Cablegate: Uruguay: Frente Amplio Candidate Jose Mujica On


DE RUEHMN #0488/01 2321417
R 201417Z AUG 09




E.O. 12958: N/A
THE STUMP (C-AL9-01505)


1. (U) Summary. On August 13, Jose ""Pepe"" Mujica and
Danilo Astori, the Frente Amplio (FA) candidates for
President and Vice President of Uruguay, held a campaign
rally in the town of Paysandu. The event provided a case
study into the differing campaigning styles and messages of
the two running mates, with Astori ardently defending the
FA's record and Mujica publicizing it as a more inclusive
party. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- --
The FA Presidential Ticket Goes to the Interior
--------------------------------------------- --

2. (U) Mujica and Astori arrived in Paysandu in the midst
of a week-long tour of Uruguay's interior, during which the
two candidates traveled to various towns in the departments
of Paysandu, Salto, and Artigas prior to their return to
Montevideo for their official nomination as candidates August
16. The site of the event in capital city Paysandu, a
basketball gym belonging to a local youth center, was filled
to capacity with thousands of Mujica/Astori supporters, many
carrying the red, white, and blue Frente Amplio flag atop
fishing poles. Just prior to the introduction of the two
candidates, a parade of youths entered the building beating
drums in the candombe style - a former slave tradition now
popularized and performed by many Uruguayans, especially
during Carnival celebrations.

3. (U) Following brief speeches by local FA politicians to
warm up the crowd, Mujica and Astori ascended to the stage.
Mujica began the night as master of ceremonies, introducing
the other politicians joining the two candidates on-stage,
including Paysandu Governor Nino Pintos and Mujica's wife,
Senator Lucia Topolansky, who received the second-largest
ovation after Mujica himself. Finally, Mujica introduced
Astori, who was met by slightly less enthusiastic, but still
spirited, applause.

--------------------------------------------- ---
Mujica and Astori: Different Styles and Messages
--------------------------------------------- ---

4. (SBU) Astori's relatively brief speech focused on the
achievements of current President Tabare Vazquez's
administration. While the traditional parties stirred up
fears of economic instability and risk prior to Vazquez's
inauguration, he asserted, this FA government has been more
successful than previous administrations, including that of
former president and National Party candidate Luis Alberto
Lacalle, in creating economic growth and in controlling debt.
Astori also mentioned some of the most popular Vazquez
programs, including Plan Ceibal (the one-laptop-per-child
program), and again attacked Lacalle for his comment about
cutting the budget with a ""buzzsaw"" (""motosierra""). (Reftel)

5. (SBU) In contrast with Astori's no-nonsense,
attack-and-defend approach, Mujica's speech was inclusive,
emphasizing an open door to potential Frente Amplio voters of
all parties. Mujica beseeched his supporters not to offend
opposition party members, whose votes instead would have to
be won over by the FA through appeals to their consciences.
He also emphasized the diversity of the Frente Amplio,
arguing that the coalition is made up of both Christians and
atheists, as well as former supporters of the Colorado and
National parties.

6. (SBU) The divergent messages of the two running mates
were accompanied by notably different styles on the stump.
Dressed in a sweater and collared shirt, Astori spoke in a
very formal style, standing ramrod-straight at the podium as
he described the accomplishments of the Frente Amplio in
chronological order, starting with the movement's inception
in 1971. In contrast, Mujica appeared at ease on stage, but
projected a much less professional image, wearing jeans
rolled up at the ankles and drinking the traditional beverage
mate during his running mate's speech. When speaking, Mujica
wandered around the stage with a microphone in his hand, and
tended to ramble, jumping from topic to topic. His rhetoric
was peppered with personal anecdotes (including a story about
his job at a Paysandu brick factory) and philosophical
observations (such as his statement that ""every human being
is the center of a small planetary system""). While Astori
spoke for around twenty minutes, Mujica ran on for almost an
hour, but appeared more adept at capturing the crowd's
attention through his frequent use of humorous


7. (SBU) With most pollsters viewing the presidential race
at this point as a dead heat, Mujica's message of inclusion
likely was geared towards the vital 7% of Uruguayans who
remain undecided, along with National and Colorado party
voters who might be disenchanted with their candidates.
However, he also appears to have taken the offensive in
recent days, describing National Party vice-presidential
candidate Jorge Larranaga as a ""lapdog"" (""perro faldero"") in
a speech following the FA's official nomination of the
Mujica/Astori ticket. Following several weeks in which
Mujica and his opponent Luis Alberto Lacalle have reached for
the center through conciliatory rhetoric, this comment could
be an indication of a nastier campaign to come as October's
election nears. End Comment.


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