[Marxism] Meet Uruguay's Charismatic 'Robin Hood' President | VICE News

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat May 10 07:08:04 MDT 2014

On the morning of October 8, 1969, José Mujica woke up and got dressed 
for a funeral. He and nine other young men — nephews of the deceased — 
piled into a Volkswagen van and waited on the side of a two-lane road 
that led from Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo, to the small city of Pando, 
about 14 miles east. Six other cars and a hearse — rented from the 
fanciest funeral home in the country — drove past, and the VW joined the 
cavalcade, rumbling through the flat green cattle pastures that hug the 
South American nation’s coastline. The journey was somber and quiet, 
until about three miles from Pando, when the mourners subdued the hired 
drivers of the cars and stuffed them into the back of the Volkswagen.

In reality, there was no funeral to attend, no corpse, and no mourners. 
The Pando-bound people were members of the Movimiento de Liberación 
Nacional — also known as the Tupamaros — a Marxist guerrilla group that 
wished to install a Cuban-style dictator in Uruguay and rid the country 
of its supposedly kleptocratic government. Mujica, who at 35 years old 
was one of the group’s earliest and most charismatic members, got into 
the backseat of one of the cars and clutched the wooden handle of his 
Spanish-made Z-45 submachine gun. When he arrived in Pando, a sleepy 
industrial city of 12,000, he and his small battalion robbed its banks 
and tried to take over the local government, killing a police officer 
and one civilian in a brazen, chaotic shoot-out in broad daylight.

Four decades later, at 74, José Mujica donned Uruguay’s blue-and-white 
executive sash and became its president after his left-wing coalition 
party won the country’s 2009 election. Although his hair had grayed and 
his belly had expanded, Mujica looked over the crowds gathered at the 
capital’s central square for his inauguration with the same olive-pit 
eyes that had scanned the road to Pando back in 1969. The crowd looked 
back at him admiringly, as he delivered a fiery oration in front of a 
Jumbotron screen bearing his image.


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