Bilaterally, ‘Mujica, CFK have done very poor job’
With presidential elections in Uruguay less than three months away, prospects for the Colorado Party don’t look too bright. Its candidate, Senator Pedro Bordaberry, is in third place ahead of the October 26 vote, way behing ruling-party candidate Tabaré Vázquez and with half the vote intentions of National Party candidate Luis Lacalle Pou, who’s in second place.
But Bordaberry — who took a resounding victory in his party’s primaries in June — is confident that the situation can be reversed and that with the support of National Party voters he could beat Vázquez in a second round. He points to his relative youth (he is 54) and his experience in government (he was Tourism and Industry minister under president Jorge Battle) as his main assets and criticizes President José Mujica’s government as “inefficient” and “untidy.”
But even if the candidate does finish third, his votes could be decisive in an almost certain runoff vote.
As the son of late Uruguayan dictator Juan María Bordaberry, his name carries some weight in Uruguayan politics. Broad Front’s vice-presidential candidate Raúl Sendic recently accused him of “trying to hide his last name” but Bordaberry underlines he shouldn’t be banned from politics just because of his father.
During a visit to Buenos Aires this week — during which he met with Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri and Radical Party leader Ricardo Alfonsín — he talked to the Herald about bilateral relations, the row surrounding his choice of running-mate and the recent legalization of marijuana in Uruguay.
You met with Macri and discussed the Argentine default. Are you worried about the consequences it could have on the Uruguayan economy?
Yes. The situation is very different from that of 2002 — there were a lot of Argentine deposits in Uruguayan banks at the time. But the Argentine default will definitely have an impact on trade and especially on tourism, an area in which Uruguay is still heavily dependent on Argentina.
You also discussed bilateral relations and the conflict surrounding the UPM paper mill in Fray Bentos. How would you rate President Mujica’s handling of the relationship with the Argentine government?
I think Mujica and President Fernández de Kirchner did a very poor job when it came to bilateral relations. Uruguay and Argentina are like a married couple. A married couple doesn’t solve its problems by telling each other “I love you” but by talking about their problems. They chose to say “I love you,” “we are like brothers.” Married couples that don’t talk about their problems end up in court, in a divorce. That’s exactly how Uruguay and Argentina ended up — at the court in The Hague.
Apart from meeting with Macri, you met with Ricardo Alfonsín. With whom do you have a closer relationship?
We have a very close relationship with both of them. With the Radical Party, the Colorado Party has a long and intense relationship. We share the same values of Republicanism. With Mauricio, we share the pragmatic attitude, the efficiency, the doing. Mauricio embodies a model in which we believe and which has to do with leaving ideology aside and focusing on solving the citizens’ problems.
If you reached the Presidency, would you want Macri as president on this side of the river?
One can’t choose... But I like the fact that Mauricio tells it like it is. I recently read a column written by Mauricio. It was about happiness... I could have signed it myself...
Your choice of Germán Coutinho as running-mate was not well received by the sector that had backed José Amorín in the primaries. Do you feel that the party has been able to put those differences aside?
The truth is we were also disappointed that we couldn’t find a candidate who satisfied everybody. We got 75 percent of the votes in the primaries and Amorín’s sector got 25 percent. At the end of the day, I decided to go with Germán Coutinho, the mayor with the best approval rating in Uruguay. Amorín’s sector, despite the fact that they would have preferred one of their own (to run for vice-president), has said that the row is already in the past and that we need to look toward the future, united.
The most recent poll puts you in third place. What are your chances of getting to second place to eventually challenge Tabaré Vázquez in a runoff?
We are going to win. We are going to go to the runoff and we are going to win. Vázquez is 75 years old and he’s making lots of mistakes.
What kind of mistakes?
He said he would keep the Interior Minister, who is responsible for insecurity in Uruguay. We have the worst security figures in our history. Mujica legalized marihuana and Tabaré said we have to legalize cocaine too. He gets angry during rallies. The Broad Front, it can be felt, is in decline... And the other candidate is Luis Lacalle, who has no government experience whatsoever. He is a good person, a young man but he has no experience.
Why is Lacalle in second place and not you?
The campaign is just starting. The National Party had a very close primary and the race to the presidency is just starting.
You recently said that you would support Lacalle in a runoff...
I said I believe he would support me and I would support him. I hope that it’s he who is going to have to support me (laughs).
You say the Broad Front is in decline but Mujica still has high approval ratings...
Mujica, yes. His management, no. People like Mujica but Uruguayans are not satisfied by the job he’s doing. He has created this character that people like and that’s fine. He even says many things that one might agree with. But the problem is that the next day we need to be working on schools, on employment, on people feeling safer, on the economy. And he has been a disaster at that.
But the Uruguayan economy doesn’t seem to be in such bad shape...
Not in comparison with Argentina. But that’s because Uruguay chose not to default in 2002, despite the fact that the IMF and even Tabaré Vázquez were telling us that we had to go down the same path as Argentina. But the government of the Colorado Party said “no,” we are going to pay because default offers no way out. It was the right decision and we can now see the results.
Considering that both you and Lacalle are the sons of former presidents and Vázquez is a former president himself, would you agree with those who say that Uruguayan politics needs renovation?
The renovation can also be a renovation of attitudes and proposals. What? We shouldn’t be allowed to do politics? No. Lacalle is not the same person his father was and I am not the same person my father was. Politics in Uruguay is indeed undergoing a strong renovation, with the exception of Tabaré Vázquez and most of the Broad Front.
What do you think about the legalization of marijuana in Uruguay?
Everybody agrees that when it comes to concrete measures, Mujica’s government has been untidy, very inefficient. It doesn’t make any sense that Uruguay is the only country legalizing (the drug). This should be regional, even global. If not, Uruguay risks becoming a consumption centre.
Would you revoke the measure?
Yes, of course. Even Mujica doesn’t know how to implement this.
Mujica said on Monday that the Israeli offensive in Gaza should be considered “genocide.” What’s your position on the subject?
We believe that Israel is making a mistake. To bomb a UN school is obviously a mistake...But we believe Hamas’ position should also be condemned. They’ve said that the state of Israel should not exist.@carothibaud