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Uruguay’s José Mujica calls Venezuela’s President Maduro “mad as a hatter”

Former head of state says he has “great respect” for socialist leader, but must speak out

Pepe Mujica, former president of Uruguay.
Pepe Mujica, former president of Uruguay.EFE
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Pepe Mujica llama “loco” a Nicolás Maduro

The progressive alliance that once linked Latin America’s nations is being stretched to breaking point. The crisis began with the deaths of Néstor Kirchner and Hugo Chávez and deepened when Dilma Rousseff was impeached in Brazil and a conservative, President Mauricio Macri, was elected in Argentina. Now former Uruguayan President José Mujica has distanced himself from Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro. He’s as “mad as a hatter,” Mujica told a television reporter during an event to mark the country’s independence. “They are all crazy in Venezuela. They just say anything and they’re not going to fix anything that way.”

Venezuela is the grip of an economic meltdown that has brought people onto the streets to protest, while the government has declared a state of emergency. The opposition is demanding a recall referendum on Maduro’s mandate.

Venezuela is the grip of an economic meltdown that has brought people onto the streets to protest, while the government has declared a state of emergency

The oil crisis and shrinking GDP have sent the price of basic foodstuffs and medicine soaring. The country’s largest food and drink company, Polar, closed its manufacturing plants on April 30 for lack of foreign currency to import its ingredients. Polar produces and bottles beer in Venezuela and has decided to stand against the government’s strict currency-exchange controls.

Mujica also spoke out in defense of his former foreign minister, Luis Almagro, accused by Maduro of being a CIA agent. “He is not a traitor. He is a lawyer, a slave to the law. They’ve crossed the line.” Mujica says that while he has great respect for the Venezuelan president “that doesn’t mean I won’t tell him he is mad. He is as mad as a hatter. Venezuelans have to resolve their problems among themselves and that is what worries him the most.”

English version by Dyane Jean-François.

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