MONTEVIDEO – Recently inaugurated President Tabare Vazquez angered Uruguayan feminists by saying that “the main foe women face is smoking,” prompting the Cotidiano Mujer group to accuse him of “lack of sensitivity and tone deafness.”
“What we expected from him, as president, was a strong commitment in the new government to budget resources to fight against gender inequality and the subordination of women,” Cotidiano Mujer spokeswoman Lilian Abracinskas told Radio Montecarlo.
Vazquez, an oncologist, said in a press conference Monday related to the celebration of International Women’s Day that “more than one woman dies in Uruguay every day from smoking and lung cancer. One woman every day.”
“Neither AIDS, tuberculosis, domestic violence, alcohol, drugs or car accidents combined kill as many women as tobacco consumption does,” the president said.
“Vazquez’s statement has caused outrage because of the alarm in the country over incidents of violence against women and domestic violence in the first two months of the year,” Abracinskas said. “It was like ignoring a reality that is hitting us.”
“In less than 70 days in 2015,” 13 women have already been killed in acts of violence, National Women’s Institute, or Inmujeres, director Mariela Mazzotti said during the same event on Monday.
Reducing smoking rates in Uruguay was one of the main focuses of Vazquez’s first presidential term from 2005 to 2010, and he implemented policies to cut smoking that led U.S. tobacco giant Philip Morris to sue the South American country.
“We are shocked by his lack of sensitivity and commitment. It seems that he is able to talk to women only as a doctor, when he is, in fact, a president,” Abracinskas said, referring to Vazquez.