MONTEVIDEO – Former Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez died Sunday morning in Montevideo and was buried early in the afternoon at the cemetery in La Teja, the district where he was born. He was 80.
Vazquez died of lung cancer after a long illness, his political party, the Broad Front, confirmed on Twitter.
“With deep sadness we report the death of our honorary president,” the party tweeted, emphasizing that Vazquez was “an example of political integrity.”
Vazquez – an oncologist before he became president – announced in August 2019, before his second term in office had ended, that doctors had detected a pulmonary nodule with “very firm characteristics” and that it could be “malignant.”
Five days later, he underwent surgery that confirmed that the tumor was cancerous, although after medical treatment he initially announced that he had been cured and was cancer-free.
Vazquez was the first leftist leader in Uruguayan history to win a presidential election as a Broad Front candidate, and he served two non-consecutive terms as president from 2005-2010 and 2015-2020.
On March 1, at the end of his second term, he handed over the presidential sash to Luis Lacalle Pou, with the center-right National Party, with whom last December he traveled to Argentina for the inauguration of Alberto Fernandez in a gesture of institutional stability, despite their differing political ideologies.
The Uruguayan government proclaimed three days of official mourning for Vazquez.
Lacalle Pou and Vice President Beatriz Argimon went to the Martinelli funeral home to greet Vazquez’s family and express their condolences. The family had previously announced that no wake would be held and the funeral home would only be used as a gathering place for the ex-president’s relatives to welcome visitors coming to pay their respects.
The current Uruguayan leader, who brought greetings and condolences from his own family, including his father, former President Luis Lacalle Herrera (1990-1995), said that “In life, it’s good for political differences, the political battle, not to encroach on the personal (sphere),” and that with the passage of time he had been able to overcome “some roughness” with Vazquez, who had been his political adversary.
Earlier, both Lacalle Pou and Argimon had posted messages of condolence on the social networks.
“He faced his last battle with courage and calmness. We had instances of personal and political dialogue that I value and will remember. He served his country and, on the basis of that effort, made important achievements. He was the president of (all) Uruguayans. The country is in mourning. RIP President Tabare Vazquez,” wrote Lacalle Pou on Twitter.
And Argimon tweeted: “I regret the sad news of the death of Dr. Tabare Vazquez. He was a statesman, democrat and republican. The people twice conferred upon him the great honor of being president. I had the opportunity to get to know him working for the Country and I know of his true commitment. RIP.”
Vazquez was reported to have died surrounded by his family members, although his wife, Maria Auxiliadora Delgado, had passed away in July 2019.
Over the past 10 years, the former president had suffered increasing health problems, with assorted complications from cancer, his son Alvaro, an oncologist by training – like his father – said.
Thousands of Uruguayans jammed the sidewalks singing, applauding, throwing flowers and carrying red, blue and white banners of the leftist Broad Front as the hearse bearing Vazquez’s remains passed by en route to the cemetery early on Sunday afternoon.
And despite the fact that the family had issued a statement asking people to monitor the funeral procession and burial only via live television from their homes – all in the name of preventing the spread of COVID-19 – a huge throng of Vazquez’s followers and neighbors approached the cemetery to say their last goodbye to the man local TV said they characterized as “a great oncologist and president” and “a symbol of struggle and resistance.”