Two time Uruguayan President Tabare Vasquez was a crucial part of the left wing Broad Front coalition that governed Uruguay from 2005 to 2010. A medical doctor originally, Vasquez would have been able to track the course of his final illnesses even better than the best DDP player. Before he got into politics, Tabare was a cancer specialist, and a football club president. In 2004, he became the first democratically elected socialist President of Uruguay.
Uruguayan politics has been some of the most evolving in the world over the last 150 years, a quick resume. In the 1870s, bipartisanship was the way forward, until 1904 when a revolt broke out between the rural areas and the government, and a more authoritarian stance took over. Jose Battle won control of government in this time, and he used his powers to… introduce a welfare state, universal voting freedoms, free education and a limit to working hours. Shortly after World War One, they brought in, by popular referendum vote, the Constitution in which there were term limits, society was made secular, and executive decisions were made by a committee instead of a President alone.
This lasted until 1933, when there was a coup d’etat and Gabriel Terra installed himself as dictator. He wasn’t keen on any of the above, and set about demolishing it, and had many opponents, such as doctors and vets (!) shot. He was also pals with Hitler and Mussolini, gaining infrastructure building funding off them. Unfortunately for him, Uruguayans didn’t take well to the whole concept of dictatorship and replaced him with his anti-Hitler brother in law, Baldomir (not a Lord of the Rings character) who declared Uruguay neutral in the World War. A National Council of government, where the Presidency was on an annual rotation, was brought in, but it never achieved much, thanks the great agricultural decline of the 1950s. It was swapped for a Presidency again but quickly replaced by…yes, dictatorship!
The 1973-85 dictatorship was less like the half assed attempt in the 1930s and more like every other South American dictatorship of the time. You know, mass murder, disappearances, torture, no civil liberties, praised by Ronald Reagan, etc. One of the Operation Condor countries. 20% of the country fled elsewhere, and 1 in every 50 of those remaining was arrested or worse. In somewhat more typical Uruguayan style, this dictatorship fell because those in charge got bored and decided to hand back to a democratic leader. Thus followed a 20 year period of mostly centrist democracy, focused on rebuilding democracy, education, the economy, and day to day safety without getting shot.
This was until Vasquez took over. He focused primarily on lowering poverty and unemployment rates, and the economy. In between his two pragmatic terms as President was Jose Mujica, easily the world’s most successful Bernie Sanders/Jeremy Corbyn, who legalised weed, same-sex marriage and abortion, and also brought in universal health care, free university education and boosted the literacy rate with free home computers. Compared to him, Vasquez may seem a lesser star, but if Mujica tried to change Uruguay, Vasquez helped pay for it. Uruguay today, according to the various agencies that monitor civil liberties and freedoms, is one of the more progressive and tolerant countries on the planet. This is the legacy of the likes of Tabare Vasquez, and if you look at the long bloody history of South American leaders, he’s easily one of the better ones.
With his well publicised lung cancer, he was picked by 8 teams, including Funeral Furore, American as Apple Pie, and the fantastically named Terror of the Vervoorts.
17 January 1940 – 6 December 2020