Uruguay's foreign minister resigns

Montevideo (AFP) –


Uruguay's Foreign Minister Ernesto Talvi, who shot to international prominence when he oversaw the repatriation of foreign passengers from a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship, announced his resignation Wednesday.

Talvi's move had been expected after he announced his intention last month to devote more time to his Ciudadanos political party, one of five in Uruguay's governing coalition.

In a letter to President Luis Lacalle Pou which he posted on Twitter, Talvi said he had intended to remain as minister until the end of the year, to preside over the country's rotating presidency of the Mercosur regional bloc.

"I understand, however, that the timings in the cabinet are set by the President of the Republic. I hereby tender my resignation."

Local media reported that Talvi will be replaced by Francisco Bustillo, currently the ambassador to Spain. Bustillo was reported to be on his way to Montevideo.

The 63-year-old Talvi was widely praised after he oversaw a lengthy and sometimes fraught operation to repatriate the passengers and crew of the Australian cruise ship Greg Mortimer.

The ship had aborted a cruise to Antarctica on March 20 after the nearest South American countries -- Argentina and Chile -- closed their borders and imposed lockdowns.

The captain diverted to Montevideo, where the ship was eventually allowed to dock after most of the more than 200 people aboard contracted the disease.

Passengers, mostly from Australia and New Zealand, were flown home aboard two emergency flights in April.

The last of the crew were allowed to leave Uruguay later after quarantining in Montevideo.