Uruguay’s Tabaré Vázquez commits political suicide

Development: On 11 October former Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez (2005-2010) said in a public event that he had considered a war scenario with Argentina during the row over the UPM (formerly Botnia) paper mill and had even requested support from the George W. Bush administration (2000-2008).

Significance: President Cristina Fernández of Argentina, who was been bed ridden for 48 hours following a hypotension episode, and President José Mujica, who is in the midst of a European tour, have failed to comment on Vázquez’s revelations. However, former members of the Argentine administration who were directly involved in the negotiations came out very strongly against Vázquez, as did members of the Uruguayan Right and Left. Until he made the controversial declarations, Vázquez had been touted as the ruling Frente Amplio (FA)’s likely presidential candidate in the 2014 election and opinion polls had him as the clear favourite to win that contest. The admission that he turned to the US administration did not sit well with the Left and is likely to have offended members of the previous and current Brazilian administrations whose foreign policy priority has been to promote Brazil’s standing as the regional powerhouse.

Key points:

• “I met the three commanders in chief [of the three branches of the armed forces] and showed them the [war] scenario and they told me: ‘well, we can fight a guerrilla war’”, said Vázquez who later added that he had held talks with then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (2005-2009) to request US assistance in the eventuality of a war.

• “Vázquez has lowered even more his inexistent stature as a statesman...Vázquez demonstrates that he is a man without knowledge of international politics and law”, said Argentina’s former foreign minister, Rafael Bielsa (2003-2005).

• Uruguayan Senator Lucía Topolansky, the senator elected with the highest vote who is also President Mujica’s wife, said Vázquez’s comments were “absurd" and should be remembered as an “anecdote for school...I hope that this doesn’t complicate [the relationship with Argentina], that the signals that our government has sent to the Argentine government are firm enough”.

• “All the presidents in the region considered the hypothesis of the conflict, another thing is whether they admit to it”, said Vázquez yesterday as criticism against him was mounting.

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