implementation of the law that contemplates assigning military to border patrols to fight drug trafficking.

Some 2.6 million Uruguayans are called to vote on the second round of Sunday, November 24, to define by simple majority of votes the successor of Tabaré Vázquez from March 1. The coalition led by Lacalle Pou leads the polls with 49% of the intention to vote against 42% of Martinez.

On the other hand, given the conformation of the next legislature, if Lacalle Pou effectively reaches the presidency, he will have a multicolored coalition of at least five parties that assure him 56 deputies in 99, and 17 Senators out of 30 that make up the Upper House. Martínez, on the other hand, would have a minority bench, aggravated by the fact that during the campaign, the different members of the Frente Amplio coalition have dedicated themselves to criticize the other parties without restraint.

Martinez harassed by the questions about the multiple mistakes made, and admitted, by the ruling party in fifteen years, defensively argued that he is not moved by ideological complexes and that if he is president, he will be the boss. ”One thing is the proposals of the Broad Front program, and others that President Martinez decides,” he concluded.

Categories: Politics, Uruguay.

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