Below is an abridged English Language version of the interview conducted by Cuba-Debate and Mesa Redonda published recently in Granma International.
For an uncut but rough English translation by Rawlinsview follow this link.
INTERVIEW WITH JOSÉ MUJICA
What the world faces is a great political crisis
• About to depart for his native country, in an exclusive interview with Prensa Latina and Mesa Redonda, the President José Mujica of Uruguay offered his impressions of Cuba, to which he has returned after more than a decade • He commented on Fidel’s lucidity and the human concerns he shares with the leader of the Cuban Revolution • He addressed European apologies made to Evo Morales; Caribbean demands for indemnities for slavery, and the great importance of current talks seeking peace in Colombia and the entrance of Venezuela into Mercosur, among other topics
Arleen Rodríguez Derivet & Odalys Troya Flores
There is a suitcase ready in the hall, a reminder of his imminent departure and the facilitators of this dialogue notice two things, upon the guest’s arrival. The President is uncomfortable with the tumult, if four are needed to manage the technical aspects of an audiovisual, we shouldn’t appear to be eight and, we have an hour for the interview.
Shortly, the President appeared, with the modesty which has become legendary. He is wearing a green guayabera and beige pants. He greets us with familiarity. There is not even time to see if his face needs a touch-up. He sits in front of the two cameras and looks at us with eagle eyes, awaiting questions.
He would then say that he found Cuba “more colorful, more relaxed than the last time,” which was at the end of the 1990’s, as Minister of Agriculture and he remembers the hardships of the Special Period.
He then explained that his oft-quoted phrase, “humanity will emerge from pre-history the day barracks become schools,” was not so much a prediction but an expression of his anguish given the destructive power of war, the ways wars are carried out today with long-distance killing and atomic weapons possessed by several countries. “At any moment, a madman can push a button and who can estimate the consequences…”
In an era when certain words sound strange in political discourse, Mujica does not restrain himself and called on humanity to love more and hate less.
“Taking the path of war, inevitably, humanity faces one of its greatest threats,” he said, warning that his is not a naive pacifism of a religious nature, but rather a conviction that “nothing is more valuable than human life.”
He insisted that “respecting difference” is necessary. In a world which is getting smaller everyday, it is imperative to promote the value of respecting differences.
Mujica absolutely rejects the idea that the world faces an ecological crisis, stating, “What exists in the world is a political crisis.”
FIDEL IS PASSIONATE
Recalling his meeting with Fidel, Mujica noted the Cuban leader’s encyclopedic analyses, acknowledging that this is nothing new, saying he noticed “old concerns reflected in a Fidel of today.”
Mujica found Fidel passionate about the search for animal feed which could translate into improvements in human nutrition. “For people who are not into these issues, they may appear as secondary concerns… They are very sensible concerns, of a very concerned man… It is a lesson for youth on how to give content to life.”
The two agree in their visions of the dangers of consumerism and the cult of the market. “I, like Fidel, thought that this was a consequence of capitalism, but it is more than that… it is a consequence of a model of civilization (one of consumption and waste)… I am not advocating that we return to the cave, but we must leave behind this foolishness,” Mujica summarized his most serious concerns, using everyday language and southern humor.
THE COURAGE TO MOVE FOWARD TOGETHER
Addressing the apologies of European countries to Bolivian President Evo Morales, Mujica affirmed, “It is a reflection of what Latin American peoples are capable of, if we have the intelligence and the courage to move forward together.”
“These apologies would not have been conceded if Evo alone had requested them. This is evidence of the value of what we have accomplished together,” he insisted and again emphasized the importance to integration of respect for differences.
Mujica described recent Caribbean demands for indemnities to be paid by European powers, given the scars of slavery, as a “just cause” and added that the West will never be able to pay the debt it owes African peoples.
“These examples must be studied. What may appear as impossible…”
The interview later turned to his impressions of the national July 26th commemorative events in Santiago, and of other Caribbean and ALBA leaders in attendance.
Prensa Latina asked Mujica about the dangers facing Latin America and the prospects for integration. He responded, “There will always be dangers,” and commented that nation states often erect obstacles to integration.
He was particularly sharp with Paraguay’s right wing, which has attempted to place conditions on the country’s return to Mercosur.
“No country stands to benefit more from Mercosur than Paraguay,” he said.
Addressing the entrance of Venezuela into the bloc, Mujica began with a warning, “Venezuela is the most threatened country in Latin America, because it has oil, the only reason it is tolerated.”
He expressed his confidence in portions of U.S. society, saying, “There are aggressive sectors in U.S. society, but fortunately it’s not the entire United States.” Nevertheless, “We have to be careful.”
Mujica praised the strong system of alliances developing, adding, “With Venezuela, Mercosur is a power.”
He continued discussing the importance of Brazil’s leadership. He understands its presidency, but Brazilian society? The internal problems of such a large country concern him.
COLOMBIA: THE MOST IMPORTANT PROCESS UNDERWAY IN LATIN AMERICA
Mujica described the talks underway in Havana between the Colombian government and the FARC-EP as “The most important political process in Latin America today… the only way to avoid an intervention.”
“A war that continues with no end in sight, or resolution, is an invitation to those who would intervene from abroad…”
Recognizing that it is not easy to resolve a conflict which has been ongoing for 50 years and has generated much hate, he praised the effort and congratulated Cuba and Norway for facilitating the process.
“Peace is the antidote for the hate generated by wars.”
Lastly, Mujica commented on the possibility that his Frente Amplio (Broad Front) will be reelected in next year’s elections. He used a phrase which could summarize much of what he had to say, “I’m optimistic.”