Uruguay’s colorful president, José Mujica, was caught speaking making a candid, and decidedly undiplomatic observations by a hot mic, regarding Argentina’s president and her late husband, during a radio interview on April the 4th.
Tensions between Argentina and Uruguay have been on the rise, due to protectionist rules put in place by Cristina Fernández, intended to encourage Argentines to spend within the country. The rules have choked tourism to Uruguay, which relies heavily on tourism from Argentina and Brazil. Tourism accounts for 6% of Gross National Product (GNP) in Uruguay, and 60% of tourists have traditionally come from Argentina.
Last Thursday, Mujica referred to Argentina’s president as an “old lady,” and said that she was worse than her “one-eyed” late husband, Néstor Kirchner, adding that he was “more politically savvy,” and described Cristina Fernández as simply “stubborn.”
While his comments about Argentina’s president were politically incorrect, and was “coarse, rough” language by his own admission in an official apology yesterday, it appears that the citizens of Uruguay are not oblivious to the underlying reasons behind Mujica’s opinions of Argentina’s polarizing and authoritarian president. According to a poll taken by the consultancy Teresa Herrera y Asociados, approximately 76% of Uruguayans polled said that they supported Mujica’s diplomatically frank comments.
Regardless, Mujica officially apologized last Thursday, saying that his “coarse prison language” is the result of a past spent growing up in poor neighborhoods. Mujica spent 14 years in prison in addition to multiple apprehensions during the 1960s.
Despite his Revolutionary youth, Mujica came to be elected as president after distancing himself from present day leftists, and adopted a more centrist and pragmatic position. During his campaign, he noted that he is now “more of a libertarian, than a man who thinks the state is a solution.”
Mujica still drives an old VW Beetle, still resides on an austere farm outside of the capital city cultivating chrysanthemums, and is known for an informal style of dress.