Hope for Free Market Reform in Uruguay
Although the global media barely covered last year’s elections in Uruguay, President Luis Lacalle Pou’s victory was significant for ending 15 years of governance by the leftist Broad Front.
The president from that party from 2010 to 2015 was José “Pepe” Mujica, a former member of the violent Tupamaros guerrilla group who achieved international notoriety as a plainspoken man of the people who donated 90 percent of his salary to charity. Mujica’s private austerity distracted from his reckless approach to public finances: According to Uruguayan writer Hana Fischer, his government oversaw “the largest increase in government spending since democracy was restored in Uruguay in 1985.” In a power grab overruled by the country’s highest court, Mujica sought to impose double taxation on large landholdings. He passed a “media law” that the influential newspaper El País called a threat to free speech. And although he legalized marijuana, Mujica included “a state-enforced oligopoly, production and consumption quotas, price-fixing, [and] coerced registrations,” as one commentator explained.
The new president’s style certainly contrasts with that of his Broad Front predecessors, class warrior Mujica and Tabaré Vázquez, a socialist doctor who served two terms in office in 2005–2010 and 2015–2020. The son of former
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