Retreat: Julio Sanguinetti and José “Pepe” Mujica, two contrasting lives that marked Uruguay

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Their resignations from their Senate seats mark a turning point in the country’s history.

It was in early October that former Uruguayan President Julio María Sanguinetti declared that he would resign his seat as senator, effectively ending a nearly 60-year run of electoral office.

“I think I have already completed the founding stage of the government,” he offered as an explanation to the Telenoche program, and clarified that from now on he would dedicate himself to the task of being Colorado Party president and to his work as a journalist.

Sanguinetti’s resignation thus joins that of José “Pepe” Mujica, produced a few weeks ago, signaling a kind of “changing of the guard” for Uruguayan politics.

It was at the end of September that Mujica announced that he was also resigning his senatorial seat and walking away from electoral offices, citing his advanced age and health reasons.

“I love politics and I don’t want to leave, but I love life more (…) I am about to leave because of my age, because I have a chronic immune disease and it is logical that politics forces social relationships. If I have to take care of myself, I cannot speak, I cannot go to one side, I cannot go to the other, I am a bad senator “, were his words as reproduced by the ANSA agency.

In some way, the careers of both leaders, of vastly different ideologies and positions, serve as a background to illustrate the various episodes that Uruguay has experienced from the 1960s to this part.

The lives of Mujica and Sanguinetti started a few months apart. The “Pepe” was born in 1935, while the “colorado” was born in 1936, both in the bosom of families of Italian descent.

None came from a wealthy background. Mujica attended a public school in Montevideo, and Sanguinetti studied at a private religious school in Canelones.

One of the data that best illustrates the way in which each one perceived the world from an early age is that, while the former Tupamaro guerrilla enthused about Maoism and the Chinese revolutionWhat motivated Sanguinetti was to attend a development summit in Switzerland.

Before turning to politics, Mujica, a passionate cyclist as a young man, sold flowers at fairs. Sanguinetti, for his part, studied law and began his prodigious journalistic career when he was only 17 years old.

Mujica entered the world of politics at the hands of the leader Enrique Erro, who took the young man to work with him at the Ministry of Labor in the late 1950s.

The Cuban Revolution It meant a watershed for Latin America, and also for both Uruguayan leaders. Sanguinetti went to Havana as a correspondent journalistic, while Mujica traveled as a militant left.

Sanguinetti began his political career in the early 1960s. In 1963, at just 27 years old, he became a national deputy, the first link in what would be a long career within the Colorado Party.

In addition to being a deputy, he was Minister of Industry and Commerce, and of Education and Culture, until the arrival of the coup in June 1973. He opposed the takeover of power by the military, which led to his being banned.

He was one of the protagonists of the Pact of the Naval Club, the agreement that in 1984 allowed a political solution to the government led by the military.

In November of that year, he won the presidential election and became the first president to be democratically elected after 13 years of civic-military dictatorship.


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