Uruguay’s President Mujica meets Obama, praises ‘vigor of Latin women’

President Obama’s meeting with Uruguayan President Jose Mujica  started off, Obama told reporters, with the former urban guerilla fighter having observed “that my hair has become much grayer since the last time he saw me.”

Mujica, 79 next week, sat with Obama in the customary brief photo opp and remarks before their  formal Oval Office meeting. These are usually non-news chats where Obama says “thanks for coming”  and his guest says “thanks for having me.”

Uruguay’s President Jose Mujica, center, in Montevideo, Uruguay, Dec. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico)
Uruguay’s President Jose Mujica, center, in Montevideo, Uruguay, Dec. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico)

But Mujica, a former Tupamaro guerrilla fighter who spent about 14 years in various slammers for his activities, had what might be called “wide-ranging” observations to offer.

First, Mujica, who eschews formal attire and is probably best known for legislation that makes it legal for individuals to grow marijuana at home in Uruguay, opined in Spanish that “you [the United States]  will have to become a bilingual country … because the vigor [or strength] of Latin women is admirable and they are going to fill this continent with people who speak Spanish” and Portuguese.

He talked for a bit more about education and then pivoted to the perils of smoking, saying that he was speaking as “an old smoker. But in this world, per year, eight million people are dying from smoking.” His government is in a “tough fight, very tough … against very strong interests,” he said. Presumably he means tobacco companies.

Then Mujica, who is a farmer,  said he’s “getting old” and “would like to be a little bit younger to see Mississippi” and “the dairy farms of Los Angeles.” He asked Obama to “convey a hug to all the farmers of this nation.”

“All right,” Obama replied. “Thank you.”

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.
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