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LATIN AMERICA | 25-02-2020 18:41

Uruguay's president-elect Lacalle Pou eager to attract foreigners

Luis Lacalle Pou expresses determination to open up borders, so that thousands of foreigners can settle in his country. Uruguay's incoming leader also says nation will change position on Venezuela crisis.

Uruguay's President-elect Luis Lacalle Pou has said he is determined to open up the country's borders to thousands of foreigners, in order to help them settle in the country

The incoming leader delivered his comments in an interview with CNN's Spanish-language channel on Sunday.

"We have a clear determination with our economic team to open our borders so that thousands and thousands of people can come to reside in our country," said the  conservative leader.

A week away from taking office, he pointed he will try to "generate economic conditions for thousands and thousands of people to come and settle" in Uruguay whatever their nationality.

To that end, Lacalle Pou, 46, stressed that he will aim to change Uruguay's current fiscal and legal rules on settlement. He is planning to reduce the amount of capital needed and residency requirements (i.e. number of days) required to obtain fiscal and legal residence in the country. "Respecting what international institutions say,” he added.

"It's not about becoming some kind of [fiscal] paradise, or anything strange, just lowering the requirements," he nuanced.

"We need a country with more inhabitants, where people come to work, to invest, to expand our consumption base," he proclaimed.

Uruguay currently has about 3.45 million inhabitants, and is dwarfed in terms of population by neighbouring Argentina and Brazil.

Flexible Mercosur

Lacalle Pou, indicating his line on regional relationships, also spoke of "making Mercosur more flexible" to promote bilateral agreements with nations outside the bloc.

"It's an aspiration that President [Jair] Bolsonaro spoke with President [Mauricio] Macri before the end of his term, and that in some way frees us from the corset of being unable to make bilateral agreements with countries outside the bloc."

When asked about the decision not to invite the presidents of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua to his inauguration, Lacalle Pou clarified that it does not imply a break in diplomatic relations with those nations. He indicated that ambassadors representing those countries would be involved in his inauguration.

"We are going to invite the diplomatic delegations established in our country," because Uruguay "maintains diplomatic relations" with those nations, he clarified.

Days earlier, the Partido Nacional leader said that he would not invite "[Nicolás] Maduro the dictator" to his inauguration. Further, his incoming foreign minister, Ernesto Talvi, stated that the exclusion of the three countries from the guest list was a decision based on the fact that they are not "full democracies.”

For Lacalle Pou, the decision "is a message of a position (...) above all with respect to Venezuela and its regime," which he considers "a violation of human rights.”

The leader, whose party ousted the leftist Frente Amplio coalition after 15 years in government , also said Uruguay would alter its position on Venezuela and fall in line with the Lima Group, saying he was "in tune" with US-aligned grouping.

"This is the road that Uruguay will take from here to here in relation to the Maduro regime," he concluded.

– TIMES/AFP

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