Uruguay president-elect names cabinet, signals policy continuity

Updated: 2014-12-03 14:37


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Uruguay president-elect names cabinet, signals policy continuity

Newly elected Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez announces the ministers of his government at his office in Montevideo December 2, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]

MONTEVIDEO - Uruguay's President Elect Tabare Vazquez signaled continuity of economic policy on Tuesday when he named a cabinet that will help govern the small South American country as it battles inflation and rolls out a ground-breaking marijuana law.

Vice President Danilo Astori will head the economy ministry, said 74-year-old oncologist and former president Vazquez, who comfortably won back his old job as president in a runoff election on Sunday. He takes office in March when current leader Jose Mujica is set to step down.

Chief among Astori's concerns will be inflation, which at 8.11 percent is running above the targeted ceiling of 7 percent.

"Macroeconomic policy will continue under the same criteria that we have had over the last 10 years," Astori said. "We will act with discipline and rigor to control the inflationary pressures that the country still has."

When Vazquez was president from 2005 to 2010, his mix of welfare programs and pro-business policies helped kick-start a decade of robust growth.

The president elect's nominee for central bank chief has not been announced, but sources close to the government say they expect the next chief monetary policymaker will be current Economy Minister Mario Bergara.

Vazquez inherits a fledgling law, backed by Mujica, that legalizes the production and sale of marijuana, making Uruguay the first country in the world to do so.

A variety of hurdles are preventing the government from making its deadlines in implementing the pot law. Even the plan to start selling marijuana in March looks ambitious as the government is still tendering cultivation licenses.

Incoming Health Minister Jorge Basso said implementation of the controversial measure will proceed without delay.

"A lot of the regulations still have to be worked out, and we will take advantage of the months ahead to start doing that," Basso said.