Uruguay’s President Jose Mujica, speaking without realizing a microphone was on, referred to Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner as that ‘old lady’ saying she is “worse” than her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner.
“This old lady is worse than the cross-eyed man” Mujica said in Sarandi Grande following a press conference which was caught by an open microphone and video and later posted on Argentina’s Todo Noticias Television channel.
“He was more of a politician, she’s stubborn” said Mujica.
Relations between the neighbouring countries have deteriorated since Cristina Fernandez restricted imports and tightened controls on the exchange market.
The measures, which limit access to foreign currencies, have hurt Uruguay’s exports and tourism industry. A 1.1 billion dollars investment by Finland’s Metsae-Botnia Oy in a pulp mill on the river bordering both countries led to a four-year bridge blockade by Argentines who accused Uruguay of violating an international joint administration accord on the river’s use.
In 2007, when then Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez allowed the pulp mill to start operations Kirchner told him that he had “stabbed Argentina in the back.”
Argentina has also repeatedly stalled on the dredging of a River Plate access canal which is crucial for Uruguay’s exports. The River Plate is also a jointly managed waterway.
Mujica’s statement caught on the open mike is not the only one in recent history.
In 2002, Uruguayan President Jorge Batlle accused Argentines of being a “bunch of thieves” all of them “from A to Z”, a comment for which he later apologized during a specific trip to Buenos Aires, arguing among other things that his mother was Argentine.
That year was the melting of the Argentine economy following its sovereign debt massive default, and opinion polls at the time showed that a majority of Argentines (75%) agreed with President Batlle statements ‘pinched’ during an informal chat with journalists at the end of an interview by leaving the video camera on.
Mujica, a former guerrilla who took office in 2010, said later in the day that he didn’t publicly speak about Argentina at the ceremony in Sarandi Grande and “won’t offer clarifications of any kind”.
Officials at Uruguay’s Presidential Office declined to comment and so did in Buenos Aires Argentine presidential spokesman Alfredo Scoccimarro.
Contrary to his predecessor Tabare Vazquez who had a very strained relation with the Kirchners, Mujica has done his utmost to get alone with Cristina Fernandez to the extreme he has been accused of submissive and of a genuflexion attitude towards the ‘Old Lady’.
Nestor Kirchner, who died in October 2010 from a heart attack, was president from 2003 to 2007. Cristina Fernandez succeeded him and was re- elected in 2011.
Last month, President Mujica travelled to Caracas in Cristina Fernandez’ presidential plane for the funeral of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.