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  HOME | Uruguay

Former Guerrilla and Former President Headed to Runoff in Uruguay
Former guerrilla Sen. Jose "Pepe" Mujica, candidate of the governing leftist Broad Front, and National Party candidate Luis Alberto Lacalle, who served as president from 1990 to 1995, are headed to a runoff in Uruguay's presidential election.

MONTEVIDEO -- Sen. Jose "Pepe" Mujica, candidate of the governing leftist Broad Front, and National Party candidate Luis Alberto Lacalle, who served as president from 1990 to 1995, are headed to a runoff in Uruguay's presidential election, official results released Monday show.

Mujica had 48.13 percent of the vote, while Lacalle has 28.96 percent, with 99 percent of the ballots counted.

Since neither candidate won more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held on Nov. 29.

"Society is asking us for another effort, that is, to take part in a runoff," Mujica, a 75-year-old former guerrilla, told supporters.

Lacalle, for his part, said the Uruguayan people had decided to "take another month" to decide who their next president would be.

"Uruguay has elected a Congress, and it is still thinking about who has the ability to lead the executive branch. And we will be the ones who will lead it," Lacalle said.

Uruguayans were also called on to decide two referendum issues on Sunday.

The ballot initiative on repealing a law that has shielded members and agents of the 1973-1985 military regime from prosecution for crimes such as kidnapping, torture and murder only drew 47.36 percent of the vote.

Mujica and his running mate, former Economy and Finance Minister Danilo Astori, supported repeal of the law.

Lacalle, however, opposed repeal, arguing that the law "was submitted to a referendum and approved" by 57 percent of the voters in 1989.

The second ballot initiative, which would have allowed Uruguayans living abroad to vote by mail starting with the 2014 elections, won only 36.94 percent support.

The two referendum questions needed to top the 50 percent mark to be approved.

Mujica was a leader of the Tupamaru guerrillas, who were inspired by the Cuban revolution to organize kidnappings, bombings, robberies and other attacks on the conservative but democratically elected governments of the 1960s. Convicted of killing a policeman in 1971, he spent nearly 15 years in prison.

In the quarter of a century since he was freed, however, Mujica, now 74, helped transform the guerrillas into a legitimate political movement, became the top vote-getter in Congress and served as agriculture minister under outgoing socialist President Tabare Vazquez, whose own victory five years ago ended decades of center-right rule.

Lacalle, 69, survived a bombing of his home and an attempt to poison him with doctored bottles of wine in the 1970s. He pushed hard to privatize government agencies as president in 1990-95. This time, he would remove the income tax that Vazquez imposed and said he would take "a chain saw" to the bureaucracy.

Lacalle helped found the Mercosur trade bloc, which is headquartered in Montevideo, but said it has become to political. He also criticized UNASUR, the 12-nation South American group, as just "another setting for conflicts."


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