‘Pepe’, the ex-Tupamaru, just shy of Uruguay presidency

By Branko Brkic 27 October 2009

Jose “Pepe” Mujica, a former Tupamaru guerrilla, has gained more than 47% of the votes in the first round of Uruguay’s presidential election. In response, his various conservative opponents have come together in the hope of beating him in the run-off on 29 November. Conservative ex-president Luis Alberto LaCalle polled 28.5% and Pedro Bordaberry of the Colorado Party 17%. Bordaberry immediately endorsed LaCalle, but Mujica said his leftist coalition should still win. LaCalle wants to turn Uruguay into a country like Finland with its diversified economy, well-paid jobs and social welfare system. LaCalle, meanwhile, wants to cut taxes and downsize government. Mujica helped lead the Tupamaru guerrillas in their campaign of kidnappings, bombings, robberies and other attacks on Uruguay’s rightist, but elected, governments in the 1960s. Mujica spent 15 years in prison for killing a policeman in 1971. Released, Mujica transformed his movement into a legitimate political force, became a top vote-getter in congress and served as agriculture minister under a socialist president five years ago. Read more: AP

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