Blunt Leftist Ex-Rebel Sworn In As Uruguay President

By Dialogo
March 03, 2010

Jose Mujica, who decades ago tried to topple the "bourgeois state" in an armed conflict and went to prison for it, was sworn in Monday as Uruguay's new president. Mujica is locally beloved for being a straight-talker, and appears now able to win over business interests and even political foes. A mellower but certainly fiesty senior citizen, the 74-year-old grows flowers at his ranch and calls himself a pan-theist. Seen as colorful and charismatic compared to respected outgoing president Tabare Vazquez, political opponents have been enthusiastic about what Mujica says is his willingness for dialogue. Vazquez was the country's first elected leftist leader, and Mujica is now its second. Mujica has become the second former Latin American rebel to be elected president recently, after Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega, an ex-Sandinista. He has said he models himself on popular Brazilian president Lula, a left-leaning former labor activist who is known for a centrist approach. The new Uruguay president was co-founder of the radical leftist Tupamaros movement back in the 1960s. Mujica has said he will not move to the presidential palace, and will instead stay at his small ranch in Rincon del Cerro. He also is putting most of his salary into a fund for housing Uruguayans who have no home.