The White House confirmed on Monday that President Obama will host his Uruguayan peer Jose Mujica on May 12, highlighting the close partnership with Uruguay and strong leadership of Mujica's administration on human rights, social inclusion and global peace and security.
President Mujica last week had anticipated the Obama invitation, which had been in the book for a couple of years but for different reasons had been suspended several times. Mujica who leads a catch-all left wing coalition government, (from Trotskyites and communists to Christina Democrats), in the sixties and seventies was a member of the urban guerrilla Tupamaros that challenged the democratically elected government of the time. His organization robbed banks, casinos, and participated in the kidnapping of several Uruguayan officials and business people plus diplomats, the British ambassador, a top official from the Brazilian embassy, a US scientist working in Uruguay. The group also kidnapped a former FBI agent, Dan Mitrione who at the time had been sent by the Nixon administration to train local police forces in their combat with the Tupamaros. Finally he was the only hostage to be tortured and shot twice in the head, alleging Mitrione had come to teach Uruguayan police forces precisely how to torture. However at the time is must also be said that the Tupamaros guerrilla movement was in the middle of a serious internal discussion between the political and military wings of the group. The political wing feared too much violence would bring in the army as happened. The army was finally called in and in six months, 1972, squashed the guerrilla movement with all leaders imprisoned or escaped overseas. The consequence of the Uruguayan Army intervention was that they decided to remain, and a weak political system was unable to stand up to the military challenge. Parliament was closed down, political parties and all political activity banned, the press censored. Democracy only returned to Uruguay with the 1984 elections. And a generous amnesty which had all the former guerrillas set free, including Mujica who then started his political grouping MPP Given the conformation of the ruling coalition, allegedly 'mostly left wing' and "close to Venezuela's Chavez and distant from the US empire", Mujica in his usual style a few weeks ago when it was leaked he would be invited, said he was thinking about it, not entirely convinced, and could even cancel the trip. Later he argued that he couldn't let down the US ambassador in Montevideo, Julissa Reynoso who has been so good for the country since her lobbying had enabled lamb and oranges to be sold in the US market. But Mujica has also agreed to take some of the 'terrorist suspects' Guantanamo prisoners, six so far, as refugees in Uruguay. The negotiations have been ongoing for months and the Uruguayan president spoke on the phone on the matter with Secretary of State John Kerry. "They've been in jail for years with no trial; I also was jailed for years I know how it feels", argued Mujica when he was attacked by his own coalition which considered it "a treason" dealing with the 'empire' and with the opposition that accused the president of ignoring Uruguayan legislation plus involving Uruguay in the Al Qaeda dispute. At the time Mujica also argued he 'didn't do favors cheaply or free' suggesting Washington was to reward Uruguay. Ambassador Reynoso denied any such dealings, but it was then later announced that Mujica would be finally received at the White House by President Obama. The official release states that "President Obama will host President Jose Mujica Cordano of Uruguay at the White House on Monday, May 12. The visit will highlight the close partnership we enjoy with Uruguay and our strong support for the Mujica Administration’s leadership on human rights, social inclusion, and global peace and security. President Obama looks forward to discussing ways to grow our bilateral economic ties and improve market access for each other’s goods and services; expand our collaboration on science, technology, and health; increase educational exchanges; and consult on multilateral issues including peacekeeping". The White House spokesperson Jay Carney said that Mujica's visit will underline the close US alliance with Uruguay "and our strong support to the leadership of Mujica's administration in human rights, social inclusion, global peace and security".