Uruguay elects president with ties to Israel, Jewish community


(JTA) — Uruguay elected a president who has twice traveled to Israel and has an open dialogue with his country’s Jewish community.

Dr. Tabare Vazquez, the ruling leftist coalition candidate, was confirmed as president Monday with 53.6 percent of the vote in the second round of national elections. Rightist Luis Lacallae Pou garnered 41.1 percent of the vote.

Vazquez, 74, will be president of the South American country for the second time. During his first administration, 2005 to 2010, he made an official three-day visit as a guest of then-President Shimon Peres, during which he visited the Weizmann Institute, Schneider Children’s Hospital and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

Vazquez, an oncologist, also traveled to Israel in 1982, representing Uruguay in an international seminar about cancer research.

The current Uruguayan president, Jose Alberto Mujica, said during Israel’s 50-day operation in Gaza over the summer that Israel was committing “genocide” against the Palestinians, as did Foreign Minister Luis Almagro. They also said “Gaza is a big concentration camp.”

Vazquez, who is from the same party as Mujica, when asked if he agreed with the president, said that Israel “was not committing genocide.”

In Uruguay, which is home to nearly 20,000 Jews, anti-Semitic incidents rose during the Gaza conflict.

In 1947, Uruguay voted in the United Nations in favor of the declaration of a Jewish state in Israel. The other two countries in the South American cone, Argentina and Chile, abstained.

Recommended from JTA