Mujica's wife assumes vice presidency in Uruguay

Jose Mujica, Lucia TopolanskyThe Associated Press
Uruguay's newly named Vice President Lucia Topolansky leaves Senate chambers with her husband former President Jose Mujica, after presiding over a session in her new role, in Montevideo, Uruguay, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. Vice President Raul Sendic resigned Wednesday amid allegations of corruption and was replaced by Topolansky, the first woman in Uruguay to hold that position. (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico)

Lucia Topolansky, the wife of former President Jose Mujica, became Uruguay's vice president on Wednesday after lawmakers accepted Raul Sendic's resignation amid corruption accusations.

Topolansky, 72, is a former guerrilla who was imprisoned and later rose through the political ranks to become a lawmaker. She will also head the Senate and the congress' general assembly.

Sendic, 54, announced his departure over the weekend amid allegations of corruption stemming from purported credit-card misuse during his tenure as head of state oil company ANCAP. It is the first time a vice president has stepped down in the South American nation.

The corruption allegations surfaced in June, when the weekly publication Busqueda reported that between 2010 and 2013, Sendic used corporate credit cards to make purchases at jewelry, electronics, furniture and other stores apparently unrelated to his official business.

A tribunal of his political party determined he may have engaged in "unacceptable use of public funds" and accused him of lying in his defense. Sendic appeared before the tribunal but was unable to explain the purchases other than to say they seemed "strange."

Under the constitution, Sendic should be replaced by the senator at the top of the party list that received the most votes in the last elections. That person is Mujica. But the former president is ineligible due to a prohibition on presidential re-election. The senator next in line is his wife.