Corruption Cases Hit Political Parties in Uruguay
Uruguay’s ruling left-wing Frente Amplio (FA) coalition filed a criminal complaint for corruption against Governor of Soriano Agustín Bascou, who represents the center-right Partido Nacional, on October 26. The complaint followed a failed attempt at impeachment due to the small FA presence in the departmental legislature. FA accused Bascou of using municipal funds for private benefit after state-owned vehicles used two gas stations owned by Bascou for a total cost of 14,139,000 pesos. The FA called the actions a clear violation of the norms that regulate the conjunction of public and private interests.
Bascou affirmed that he will not leave office unless he is convicted by the judicial system or ordered to leave by either Senator Guillermo Besozzi of Soriano or leader of the Partido Nacional Jorge Larrañaga. The decision on how to respond to the Bascou case has divided the Partido Nacional’s two powerful national leaders, with Larrañaga defending Bascou and Senator Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou calling for him to step down.
The FA recently experienced a corruption case of its own in which Vice President Raúl Sendic stepped down following the discovery of his misuse of corporate credit from a state-owned oil firm. Lucía Topolansky, a popular senator and wife of former President José Mujica, quickly replaced Sendic, who will face a criminal tribunal.
The FA criticized the Partido Nacional for its unwillingness to reprimand Bascou given how eager the coalition was to condemn Sendic’s corruption in September. Vice President Topolanksy led an FA delegation to Soriano on October 27 to support the judicial proceedings and noted that the prosecution is not political revenge for Sendic.
The corruption cases facing the FA and the Partido Nacional have likely harmed both parties, but tbe FA’s ability to quickly dispose of their corrupt members appears to have left them in a better position while the Bascou case drags on.