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Polls Give Former Guerrilla Leader Edge in Uruguay Elections

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Voters in Uruguay are casting ballots Sunday in a presidential election that pits former guerrilla leader Jose Mujica against former president Luis Lacalle.

Opinion polls say Mr. Mujica is the clear front-runner. However, the polls indicate he will narrowly miss winning an absolute majority needed to avoid a run-off.

Mr. Mujica, 74, was once the leader of the Tupamaro guerrillas, a group that organized political kidnappings and bank robberies in the 1960s. He was held in solitary confinement for years in a Uruguay prison.

Mr. Lacalle was Uruguay's president from 1990 to 1995. The 68-year-old lawyer founded the four-nation South American trade bloc known as Mercosur, but he has vowed to pull Uruguay out of Mercosur if he is elected president.

The winner will replace President Tabare Vazquez, who has successfully guided Uruguay's economy in the five years he has been in office.

The new president will take office in March, 2010.

Alongside the presidential balloting, Uruguayans will also vote on whether the country should drop an amnesty against military and police personnel accused of crimes during the dictatorship in the 1970's and 80's.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.