September 19, 2014
Mujica: ‘We don’t go around bribing people’
WASHINGTON — On the second day of his US tour, Uruguayan President José Mujica said investments have “great guarantees” in his country and underlined that his countrymen “are not corrupt and don’t go around bribing people.”
A day after meeting with US President Barack Obama in the White House’s Oval Office, Mujica addressed a group of businessmen at the American Chamber of Commerce.
“We are not very hard-working. We don’t break our backs. But we are not corrupt and don’t go around bribing the (foreign) businessmen that come. We are a decent country,” Mujica said during the meeting, according to local newspapers.
He also told businessmen that Uruguayan union leaders can’t be bought.
“We are businesses’ friends but we don’t put our souls up for sale. From that point of view, we are a country that provides very important guarantees (to investment). Not just the administration, the whole country,” he highlighted.
The Uruguayan president also invited retirees to think of Uruguay as a possible place to settle down and find a home. “I believe Uruguay is a great place to live in and it can’t continue to be a treasure reserved to the small bourgeoisie from Buenos Aires that is settling down along the coast,” Mujica said, in reference to the scores of Argentine citizens that have moved to Punta del Este and José Ignacio.
“Our security problems, compared to what is happening in the rest of Latin America and the world, are innocent,” he added.
The president also underlined that Uruguay would soon have the “largest pulp mill in the world,” referring to the UPM plant which has strained relations between Montevideo and Buenos Aires, with residents of Gualeguaychú saying the plant contaminates the Uruguay River’s waters.
Mujica also met with US Secretary of State John Kerry and said the two officials would discuss ways to increase trade between the two countries.
“It’s the best kind of diplomacy, to build a relationship and to create opportunities in both our countries,” Kerry said in a brief statement prior to the meeting.
Uruguay and the US evaluated signing a Free Trade Agreement during former president Tabaré Vázquez term in office, but the deal eventually fell through due to opposition within the Uruguayan ruling-party, the Broad Front.
Mujica has discarded signing a TLC with the United States but Vázquez — who could win a second term in elections scheduled for October — has already said he’d be willing to analyze the issue one more time.
Vázquez has already said that he could tap Danilo Astori to be his Economy Minister again, if he gets elected on October 10. Astori was the main supporter of a free trade agreement with Washington.
Kerry didn’t refer yesterday to ongoing negotiations between the two countries to have Montevideo receive six inmates from the US prison in Guantánamo, which Obama is trying to close. Mujica has already said he’d be willing to take the prisoners but that he would let them leave the country freely.
On Monday, after meeting with Obama, Mujica called Guantánamo “an embarrassment to humanity” and said that “the least we can do is try to help” if Washington is attempting to close the controversial prison.
A recent law approved in Uruguay legalizing marijuana and creating a state-controlled market for it hasn’t been on Mujica’s Washington agenda so far.