Uruguayan president Jose Mujica leaves for Caracas “to support the government and people of Venezuela” on Thursday 10 January, the date in which convalescent re-re-elected president Hugo Chavez is supposed to take the oath of office.
“The health of Chavez is not in our hands” said President Mujica in an interview with the government financed daily La Republica. On Tuesday the Uruguayan Senate approved Mujica’s absence from the country to travel to Venezuela as the current chair of Mercosur.
The request was originally marred in controversy because Mujica did not specify the reasons for his absence more than 48 hours. Several opposition Senators had warned they would not vote his absence unless more details were revealed, as finally happened.
However in a letter addressed to the Senate President Mujica revealed the trip was on request from the Venezuelan Foreign ministry in his condition of Mercosur pro-tempore chairperson, with the purpose of attending the January 10 formal inauguration of President Chavez. Mujica also mentioned that he had requested to visit Chavez in Havana but the reply had been “no”.
Mercosur is made up of full members Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Venezuela that joined last July and Paraguay currently suspended until August.
“Challenged by death we must bet for life and the best way to honour Chavez and ask for his health is to continue working from sun to sun for our peoples”, added Mujica. There were earlier speculations that Mujica could be calling in Havana to visit Chavez before going to Caracas.
Mujica and Chavez are close friends and very respectful of each other, particularly since the Uruguayan president has a more pragmatic attitude towards capitalism and world affairs contrary to the Venezuelan fire brand approach and his determination to have the economy under state control.
Mujica has repeatedly argued that “facts show and long back into history that government bureaucracy is far more damaging and dangerous than capitalism” and prefers to see “the talented making money and creating jobs as long as they pay their taxes”.
Probably in what can be considered the last discrepancy with Chavez, in a recent interview with The New York Times, Mujica strongly criticized consecutive re-election as in Venezuela and Nicaragua because they represent “a monarchic deviation”. He added “elected leaders must take a break; re-election smells and tastes of monarchy”.
The Uruguayan president a former urban guerrilla leader spent years in jail and Chavez did some time following a couple of frustrated military coups. Mujica also sent a personal letter to Chavez wishing him a quick recovery and even organized a Catholic mass for his health although a declared atheist.
Mujica and Deputy Foreign minister Carlos Roberto Conde are travelling to Venezuela on a commercial flight.