Honking car horns and waving flags in a heavy rain, tens of thousands of Uruguayans gathered on Montevideo’s main avenues the evening of Nov. 29 to celebrate the victory of José “Pepe” Mujica in that day’s runoff election for the presidency. According to projections based on early returns, Mujica, the candidate of the center-left Broad Front (Frente Amplio, FA), had won 50.1-51.6% of the votes, against 44.4-46.2% for former president Luis Alberto Lacalle (1990-1995) of the center-right National Party. Mujica had been heavily favored in opinion polls, and Lacalle quickly conceded in a televised address.
Mujica and his running mate, former economy minister Danilo Astori, will begin a five-year term on March 1. Mujica is succeeding the moderate socialist Tabaré Vázquez, who in 2004 became the first Broad Front candidate to win the presidency. (La Capital, Rosario, Argentina, Nov. 29; Reuters, Nov. 29)
Mujica was a founding member of the rebel National Liberation Movement-Tupamaros (MLN-T). He participated in clandestine actions starting in 1969, was taken prisoner en 1970, and was one of the 111 prisoners, mostly Tupamaros, who broke out of the Punta Carretas prison in September 1971. He was captured again in 1972 and remained a prisoner under brutal conditions during the 1973-1985 military dictatorship. Freed by a 1985 amnesty, Mujica led the former urban guerrilleros into the Broad Front coalition in 1989, winning a seat in the Chamber of Deputies in 1995 and in the Senate in 1999. He is married to a Senator Lucía Topolansky, also a former member of the MLN-T. (Agence France Presse, Nov. 29)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 29
See our last post on Uruguay.