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Elections 2019

Meet the Candidates: Uruguay

Uruguay's ruling coalition goes for a fourth consecutive term in a campaign marked by a debate over rising crime.
Credits Below

Argentina | Bolivia | Guatemala | Panama | Uruguay | Full List

See above for a breakdown of Latin America's other 2019 transitions, and check back here for updates throughout the region's busy election season. Correction appended below.

Election Date: Oct. 27

Format: Two rounds. If no candidate receives more than 50% of votes in the first round, the two leading candidates will compete in a run-off on Nov. 24. 

Daniel Martínez, 62, former mayor of Montevideo
Broad Front

“Two out of three children born now will work in jobs that don't currently exist. We need to adjust to change.”

How he got here: Martínez has longstanding roots in the Uruguayan left, beginning as an engineer at the state energy agency, where he secretly fought against the dictatorship as a socialist activist. He later moved to the private sector before President Tabaré Vasquez tapped him as his minister of industry, energy and mining in 2008. Martínez won a senate seat in 2009 before becoming mayor of Montevideo in 2015, with job creation and public works helping his star rise.

Why he might win: Never to be seen without his customary mate gourd, Martínez’s relatability has earned him deep affections among the left, whose members call him El Pelado, or “the bald one.” After he balanced Montevideo’s budget, polls consistently rank Martínez as a frontrunner.  

Why he might lose: Martínez faced a backlash for a costly proposal to convert a rail station into a Silicon Valley-style technology hub. Business friendly, he may face internal pressures from figures further left. A surge in crime under the ruling Broad Front could push voters to the opposition.

Who supports him: While Uruguay typically leans left, Martínez’s base is broad, containing influential socialists and fiscal conservatives alike.

What he would do: His flagship Capital Fund plan to improve Montevideo’s manufacturing and mobility could be scaled up to revitalize the nation at large and expand Uruguay’s influence within Mercosur.


NOTE: AQ asked a dozen nonpartisan experts on Latin America to help us identify where each candidate stands on two spectrums: left wing versus right wing, and nationalist versus globalist. We’ve published the average response, with a caveat: Platforms evolve, and so do candidates.

Luis Lacalle Pou, 45, senator
National Party

“If we do not lower the fiscal deficit, it will be very hard to fulfill any other promises.”

How he got here: Coming from a storied political family, Lacalle Pou is the son of President Luis Alberto Lacalle and Senator Julia Pou. He has served in government since his election to Congress in 1999, often opposing the Broad Front’s bills for healthcare, labor and marriage equality. He did support a form of marijuana legalization during his failed 2014 presidential run.

Why he might win: Security concerns and a high cost of living may drive voters away from the Broad Front after 15 years of rule. 

Why he might lose: Peers in government have cited nepotism and an unremarkable political track record as flaws. “He does not know the daily life of most Uruguayans and I think that is a problem,” said Education Minister María Julia Muñoz.

Who supports him: The pro-market constituents of the National Party. He also won supporters during campaign stops in Uruguay’s countryside. Defectors from the Broad Front could back him if they turn right.

What he would do: Staunchly pro-business, Lacalle Pou promises he won’t “share power with the unions” and has called for an “urgent austerity plan” to lower Uruguay’s fiscal deficit. He said he would appoint a coalition government with members from all four parties in his cabinet.


Carolina Cosse, 57, former minister
Broad Front

“The need to confront security is essential. We must act pragmatically to prevent crime.”

How she got here: Another Broad Front veteran, engineer and former minister, Cosse has held high-profile positions in the public and private sectors alike. As both CEO of the state communications agency and as the industry, energy and mining minister, she was known for shifting Uruguay toward renewable energy and advancing infrastructure technology with fiber optic and undersea cable projects. Her reputation in the Vásquez administration as an advocate for security, sustainability and education garnered Cosse attention among the progressive left.

Why she might win: She boasts a high-profile endorsement by former President José Mujica. Ahead of the primaries, she may gain support by addressing popular security concerns that her party has largely dismissed.

Why she might lose: Most of the left seems ready to support Martínez. At the state communications agency, Cosse made headlines with a mismanaged arena project, which raised ethics questions.

Who supports her: Voters concerned about security and education, but who find more right-wing candidates unpalatable. The Movement of Popular Participation, the progressive party of Mujica, has also endorsed Cosse.

What she would do: Cosse has promised to create a “security cabinet,” taking a holistic approach to stemming crime through housing, education and policing initiatives. Her economic plan involves restructuring the economy around more transparent and profitable public companies.


Jorge Larrañaga, 62, senator and former mayor
National Party

“We can make the political shift if we promote a dream of a safe country, with authority and values.”

How he got here: Nationalistic and outspoken throughout his career, Larrañaga has kept what he calls a spirit of “rebellion” at the forefront of his policies. He consistently advocates for security and education, often vocally criticizing prominent Broad Front figures in the press.

Why he might win: He has called the left “neutral accomplices of Maduro’s dictatorship,” a strategy that helped rightist candidates elsewhere in the region. He may offer a clearer alternative to the Broad Front than Lacalle Pou or the smaller Colorado Party’s nostalgia candidate, 83-year-old former President Julio Sanguinetti. Despite Uruguay’s relatively low rate of violent crime, Larrañaga’s Vivir sin miedo policing campaign resonates with a population that considers security a top national concern, behind only unemployment.

Why he might lose: He is a divisive candidate whose policies are relatively far right. He has mounted losing campaigns in the past, including against Lacalle Pou.

Who supports him: Single-issue voters on security will flock to Larrañaga’s hard-line stance in the June primary. Protest votes could gradually shift his way.

What he would do: Larrañaga would push for a constitutional reform to allow military intervention in domestic policing. His legislative track record suggests he’d focus on improving education by pushing for more professionalized faculty and more classroom time for students.


A previous version of this guide incorrectly stated in Carolina Cosse's profile that President Tabaré Vasquez was affiliated with the Movement of Popular Participation. He is not affiliated with the party.   

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Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
Tags: Elections 2019, Uruguay

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