[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 November, 2004, 01:58 GMT
Left-wing Uruguay leader welcomed
Vazquez supporters take to the streets of Montevideo
Mr Vazquez's supporters celebrated on the streets of Montevideo
Latin American leaders have welcomed the election of Tabare Vazquez to the Uruguayan presidency.

The victory for his leftist coalition brought two-party rule in Uruguay to an end for the first time in 170 years.

Venezuela's left-wing President Hugo Chavez said Mr Vazquez's election heralded a step towards the shaping of a new South America.

Cuba said diplomatic ties might be restored after two years of strained relations.

What has happened in Uruguay is one more step on the road to building a new South America
Hugo Chavez
President of Venezuela

Links between Uruguay and the Cuban government were broken off two years ago after Mr Vazquez's predecessor sponsored a United Nations motion condemning Cuba's human rights record.

A triumphant Mr Vazquez appeared in front of thousands of celebrating supporters in Uruguay's capital, Montevideo, after official results gave him 50.69% of the votes cast.

Some 30,000 ballots remain to be counted before the Court of Elections could confirm his victory, but his two main rivals have conceded.

It was also the first win for Mr Vazquez's Frente Amplio (Broad Front) coalition party.

'Celebrate Uruguayans'

Venezuela's president welcomed victory for the left-winger as "a milestone" in Latin American history.

"What has happened in Uruguay is one more step on the road to building a new South America, a new Latin America, a new world that is being born," Mr Chavez said.

In a statement released through its embassy in Montevideo, the US congratulated Mr Vazquez.

"We hope that during his term, relations between the people of Uruguay and the United States will become even firmer," it said.

Tabare Vazquez
Vazquez won just over 50% of the vote, so avoiding a run-off

Jorge Larranaga of the National Party was Mr Vazquez's closest rival with 34%, while Guillermo Stirling from the ruling Colorado Party was beaten into third place with only 10% of the vote.

"Celebrate, Uruguayans!" Mr Vazquez told thousands of people gathered in front of his party's headquarters.

"This victory is yours," he said, before thanking them for their support as fireworks lit up the night sky.

The 64-year-old cancer specialist told a news conference it had been a "magical night", and that he would not let Uruguay down.

All three candidates had tried to convince voters that they were best placed to manage the country's economy following its worst-ever crisis in 2001 and 2002.

Economic gloom

Voting is compulsory in Uruguay, and 2.5 million people out of a population of 3.4 million were eligible to vote. They also chose 31 senators and 99 deputies.

Mr Vazquez joins Nestor Kirchner of Argentina, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, Ricardo Lagos of Chile and Mr Chavez on the list of left-wing and centre-left South American leaders.

Mexico City Mayor Andrea Manuel Lopez Obrador said the surge in support was rooted in the desire for Latin Americans to find political alternatives against a background of economic gloom.

Although the Uruguayan economy is now recovering strongly, one in three Uruguayans lives below the poverty line and unemployment is almost 15%.

Mr Vazquez won backing from voters for his critical stance towards the conservative economic policies of the International Monetary Fund and the US, BBC Americas analyst Simon Watts says.

See the carnival as Vazquez supporters celebrate

Uruguay elects left-wing leader
01 Nov 04  |  Americas
Uruguay set for a swing to the left
30 Oct 04  |  Americas
Uruguay vote rejects oil policy
08 Dec 03  |  Business
Uruguay's economy minister resigns
19 Aug 03  |  Business
Uruguay gets IMF thumbs up
04 Jun 03  |  Business
Country profile: Uruguay
28 Oct 04  |  Country profiles

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific