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Montevideo, October 31st 2020 - 02:02 UTC

 

 

Government rotation in democratic Uruguay: business as usual

Monday, March 2nd 2020 - 10:06 UTC
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Lacalle Pou taking the oath of office in the Parliament along with most voted senator, José Mujica Lacalle Pou taking the oath of office in the Parliament along with most voted senator, José Mujica
With vice president Argimón in the 1937 Ford coupé With vice president Argimón in the 1937 Ford coupé
Thousands of riders accompany the president Thousands of riders accompany the president
Outgoing president Vazquez receives Lacalle Pou Outgoing president Vazquez receives Lacalle Pou

It was a March sunny Sunday in Montevideo, and for the solid democracy of Uruguay, business as usual. An outgoing center government was replaced by a center-right coalition that emerged victorious from the runoff last November. Despite fifteen years in office, three mandates, Luis Lacalle Pou, 46, is the new president for the next five years and for the first time with a woman vice president, notary Beatriz Argimón.

Ex president and head of the General Assembly Jose Mujica took the oath of office to Lacalle Pou and Argimón, quite a brief oath since Uruguay has no official religion and the leaders simply swear on their honor to respect and defend the Constitution of the country. The ceremony was at the Legislative Palace where both Lacalle Pou and Argimón had been lawmakers for several years.

Following the speech in which Lacalle Pou thanked this family, and his father ex president Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou, the new parliament, distinguished visitors among which the King of Spain and several South American presidents, the president outlined his government's program and intentions.

From the Legislative Palace in an open 1937 Ford Coupé, Lacalle and Argimón set off for the seat of the Executive where the outgoing president, Tabare Vazquez was waiting. However the two kilometers distance, cheered by thousands and hundreds of flags also included a big surprise for the residents of Montevideo. Some three thousand riders, gauchos and “chinas” (name of the gaucho ladies) escorted and followed the motorcade plus a chain of teen guards dressed in T shirts with the Uruguayan flag and crest formed a guard of honor.

In the main Independencia square next to Government House the ceremony continued. Lacalle helped a frail Vázquez, suffering from cancer, up the stairs to the stage. The two leaders embraced and Vazquez helped Lacalle with the presidential sash. A simple farewell ceremony for citizen Vazquez who left, while the new ministerial cabinet was announced and they signed their new jobs.

No incidents, no fights were reported and minimum police intervention at the most to contain selfies seekers.

A couple of anecdotes regarding the spirit of the change of government in Uruguay. Saturday midday the King of Spain, Phillip VI, who arrived to Montevideo on Friday, was invited for lunch at the president elect home. The King far from the Catalonia blues was welcomed by the neighbors and even mingled with the children who were playing soccer.

That Saturday evening Lacalle Pou participated in a barbecue with the hundreds of gauchos at the Prado rural exposition grounds where the horses of Sunday's parade were spending the night. Some young “pioneers” from Mujica's groupings tried to scare the horses with fire crackers, but the situation was rapidly overcome when such an instruction was denied.

The Brazilian president Jain Bolsonaro and “black beast” of the Latin American left, on Sunday was cheered by the crowd. When he realized they were calling his name, the president approached the group with the V sign with his fingers, asked for a Uruguayan flag and fluttered it to the delight of the crowd.

At the Legislative Palace, at the oath ceremony, some of the benches of the now opposition were empty. They belong to those disenchanted with the fact that Lacalle Pou made it a personal point not to invite the leaders of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. And they also abhorred the presence of what they consider the most 'fascists' leaders of the region, Brazil's Bolsonaro; Colombia's Ivan Duque; Chile's Sebastian Piñera and even Paraguay's Mario Abdón Benítez.

However Piñera facing months of social upheaval in Chile only had to live with some huge banners calling him a “dictator”, but that was all.

As was anticipated by MercoPress the Argentine president Alberto Fernandez, who had to address Congress on Sunday, and despite having time to cross the River Plate, 45 minutes in helicopter to congratulate Lacalle Pou, preferred to attend a soccer match in Buenos Aires.

Finally this Monday morning president Lacalle Pou keeping to his pledges will be joining his Interior (Home) minister Jorge Larranaga when some crime cracking measures are expected to be announced. Following that the president will join Economy minister Azucena Arbeleche in making some decisions regarding savings and government expenditure cuts.

Two of the most critical areas of immediate challenge, combating crime and ensuring Uruguay's investment grade rating.

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