Uruguay: Tabare Vazquez Wins, Continues State-Run Marijuana Plan

Image: Elected President Tabare Vazquez gestures during a celebration rally in Montevideo after knowing the results of a runoff election
Elected President Tabare Vazquez gestures during a celebration rally in Montevideo after knowing the results of a runoff election, November 30, 2014. Vazquez won back his old job as president of Uruguay in the runoff election on Sunday, allowing the leftist ruling coalition to extend its decade in power and roll out a law legalizing the production and sale of marijuana.STRINGER/URUGUAY / Reuters

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Tabare Vazquez's victory in Uruguay's presidential runoff election will ensure the continuation of the center-left governing coalition's plan to create the world's first state-run marijuana marketplace.

Vazquez, an oncologist who was president from 2005 to 2010, beat center-right rival Luis Lacalle Pou of the National Party 53 percent to 40 percent in Sunday's vote.

Lacalle Pou had vowed to undo Uruguay's much-publicized plan to put the government in charge of regulating the production, distribution and sale of marijuana, a plan started under President Jose Mujica, a former guerilla leader known for his very humble lifestyle. Vazquez had promised to continue the plan unless it produced negative results.

As results came in, Lacalle Pou called Vazquez to concede and wish him "great success," while supporters of Vazquez's Broad Front coalition poured into the streets to celebrate.

Vazquez had previously governed as a very cautious moderate, but the country changed under Mujica's presidency. The Broad Front coalition, in power for a decade, has passed more progressive laws on same-sex marriage, abortion and marijuana. Mujica's popularity and a stronger economy helped propel Vazquez into office.

Elected President Tabare Vazquez gestures during a celebration rally in Montevideo after knowing the results of a runoff election, November 30, 2014. Vazquez won back his old job as president of Uruguay in the runoff election on Sunday, allowing the leftist ruling coalition to extend its decade in power and roll out a law legalizing the production and sale of marijuana.STRINGER/URUGUAY / Reuters

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--The Associated Press