Viewing cable 10MONTEVIDEO98
Title: Uruguay: Race to Lead Montevideo Bruises Ruling Coalition

10MONTEVIDEO982010-02-11 19:56:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Montevideo

DE RUEHMN #0098/01 0421957
R 111956Z FEB 10
E.O. 12958: N/A 
SUBJECT: Uruguay: Race to Lead Montevideo Bruises Ruling Coalition 
¶1. (SBU) Of all the offices to be contested in Uruguay's May 9 
municipal elections, the position of intendente (a combination of 
governor and mayor) of Montevideo carries by far the greatest 
political weight.  Montevideo's status as a bastion of ruling 
Frente Amplio (FA) coalition support, however, means that the 
governorship is decided less by the May 9 vote itself then by the 
preceding struggle to win the FA candidacy.  That contest just 
concluded, offering a surprising result that saw the front runner, 
Socialist Daniel Martinez, fail to capitalize on his early 
advantage.  He eventually lost the nomination to a compromise 
candidate, Communist Ana Olivera.  Getting to that result resulted 
in some significant intra-FA dust-ups, which appear to have 
strengthened the small Communist Party at the expense of the 
Socialist Party.  End Summary. 
A Shoe-in, but which foot? 
¶2. (U) After last year's primary, general and run-off elections, 
the May 9 municipal vote marks the fourth and final stage of 
Uruguay's five-year electoral cycle.  Although the intendencia and 
departmental parliament of each of Uruguay's 19 departments are in 
contention, the greatest interest surrounds the question of who 
will become Montevideo's intendente, by far the most powerful and 
high profile of the departmental posts due to size and location. 
With high FA popularity levels, most observers believe that the 
FA's 20-year dominance of the post will continue after May. 
Attention has therefore been focused not on which party will win 
the post, but rather on whom the FA will nominate. 
¶3. (U) Under Uruguayan law, each party contesting an intendencia is 
allowed to field up to three candidates, although in practice, 
strategy and resources determine the number of candidates that the 
political parties nominate.  The district parliamentary seats are 
then allocated in proportion to the sum of votes each party gathers 
from its candidates, with the party attracting the most votes not 
only gaining the governorship, but a guaranteed 16 of the 
parliament's 30 seats.  In the case of the FA's Montevideo 
campaign, a common assumption was that Daniel Martinez, a senator 
elect from the Socialist Party, would be the FA's principal 
candidate.  Although Martinez failed in his bid for the FA's 
presidential nomination last year, he nevertheless commands wide 
support that the Socialist faction believed would easily translate 
into a candidacy and consequently, the intendencia. 
¶4. (U) On 25 January, the FA Montevideo Assembly (the 111 person 
body charged with selecting candidates) convened and announced that 
only one candidate would stand, a decision publically supported by 
both president elect Jose Mujica and vice president elect Danilo 
Astori.  The expressed intent of this move was to avoid feeding the 
fierce factionalism that marred last year's battle for the 
presidential nomination.  Problematically, neither Martinez (backed 
mainly by the Socialists and the Communists) nor Carlos Varela 
(backed by Mujica's Popular Participation Movement (MPP) and 
Astori's Asemblia Uruguay (AU) faction) seemed disposed to step 
aside.  The mood of disunity deepened when some Socialists declared 
that they would continue to support Martinez even in the event that 
he failed to be selected.  The situation did not improve when 
neither candidate secured the requisite 4/5 majority from the 
assembly; Varela gleaned a paltry 37 votes while Martinez fell 
short with a total of 60 votes. 
Plan B? 
¶5. (U) At this stage, unwilling to countenance Martinez as a 
candidate, but with Varela's campaign effectively dead in the 
water, leaders of the MPP and AU hustled to put Communist Party 
member and present Vice Minister of Social development Ana Olivera 
forward as a compromise candidate.  The idea gained traction within 
the FA as the week progressed, although public support was less 
readily apparent; many viewed Olivera's emergence as the result of 
a backroom deal between the MPP and the Communist party.   Still, 
it grew clear to delegates that Olivera represented the FA's best 
way forward, and on January 28 the committee reconvened and Olivera 
duly crossed the 90 vote threshold she needed to become the 
official candidate and probable intendente. 
Pride before a fall? 
