Monday, October 26, 2009

Elections in Uruguay: blasts from the past

The Uruguayan presidential election will go to a runoff because no candidate received a majority. However, Frente Amplio candidate José Mújica received just under 50% so will be the next president barring an utter collapse.

Much is being made of the fact that Mújica is an aged ex-Tupamaro guerrilla. Of more interest to me, however, is the generational angle and the fact that Luis Alberto Lacalle came in second. He is a former president (1990-1995), following that persistent pattern of Latin American presidents retiring for a while and then trying to come back (for example, right now we have Oscar Arias in Costa Rica and Alan García in Peru). The other candidate was Pedro Bordaberry, son of a former president and dictator.

A runoff between Mújica and Lacalle is a time warp. From a policy perspective, this is not likely to matter much. Either candidate would not change the popular policy direction of current president Vázquez (see Boz's discussion).

Lacalle is like Eduardo Frei in Chile, trying to convince voters why he is still relevant (and he convinced less than a third). And now he will be in a runoff with someone who became a guerrilla when the Cuban revolution was still new.

Not exactly inspiring.

Uruguayans did even more voting related the past, rejecting the repeal of the amnesty. That alone merits more attention than I have time to give it, since (also as in Chile) the dictatorship is now so far in the past but the amnesty remains.


Anonymous,  4:12 PM  

Not exactly inspiring.???????

Nell 11:23 AM  

I was saddened and a little surprised to see that the repeal of the amnesty law failed (getting 47 or 48%, closely tracking the Mujica vote). The reason I expected it to make it over the hurdle this time was that the Supreme Court last week ruled it unconstitutional.

I assume the Congress has the power to repeal, and the referendum was simply designed to provide political momentum? Or does a repeal have to come through direct popular vote?

If you don't have time to discuss this, which I can understand, it would be good if at some point you could post a pointer to discussion of the repeal process from here on out (Spanish or English).

Greg Weeks 3:03 PM  

Unfortunately, I don't have any good links to discussions of the repeal issue. The Uruguayan press might be a place to start.

Nell 6:42 PM  

It could be that the fact that some of the architects of Uruguay's years of repression are being tried and convicted weakened the case for repealing the amnesty law in the minds of not-already-committed voters.

In the same week as the election, the amnesty law was found unconsitutional (in the case of a woman killed in military custody) and the last Uruguayan dictator, recently convicted of responsibility for 37 "aggravated homicides", was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Here is an account of the last big demonstration for repeal that preceded the vote.

It's worth noting that over the course of the dictatorship, one in every five Uruguayans was detained; most were subjected to psychological torture, and many to physical torture.

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