On this occasion it wasn’t a slip of the tongue.
In a magazine interview, Uruguayan President José Mujica didn’t appear to try to hide what he felt about the late Argentinean President Néstor Kirchner. The interview is published as Mujica tries to dismiss comments he made about Kirchner’s widow, the current leader Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, calling her “an old hag” and “stubborn” in a conversation that was picked up by an open microphone last week.
On Saturday, the Uruguayan news magazine Lento published an interview with Mujica that took place last month in which he referred to Kirchner as being “slimy” as well as “one-eyed” because he suffered from a lazy eye.
In this context, a reporter from the magazine asked Mujica how could his leftist Broad Front (FA) coalition plan to nominate former President Tabaré Vázquez to run for reelection in 2015 without ruining the current good tides of bilateral relations between Uruguay and Argentina.
Mujica, 77, responded by referring to the problems Vázquez had with Argentina during his previous 2005-2010 term. “He didn’t have any problems with Argentina; he had problems with that one-eyed Kirchner, who was very slimy – may God have mercy on him.”
“Kirchner was difficult,” Mujica went on to say.
Argentina has filed a protest, calling Mujica’s statements degrading and unacceptable
Lento editor José Gabriel Lagos said that the interview was conducted on March 18, weeks before the open mic incident which has since sparked a formal protest from Buenos Aires. “For a long time we had wanted to speak to the president about his vision of current Argentinean history. When he said his famous phrases about the Kirchners, it caught us off guard at the moment; at that time the magazine was still being published in print.
“In any case, there were several of us who agreed that if the reader paid attention to the entire article these are harmless compared to the unfortunate descriptions by Mujica in Sarandí Grande. For example, he refers to Néstor Kirchner as “one-eyed” but to be clear this isn’t a disrespectful term but a type of familiarity.”
Mujica was caught by an open microphone on Thursday speaking to Sarandí Grande Mayor Carlos Enciso at a news conference about relations with Brazil and Argentina. He called President Fernández de Kirchner an “old hag” who is “worse than her one-eyed” late husband Kirchner.
“There she was trying to show the 77-year-old pope what the differences are between mate tea and a thermos,” he mused in reference to the Argentinean leader’s presentation of gifts to Pope Francis I last month.
Argentina has filed a protest, calling Mujica’s statements degrading and unacceptable. But while he has avoided issuing an apology, the Uruguayan leader came out publicly to praise bilateral relations between the two nations.
In the Lento article, Mujica had some good words for Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández. He said one of the late Kirchner’s successes was having passed young people “the ball,” which had given them the means to “construct” better lives.
He said he didn’t think that the current government in Argentina was “fascist” as some of Fernández de Kirchner’s critics have charged. “I think that sometimes we exaggerate things,” Mujica said.