Marijuana, Democracy & Uruguay
By admin December 5, 2014

Uruguay Election

On the 30th November 2014, Uruguayans chose to continue supporting the Broad Front coalition that has governed their country over the last decade by re-electing Tabare Vazquez in the presidential election. Even though during his first presidential campaign he promised to ‘’shake the roots of the trees’’ he has governed cautiously, avoiding polarisation and constitutional change seen in many regional neighbours such as Venezuela.

Voters chose continuity rather than change, especially since the leftist government Vasquez belongs to has implemented economic policies that have led to a GDP growth rate of 4.4% last year, 2% faster than the regional average. The left-wing government has also pioneered socially liberal laws and programmes that have not only ensured Uruguayans profit from greater economic growth, but also created the world’s first state-run marijuana marketplace.

His rival in the election Luis Lacalle Pou of the centre-right National Party, promised to scrap the legalisation of marijuana and promoted tighter fiscal policies to bring down inflation, currently standing at 8.1% which although high, is a far cry from inflation rates in neighbouring Argentina. Mr Lacalle Pou at 41 years of age, was seen to have lost because many Uruguayans perceived him as too young to govern and lacked the connection between ordinary people. As the son of a former president, and someone who lives in a gated community and attended a private school, it is not hard to see why Uruguayans could not relate.

Mr Vasquez’ victory made him the second president to win re-election since democracy was restored in 1985, and his first presidency marked a dramatic shift in Uruguayan politics when he became the first president to peacefully break the 170 years of two-party dominance. Tabare Vasquez’ left his first presidency with an approval rating of 60% and paved the way for his successor and current president Jose Mejica. A former guerrilla who has introduced social reforms by legalising abortion and same-sex marriage, while shunning the privileges awarded to presidents by donating 90% of his salary and choosing to live in a ranch instead of the presidential palace in Montevideo.

Nevertheless after his victory, Mr Vasquez moved in quickly to calm fears that he would introduce radical change in his second term, and reassured markets that he would continue sensible economic policies that have seen the country grow at an average of 6% in the last 9 years. As well as pledging to boost social spending, he has vowed to reform the education system and fight crime, two of the weakest points of the Mujica government. In 2012 Uruguay came 56 out of 65 in the OECD Pisa tests of competency in reading, maths and science. Muggings have rising fivefold in the last 20 years and the number of murders has jumped by 80%. He plans to reform the police and by legalising the sale of marijuana, to weaken drug trafficking gangs.

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