Uruguay's Interior Minister Jorge Larrañaga has died of a heart attack at the age of 64, President Luis Lacalle Pou announced Saturday. “Jorge Larrañaga passed away. Very hard! I've learned to love and respect him. He was affectionate even in the harshness of the battle. We have competed, we have cooperated, we have respected each other. He was at his best. RIP,” Lacalle Pou posted on Twitter.
The Interior Minister and leader of the center-right White National Alliance Larrañaga was appointed Minister of the Interior March 1, 2020.
Tougher than ever, a gladiator of the Republic fell. An example of commitment, honesty and courage. Our emotion towards him and his family, tweeted former two-time President Julio María Sanguinetti (1985-1990, 1995-2000) , from the Colorado Party (PC).
The opposition Broad Front (FA) also conveyed its condolecences to his relatives, friends and colleagues on social media.
Larrañaga was one of the long-winded men within the National Party, the conservative group which in March 2020 broke with 15 years of left-wing FA hegemony.
Larrañaga was a presidential candidate for the National Party in 2004 when he lost to Tabaré Vázquez, the only president in the history of Uruguay who won an election in the first round and managed to break the bipartisanship between whites and colorados since the 1930s.
In the 2009 presidential elections, the first to be won by the leftist José 'Pepe' Mujica, Larrañaga teamed up with Lacalle Pou as a candidate for vice president, a lineup they both repeated in 2014.
During his tenure as Minister of the Interior, Larrañaga set out to reinforce the role of the national police, fight drug trafficking and rearrange Uruguay's prisons.
He was mayor of his native Paysandú between 1990 and 1999 and in 2000 he leapfrogged into the national arena as the leader and founder of a division of the PN which sought a renewal Uruguayan rightwing. Since then and until he became Interior Minister, he never left his seat in the Senate.
Larrañaga, a horse-racing buff, received nothing but words of praise from his former political rivals as well. Álvaro Vázquez, son of former President Tabaré Vázquez, who died in December 2020, said of Larrañaga that he was “a respectable and loyal man”.
Within the National Party he led the National Alliance sector. “The National Party, with devastating pain, regrets to report the death of its dear companion and committed leader to his people and his country Jorge Larrañaga. Given the impact of his devastating departure, our eternal respect and recognition,” announced the National Party.
Larrañaga was born on August 8, 1956 and was the only son of Jorge Larrañaga and Ketty Fraga. At the age of 4 or 5 they began to call him “El Guapo” (The Tough One), due to his defiant position in the face of adult grumbling.
From his first marriage with Ana María Vidal, Larrañaga had three children: Jorge, Aparicio and Juan Francisco. In 2005 he divorced Vidal and later had a fourth son, Faustino, with his new spouse María Liliana Echenique.
Uruguayan Vice President Beatriz Argimón said: “Many hours of shared militancy. Many dreams and projects as a leader. Rest in Peace dear friend Jorge Larrañaga. Thank you for your strength and commitment. We are going to miss you a lot. A big hug to his family, she wrote.
Health Minister Daniel Salinas defined Larrañaga as “a great human being and friend” and added in his message posted on Twitter: “He gave everything for our country.”
Pedro Bordaberry of the Colorado Party assured that Larrañaga was the best guy to come across Uruguayan politics. “The most loyal and frontal; how we are going to miss you Jorge Larrañaga; big hug to his family, friends and party of him; We will pray for his eternal rest”, he stressed.
Lacalle Pou had picked Larrañaga for the Interior ministry following the latter's Living without fear” project, which sought to reform the Constitution to include, among other aspects, the creation of a National Guard that would collaborate with the Police in citizen security, the penalty of permanent imprisonment that could be reviewed or night raids, which was finally rejected in the plebiscite held in October 2009 but in spite of which he remained focused on finding solutions to the problems of insecurity.
A wake is to be held Sunday at Montevideo's Legislative Palace between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. local time (12.00-15.00 GMT), after which he will be laid down to rest in his native Paysandú.