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Montevideo, July 5th 2022 - 12:39 UTC



Former Uruguayan Tourism minister forced to resign has many influential friends in the political system

Wednesday, August 25th 2021 - 08:36 UTC
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German Cardoso with president Lacalle Pou German Cardoso with president Lacalle Pou
 President Luis Lacalle Pou with the new Tourism minister, lawmaker Tabare Viera, President Luis Lacalle Pou with the new Tourism minister, lawmaker Tabare Viera,

“Please be careful with the management of public monies”, Uruguayan president Luis Lacalle Pou advised the newly appointed Tourism minister, lawmaker Tabare Viera, who on Monday replaced German Cardoso, also elected lawmaker but extremely pragmatic in his political alliances, and audaciously close on occasions to redlines.

Cardoso was forced to resign following claims of contracting publicity and not complying with established procedures, but complaining he was the victim of a furious and angry campaign to erase him. He anticipated he would demand a congressional investigation committee into the alleged claims, but dating back to 2010, to prove he used the same methods and procedures as former ministers from the now main opposition party, Broad Front, while an opposition lawmaker has also requested another investigation committee but only limited to the 18 months minister Cardoso was in office. Sometime later this week the Uruguayan Lower House will decide on an only unified investigation committee or the two initiatives.

The newly appointed minister, Viera is a dentist and math teacher, and the political chief of the Rivera county, next to Brazil, the last stronghold of the Uruguayan Partido Colorado, until two decades ago the leading force that ruled Uruguay for over a century. The Colorados are now junior members of the current ruling coalition. Viera and his appointed successors have been mayors of Rivera, uninterruptedly and he has alternated as member of the Lower House, Senate and the board of some of the many companies belonging to the Uruguayan state. This is the first time he has been appointed minister.

He replaced German Cardoso, once son in law of a powerful politician in the prosperous county of Maldonado, famous for its ocean beaches, resting (and hiding) place for many rich and famous Argentines who have invested billions in real estate, farming and local businesses.

Gregarious, easy going, charming Cardoso has been an elected member of the Maldonado county council, member of Parliament on several occasions and was involved in many businesses of his deceased father in law, including his raft of powerful contacts. In effect Cardoso was first caught in phone taps, requesting favors from a police superintendent inspector whose appointment he supported. He managed to dribble this first challenge but with a yellow card.

However this time a head of the Tourism ministry department, and from his own Colorado party, claimed he was forcibly instructed to approve the contracting of publicity for over half a million dollars, and direct purchases of some goods, to which he refused and was fired. Media got word of the matter and this forced president Lacalle Pou and the chair of the Colorado party, ex president Julio Maria Sanguinetti to decide Cardoso's replacement.

Cardoso claimed he was the victim of a callous campaign, pledged he would ask for an investigation into the allegations when he returned to parliament and a lawmaker also from Maldonado, but from the opposition and on his own initiative, Eduardo Antonini, also called for an investigation committee in parliament.

President Lacalle Pou said that Cardoso's decision was “adequate and correct; I value his decision to resign to the ministry, it will clear issues and reinforces the coalition's support”. The president also praised Cardoso's attitude during the pandemic, “he had a very complex job balancing the different interests of a sector so punished as has been tourism in these years”.

But whatever the evolution and outcome of one/two investigation committees, many are politically in debt with Cardoso and he has Francis' blessing. To start with the request from opposition Broad Front lawmaker Antonini was personal, he underlined the fact. Besides Cardoso has been a good pupil of his deceased former father in law, ex senator Wilson Sanabria, who started as a child looking after milk cows in Maldonado's culverts but became a formidable political fixer.

This means Sanabria was prepared to grant the different elected legislative councils of Maldonado the necessary votes to have legislation approved, particularly regarding construction codes, obviously in exchange for favors to help him with his own businesses, family and electorate. The Colorado party has not won an election in Maldonado since 1990, but with Sanabria and Cardoso has always managed to have a foot in the local government be it under the current Blancos or their predecessors, the alleged socialist Broad Front.

Last but not least a few years ago during a visit to the Vatican of a delegation of Uruguayan politicians, Pope Francis shared mate with Cardoso (before the pandemic) and exchanged a medal, “I like you fellows from Uruguay, take back my blessings to Maldonado, Salto and that wonderful country”.

Categories: Politics, Tourism, Uruguay.

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