Uruguayan former president, Jose Pepe Mujica has been bestowed by the Argentine government, the country's highest honor, the Collar of the San Martin Liberator Order. The honor is extended to foreign officials, civilian or military, who in the exercise of their duties merit the highest tribute and acknowledgment in the interests of the Argentine Nation.
Decree 40/2021 was published in the Official Gazette, and is based on Mujica's vast record and his exemplary conduct in public office. The decree points out that during his long career as a leader of the Broad Front movement in Uruguay, he was elected president, 2010/2015, but he was also minister, Deputy and Senator. In effect Mujica resigned to his bench in the Higher Chamber a year ago, announcing he was retiring from active politics.
Besides the outstanding appointments he achieved, Jose Mujica dedicated his life to social and political militancy, the popular causes of Latin America and centered his activity giving priority to the well being of the needy, convinced that politics is the tool to help them improve their lives, added the decree.
Further on the decree underlines that the values that guided his personal life are the same that marked his public activities, characterized by decency and sobriety, with an outstanding austere style, distant from the unnecessary and sumptuous protocols.
From early youth, Mujica was actively involved in social and political militancy and was arrested together with other, he and she, companions, sent to jail for a decade during the military dictatorship that ruled Uruguay between 1973 and 1985
With the reinstatement of democracy in Uruguay, Mujica returned to political activity and militancy, working for the construction of the majorities needed to reach office, through democratic means, to improve the lives of the Uruguayan people. As president Mujica gave priority to combating poverty, promulgating bills legalizing abortion and same sex marriage, plus publicly admitting the responsibility of the Uruguayan State in the violation of human rights during the dictatorship, thus granting relevance to the ethical strength of the Uruguayan republic.
The special Liberator San Martin medal has been bestowed by Argentina to heads of state and sovereigns such as China's president Xi Jinping, former US president Jimmy Carter and the ex King of Spain. And in 2017, following reiterated disputes with the Venezuelan government the previous Argentine administration of president Mauricio Macri, withdrew the honor from Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro. He had been bestowed the Liberator San Martin honor by his close ally, ex president Cristina Fernandez in 2017.
Said this, Decree 40/2021, misses or ignores some facts about Mujica's biography, which help to better understand the character and ultimately, once he left jail his commitment to democracy. In effect, Mujica originally belonged to a right wing populist grouping, as well as many of his political friends. They attempted through the democratic system in Uruguay in the late fifties and early sixties to achieve some sort of representation in the Legislative, but never made it. Uruguay at the time, as now, was a well established democracy, institutionally solid, and had one of the most transparent and trustworthy electoral systems in the world. However after not making it and in coincidence with the Cuban revolution in the early sixties, Mujica and his colleagues embraced armed struggle, turned into a guerrilla grouping which took the name of an Inca chief, Tupac Amaru, who defied colonial authority long before the independence movements in Latin America. The Tupamaros guerrilla was born, they shot law enforcement officers, private guards, robbed banks and companies on pay roll days, kidnapped business people, judges, government officials and even diplomats, particularly from those countries which it was estimated could become provocations, with the motto, the worst, the better.
However y 1970 most of the guerrillas had been arrested by police units, sent to court and jailed including Mujica. But a year later following the kidnapping of a US scientist, Brazilian diplomat and UK's ambassador Geoffrey Jackson, there was a major break out from the jail where most Tupamaros were imprisoned. It is believed that UK intelligence managed some agreement with the Tupamaros, and be it with ransom money or helping with the massive escape, Jackson was freed a week later. Events of what really happened those days remain under strict secrecy
The fact is that until that moment combating the so called armed struggle was a police matter. The Uruguayan armed forces did not participate actively in the repression until 1972/73, and rapidly had the upper hand with the two slaps system, one to make prisoners speak and the other to make them shut up. In six to nine months the guerrilla movement was over, but the military officers then refused to return to barracks, and in the spirit of the cold war, went after the communists, who controlled among other things the unions. But the truth of the matter is that the Communists did not approve of the Tupamaros or the armed struggle, rather the contrary, because in Uruguay they were a legal party, had been since the 1920s, and under no circumstances would they want to be wiped out from the official political system. Nevertheless Uruguay was condemned to a long decade of military rule, until some of the more rational officers decided it was time to open up, and so it happened with the 1984 November elections following discussions with some of the same political leaders that had been banned under the dictatorship. A general amnesty was voted in the newly elected parliament and the jails were emptied of the freedom fighters. Mujica and his friends then started making politics but on the right democratic track and with time helped organize a strong center left coalition which ruled Uruguay from 2005 to 2015, with one of three mandates for a freely elected Mujica. By then the impetuous brash militant was in his seventies.
But why then a reborn democrat is so admired in the populist authoritarian Argentina, and why Mujica is so fond of Peronists and their current version, Kirchnerism, to the extent that he has openly campaigned for several Kirchnerite candidates. Real politic indicates that Argentina is a huge, most influential neighbor for Uruguay, and it is always imperative to have the best of possible relations. On the other hand, given his populist roots, Mujica to some extent admires the political talent of the Argentine patron saint Juan Peron and some of his ideas. And overall Argentine looks across the Riven Plate and wishes and longs to have a political system and workings like the one built and enjoyed by the Uruguayans. The country we'd love to be, but never will”.