¶6. (U) The fallout from Martinez's thwarted bid has left the 
internal structure of the FA somewhat bruised.  The most immediate 
causalities are the Socialist party, many members of which were 
left angry at their failure to better  position their candidate and 
asking themselves how they were so easily bested.  Martinez had 
been promised the backing of the Socialist party, the Communists, 
and the important Vertiente Artiguista faction of the FA, and he 
also had the majority of the party base.  A recent poll of FA 
supporters had given his candidacy 66 percent approval while Verela 
and Olivera had pulled in just 12 percent and 7 percent 
respectively.  Others in the FA were swift to offer explanations 
for Martinez's implosion, most of which reflected the shift of 
power over the last two years within the FA from the Socialists to 
the further-left MPP and Communist parties.  The mildest such 
explanation was that Martinez and his ilk had "already had their 
turn" governing Montevideo and that Martinez "doesn't really know" 
the city.  Others cited the Socialist's "pride," alleged 
unwillingness to compromise, and apparent "distain" for the 
leadership of other factions as the source of their disappointment. 
Mujica's wife, Senator Lucia Topolansky, criticized the Socialists 
for having trumpeted Martinez as the FA candidate before the 
convention had even had a chance to discuss it. 
¶7. (SBU) A broader view of the dust up, however, offers additional 
explanations that reflect lines of division generated by last 
year's fight for the presidential candidacy.  Early on in the 
process of preparing for his campaign, Mujica tried to strike a 
deal with the Socialists, and is even rumored to have offered the 
role of vice president to Martinez as part of the bargain.  The 
Socialists, however, went on to back Astori, and many suspect that 
as a consequence, Martinez's bid for the intendencia may have 
simply been vetoed by Mujica.  By contrast, it has been noted that 
the Communist Party, which, while not always natural allies of the 
MPP, was the first to throw its weight behind Mujica's candidacy. 
¶8. (SBU) Interestingly, Mujica may not have been the only player to 
favor a veto. Some feel Astori, despite the Socialists' support for 
his own candidacy, could have had a hand in Martinez's undoing.  In 
Astori's case, however, the move could be preemptive as he is 
expected to make a presidential bid in the 2014 elections and may 
have been uneasy with a potential rival such as Martinez elevated 
to the very public platform of Montevideo's intendencia.   In any 
case, Astori's failure to support Martinez will sour his relations 
with the Socialists, further reducing his less-than-robust support 
within the FA. 
A Positive Spin 
¶9. (U) There is little doubt that the Socialists have been given a 
very public knock.  Some party members argue, however, that while 
their standing within the coalition has been negatively impacted, 
their standing with electorate remains unscathed.  Even more 
optimistic individuals, buoyed by the 60 percent support Martinez 
pulled in from the party base, assert that Martinez's "vetoing" 
actually places him and the socialist party in a stronger position 
for 2014.  In contrast, the less sanguine elements of the party 
feel that it is difficult to frame the loss of Martinez's 
nomination as anything other than wasted opportunity. Many 
Socialists have concluded the party pushed Martinez's candidacy too 
hard and that it is suffering politically as a consequence. 
Ana Olivera:  Biographic information 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
¶10. (U) Fifty-six year old Ana Olivera is currently the Vice 
Minister for Social Affairs (MIDES), but she has worked steadily, 
albeit relatively anonymously, for the FA in various capacities 
(including, in 1995, as Director of the western division of the 
Montevideo municipality) over a period of 15 years.  Originally 
trained as a teacher, Olivera joined the Tupamaro guerilla movement 
and consequently spent several years in self-exile in Cuba, where 
she joined the Communist Party.  Returning to Uruguay in 1985 she 
affiliated herself with the Communist Party in Montevideo and began 
her political career.  In her position in MIDES, Olivera has played 
an integral part in implementing many of the FA's social policies, 
often in a hands-on manner that has made her popular in many of 
Montevideo's neighborhoods.  Additionally, as at least one of the 
papers noted approvingly, she travels to work by bus and continues 
to teach high school French in order to "keep her feet on the 
¶11. (SBU) The FA's internal organization is complicated, and 
coalition leaders often mention the need to revamp it.  It is 
possible that the goings-on detailed above will provide additional 
impetus.  Much will depend on how well Olivera does in the 
election.  In the meantime, FA leaders are cautioning Martinez to 
be patient, noting that there will likely be a cabinet posting for 
him in the coming years.  End Comment.