Two former Uruguayan presidents – including the iconic Jose Mujica known as the world’s “poorest” leader during his term in office – resigned from frontline politics yesterday.
Mujica, 85 – a former left-wing guerrilla – said that the coronavirus pandemic was behind his decision as he suffers from a weakened immune system.
Julio Maria Sanguinetti, who was Uruguay’s first president following the end of the dictatorship, said his decision was taken before last year’s election.
Mujica became a cult figure during his 2010-15 presidency for giving away most of his salary and an austere lifestyle that included driving an old Volkswagen Beetle.
“Honestly, I’m going because the pandemic is tossing me out,” said Mujica, who was a serving senator.
“Being a senator means talking to people and going all over the place. The game isn’t played in offices,” he added.
“And I’m doubly threatened, by old age and illness.”
He said he was leaving “with great regret” but that he was “grateful, with many memories and deep nostalgia”.
Mujica is one of the top officials in the leftist Broad Front coalition that spent 15 years in power until it was ousted in last year’s election by centre-right leader Luis Lacalle Pou.
The veteran politician gained international recognition for his unconventional style, but at home he was a controversial figure due to his guerrilla past.
He was part of the MLN-Tupumaros rebels that waged an insurgency during the 1960s and 70s against democratic governments.
Many Uruguayans blamed them for provoking the 1973 military coup that ushered in a dictatorship that lasted until 1985.
Mujica spent a decade in prison during that time, much of it in solitary confinement.
Sanguinetti, 84, served two terms as president, from 1985-1990 and 1995-2000.
He said he was standing down as a senator due to “the need to serve as general secretary of the Colorado Party” as well as journalistic commitments.
LEAVE A COMMENT Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*
French officers face charges over beating case
England at risk of third Covid wave in new year, says Raab
French ship pulls 45 migrants from Channel
Darth Vader actor Dave Prowse dead at 85
Pope installs new cardinals
Thousands take to the streets as France reels from police violence
Brexit talks resume in London as clock ticks down
England's hospitals could be overwhelmed without new tier system
UK's sole hydrogen car maker bets on green revolution