President Tabaré Vázquez signed a bill earlier this month permitting couples in any legal union, including same-sex couples in civil unions, to adopt children, but the law continues to cause confusion according to local reports. Lawyers and judges have criticized the law for lacking specifics and granting the Uruguayan Institute for the Children and Adolescents (INAU) too much power in the new adoption procedures.
Uruguay’s Senate unanimously approved the adoption law on September 9, 2009, as English-language media highlighted the move as a triumph for gay rights in Latin America. The country has passed a number of progressive laws in the past year, including legislation allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions. On October 12, 2009, the Senate also approved a bill that legalizes sex changes for people older than age 18 and permits citizens to change their genders on official identification documents.
There are, however, limits to Uruguay’s progressive legislation. Referring to the new adoption law, Pérez Manrique, president of the Second Session of the Court of Appeal of Family Affairs said, “On the whole, there is a conservative attitude among the legislators in not finding the final solution to all of this: that is approving same-sex marriage.”
After the Civil Registry Office warned that allowing people to officially change their names and genders would enable same-sex couples to marry, the Senate included an amendment in the sex-change law that strictly prohibits same-sex marriage. In November 2008, President Vázquez went against his political party in vetoing a law that would have decriminalized abortion.
Senator José Mujica of the Broad Front coalition received 47.5 percent of the vote and ex-President Luis Alberto Lacalle finished with 28.5 percent of ballots in Uruguay’s presidential election on Sunday. The top two candidates, with neither securing at least 50 percent support, will face off in the second round of voting on November 29. Running a distant third, Colorado Party candidate Pedro Bordaberry received 17 percent of votes.
Mujica assured his supporters of a clean sweep saying, “We have more support than the other top two parties combined…How can we not be happy about the indisputable fact that we are headed to victory.” Lacalle issued a similar message: “We will be in control of the executive branch on November 29.”
Official reports set voter turnout at 90 percent of the country’s eligible 2.6 million voters. Mujica, 74, plans to continue many of the policies from the administration of President Vázquez while Lacalle, 68, who was president from 1990 to 1995, campaigned to remove Vázquez’ income tax and downsize the government.
Mujica was a leader of the Tupamaros, a guerilla group that opposed military rule, before being imprisoned for 15 years and eventually released in a 1985 amnesty. Since then, he has helped transform the group into a legitimate political movement. Lacalle is a former lawyer and part of the Uruguayan political elite who helped found the Mercosur trading bloc.
On Monday, Bolivian President Evo Morales met with Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez in Montevideo to negotiate an agreement that would provide Bolivia with access to the Atlantic Ocean in exchange for the use of Bolivia’s natural gas resources. The deal will give free port privileges to Bolivia in Nueva Palmira—a key port on the Paraná River— and Montevideo. For the Bolivian gas to reach Uruguay, approval would be needed from Brazil and Argentina since the existing pipeline system connects these two countries.
The Bolivian and Uruguayan leaders also discussed restarting Urubapol, an alliance that promoted the development of Bolivia, Uruguay and Paraguay in the 1970s and 1980s. Vázquez also promised to support Morales in demanding the delisting of the coca leaf from the international dangerous drugs list referring to it as “a plant that forms part of the Bolivian highland culture.” Both presidents also issued statements expressing their full support for the government of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.