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Uruguay inaugurates leftist government for the first time in history

Tabare Vazquez is the new President of this traditionally conservative South American nation. Millions celebrate a victory which they say belongs “to the people”.

Uruguay completed on Tuesday an historical shift to left. For the first time in its 174 years of history, this traditionally conservative nation inaugurated a center-left government putting an end to an equal amount of years of two-party rule.

Tabare Vazquez, a 64 year Socialist doctor, will have now the enormous responsibility of fulfilling the expectations of over 3 millions of Uruguayans who celebrated his victory in October elections as a “triumph of the people”.  Chanting slogans and greeting the new authorities, thousands of Uruguayans filled the streets of Montevideo, the European looking beautiful capital, to express support to the President.

“I have not come alone," Vazquez told a packed ceremony at Congress. "I take the office as president of the republic with the support of hundreds of thousands of compatriots who expressed their democratic wishes last Oct. 31 for a better country for all Uruguayans." Vazquez also promised, “a better country for all”.

Presidents of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Peru and Venezuela attended to Vazquez inauguration, as well as the Prince Felipe of Spain and Prince Edward of the United Kingdom. Fidel Castro, who was also expected in Montevideo to assist to the restoration of bilateral ties between Uruguay and Cuba -broke off in 2002-, failed to attend arguing a health condition.

Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Vazquez in a statement released by the Kremlin Press Service. In the document, Putin remarked the good level of mutual “friendship, confidence and respect” between both nations. “It is pleasing to see that Russia and Uruguay continue to hold an active political dialogue today and are expanding their cultural and humanitarian ties”, reads Putin communiquй.

Judging by the political line of most of the Latin American leaders who met in Montevideo to congratulate their new counterpart, it becomes clear the shift to left in the region. According to observers, Uruguay's turn will strengthen the Mercosur bloc –with Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay-, as weakens US chances to sign a free trade deal for the Americas in the short term.

The new cabinet will be composed by a representative combination of progressive leaders coming from the Frente Amplio, or Broad Front, a 34-year center-left coalition of Socialists, Social-Democrats, Centrist forces, Communists and a majority of former guerrilla leaders, the worldwide famous Tupamaros. Also for the first time in country’s history, the Colorados (coloured) and Blancos (whites) conservative parties, will be in the opposition after losing control over the lower and the upper chambers of the Parliament.  

Vazquez’s inauguration came in a tough moment in Uruguay’s history. After the Argentine debacle in 2001, Uruguay suffered from a financial crisis which almost ended in crack in August 2002. However, the major problems the new government will face are the social consequences of the economical disarrangement, with 32% of the population living under the poverty line and 12% unemployed, a situation aggravated by the enormous foreign debt that reached 106% of country’s GDP last year.

To attend to these demands, first measures Vazquez will launch an ambitious Social Emergency Plan to be handled by the new Social Action Ministry controlled by the Communist Party and to call on the Economy National Council, where business chambers, unions and NGO’s will play an active role.

Tabare's carnival

Montevideo lives in a mood of permanent popular celebration, nowadays, but not only thanks to the inauguration of Tabare's government, but also because carnival season is at its best. Montevideo's carnival is a widely popular celebration in Uruguay, which includes the competition of “murgas”, musical groups whose performances are followed with great passion by the people.

Lyrics of Murgas' humoristic songs usually talk about Uruguayan life-style, country’s culture, soccer and, most of all, politics. Composers have been always of popular extraction and critics of the conservative rule. That is why is not difficult to understand why this year, most of them dedicated their songs to celebrate the Frente Amplio victory in October elections.

In the “tablados”, carnival theaters, murga singers greeted the victory of “Tabare”, as they friendly call the new President, as well as remembered all those who suffered from persecution during the military dictatorship that ruled the country between 1973 and 1984.

“It’s a victory of the people of Uruguay who dared to change”, sings Falta y Resto, one of the most popular of these murgas, in a tablado crowned by a huge national flag, just as huge as the hope of these South Americans who, effectively, dared to change.

Hernan Etchaleco
Montevideo – Buenos Aires

Photo (PRAVDA.Ru): Uruguayans wave the red, blue and white tricolor flag of the Frente Amplio, a traditional ensign which once belonged to Gen. Jose Artigas' popular militias early in the 19th century.

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