MONTEVIDEO – With two surnames steeped in Uruguay’s political history firmly on his shoulders, Luis Lacalle Pou, 46, became on Sunday the South American nation’s youngest president since its return to democracy in 1985 and the first to harness the power of social media.
The center-right National Party (PN) politician broadcasts his messages on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, a world away from his forebearers.
Lacalle Pou is also a lover of surfing, his passion for the sport taking him around the world.
His vehicle of choice for the parade to the Legislative Palace, where he will take oath, and to Independence Square, where he will greet his predecessor Tabare Vazquez, is less modern.
He has selected a 1937 Ford V8 that belonged to his great grandfather, Luis Alberto de Herrera, a towering figure in the country’s political history.
It is the same vehicle used by the new president’s father, Luis Alberto Lacalle Herrera, when he assumed the presidency in 1990.
Throughout the election campaign, Lacalle Pou toured all of Uruguay’s 19 regions in a Toyota SW4 truck, taking a page from his great-grandfather’s book during his own period campaigning as the head of the PN, a period of history in which the political ideology known as “Herrerismo” was born.
Herrera traveled everywhere in his Ford V8.
Former President Luis Alberto Lacalle Herrera (1990-95) told EFE that his grandfather drove the vehicle until he died and had plans to work on it when he served as a government adviser from 1955-59.
“Sometimes he would drive on the wrong side of the road,” Lacalle Herrera said, recalling his grandfather’s notorious car drives through Montevideo.
Following in those footsteps – or tire tracks – is Lacalle Pou.
So far, only two presidents have governed Uruguay in the social media age, Vazquez (2005-10 and 2015-20) and Jose Mujica (2010-15). Neither of them had personal or official social media accounts.
The current government opted instead to set up an official Web site and used traditional press conferences to update the country’s media.
This is set to change.
Throughout the transition period since the November elections, Lacalle Pou has been disseminating important information online.
He arrived on Twitter in 2010 and at first found it hard to keep his messages down to just 140 characters.
“I had to set up an account since some idiot or ill-intentioned person did it for me. We’ll see if I get used to it,” he tweeted, evidently irked that someone had set up an account in his name.
Over time, however, he adapted and nine years later he had sent out some 26,000 tweets and garnered more than 210,000 followers.
Social media has also become a space where he can interact with other world leaders and politicians.
On Nov. 28, 2019, the day of his election victory, he exchanged messages with Jair Bolsonaro, Juan Guaido, Mauricio Macri, Alberto Fernandez, Martin Vizcarra, Mario Abdo Benitez, Salome Zourabichvili and Mike Pompeo.
Lacalle Pou has used Instagram throughout the years to share photos of family meetings and political rallies, and he once shared a Venezuelan flag in support of Guaido, the interim president of that crisis-struck country.
If the past is any guide, it is virtually certain that Lacalle Pou will rely significantly on social media during his upcoming term, which will last until 2025.