Uruguay’s socialist president, José Mujica, although the experience of his government tells us he may not be a true master of politics, is, no doubt, mostly “a truly wonderful guy” at the present. He added this UN speech to the legacy of humanity and is also known (and loved by many) for the old VW Beetle he still likes to drive around in.
Mujica, the Beetle and el perro del presidente: Cute power (photo: Ivan Franco, EPA)
What makes him news here at this point is that he recently extended his usual warm-hearted welcome to his country’s guests from the Guantanamo detention facility — people whom Uruguay offered refuge once the United States was no longer interested in keeping them “at bay.”
He is, in the wake of this visit, apparently not altogether happy with what the former detainees are doing — for example, that they reportedly turned down certain job offers and are not interested in starting to work.
He therefore summed up what he thought about them in the following way:
“If these people were humble people of the desert, poor people, they’d surely be stronger and more primitive, but they’re not. Through their hands, features and family histories, it seems to me that they’re middle class.”
Mujica is the kind of guy to whom one can forgive many things. Let’s face it — even with the best of intentions the guy has just made a very prejudiced statement about “Arabs from the desert,” even if he was looking to express how reality deviated from his expectations (prejudices) on the occasion. The reason why this can nevertheless be taken as a benign statement from him is that he, the child of very poor immigrant (Basque and Italian) parents, was mostly looking to discover his own very broadly understood “kin” in the former detainees. His prejudice was the opposite of rejection.