Tabaré Vázquez Takes Up Mujica’s Mantle in Uruguay


EspañolOn Sunday, March 1, Tabaré Vázquez was inaugurated as president of Uruguay, bringing the five-year administration of his predecessor José “Pepe” Mujica to an end.

The new president will have the task of implementing the partial legalization of marijuana spearheaded by Mujica, and confronting the South American nation’s fiscal deficit.

The 75-year-old Vázquez, an oncologist by profession, told press that the values guiding his administration would be “liberty, equality, justice, democracy, determination, enlightenment, solidarity, brotherhood, integration, and respect and tolerance for others.”

“They’re commandments that emerge from Artiguista thought,” he explained, referring to independence-era national hero José Artigas.

Vázquez, who previously governed the country between 2005 and 2010, belongs to the same Broad Front party as his predecessor: a coalition of socialist politicians, Christian democrats, former guerrilla fighters, and communists.

“We must analyze and discuss together the various ways to achieve better public education, health of equal quality for all, or a dignified dwelling for every inhabitant,” he added.

“José Mujica arrives at the inauguration of Tabaré Vázquez in his 1987 Volkswagen.”

The newly elected president also mentioned that Sunday marked 30 years of uninterrupted democracy in the Southern Cone nation. The assembled public in Montevideo’s historic Plaza de Independencia hailed Vázquez with chants of “Y ya lo ve, el presidente es Tabaré” (Now see it, the president is Tabaré).

Legislation propelled by Mujica on the regularization of the sale of marijuana for medical purposes still remains to be implemented. Vázquez will have to oversee the process of choosing the pharmaceutical companies allowed to grow and sell cannabis in stores, with a limit on individual purchases per month.

The president described the fact that the substance would soon be available in pharmacies as “incredible,” but said he was “alert every day” and that legalization could be rescinded if it proved unworkable.

Crowd Jeers Argentinean, Venezuelan Vice Presidents

Vázquez’s inauguration ceremony was attended by fellow regional Presidents Michelle Bachelet (Chile), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), Raúl Castro (Cuba), and Ollanta Humala (Peru). Also present were Union of South American Nations (Unasur) Secretary General Ernesto Samper and José Miguel Insulza, secretary of the Organization of American States (OAS).

Argentinean Vice President Amado Boudou, currently under investigation on corruption charges, as well as his Venezuelan counterpart Jorge Arreaza, was jeered and booed by the crowd when their names were read out at the ceremony that transferred power from Mujica to Vázquez. Spanish King Juan Carlos I also met with the same hostile reception.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro confirmed on Saturday that he wouldn’t be attending the ceremony due to domestic difficulties in his own country. According to Maduro, an “attempted coup d’etat” against his government is underway.

Cuban premier Raúl Castro meanwhile delivered a lengthy speech when his turn came to hail the new president.

Spending Continues, Deficit Down

The leader gave details of his forthcoming policies for the next five years via a speech broadcast on the national channel at 8 p.m. local time.

“For the second time I feel the pride and responsibility of assuming the presidency of the republic. Tomorrow, life will go on, and Uruguay will continue advancing,” he said.

With regard to the fiscal deficit left by his predecessor, Vázquez promised to establish fiscal equilibrium and keep annual inflation below 7 percent.

He signaled that his presidency would unveil a “plan of democratic and humanist culture” to combat narco-trafficking, delinquency, corruption, and money laundering. Vázquez also promised to digitize government forms so citizens can fill them out online.

A program of social spending will include the “system of care,” a plan seeking to provide parents of children under 3 years old, the elderly, and disabled people with additional support.

The president estimated that coverage for the country of 3.3 million people will cost the state US$240 million, and would be financed with both public and private contributions.

Turning to education, he promised to improve quality nationwide, including the forging of an “integrated system for basic education” from three to 14 years. And despite the country’s liberal stance on marijuana, Vázquez said that his administration would “develop very strong steps on alcohol, similar to those we’ve taken on tobacco.”

Under his leadership, he concluded, Uruguay would seek to attract investment and consolidate regional and international markets for national products. Vázquez emphasized that his policies would be directed towards an “open regionalism” that fully respected international law.

Translated by Laurie Blair. Edited by Guillermo Jimenez.

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