[Translation of an article from Montevideo Portal for April 9. See original here.]
In an interview on CNN, President Mujica said he “admires” ALBA-style socialism [Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América - Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America] but he declared that it is not the path he would prefer. The president praised the social achievements of Lula and Chávez but made it clear that “this is not building socialism.”
In an interview broadcast on Sunday on the CNN news network, Mujica referred to the changing conditions of the left over time and to the future of socialism in Latin America.
“The governments are not as far to the left as we were thinking 40 years ago but neither can they be as rightist as so many things we have seen in this America,” Mujica stated, considering that currently “the needle seems to be tending toward the center, but there are differences.” Beyond political and ideological discussions, the president praised the social gains achieved by progressive governments of the region. “To bring 40 million people out of poverty, as Lula did, is not to touch the sky with your hands or to construct socialism,” but the fact that those 40 million eat every day is “something very much of the left because to be of the left means to accept responsibility and to rescue people who are overwhelmed.”
“I believe in socialism but not in statism, and I believe that building socialism assumes a much more learned, intelligent and wealthy society,” the president declared, adding that “countries like Sweden and Norway approach much more what socialism can be than so many failed attempts that there have been in these parts.”
Asked his opinion of ALBA-style “socialism for the 21st century,” Mujica separated his personal impression from the relevance or lack of relevance of its implementation. “I admire it, but it is not the path I would choose,” he stressed, explaining that “I would choose one much slower, with much less spectacular, but more self-managed, efforts. I am an enemy of bureaucracy and bureaucratization. People have to manage things and be responsible; that is built from the bottom up. I doubt that too big a state can replace people’s initiative,” he concluded.
Mujica mentioned that he has discussed these subjects with his counterparts Evo Morales of Bolivia and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. “We are still friends,” Mujica laughed, then referred to chavismo and the imprint it has left on the Caribbean country as “something positive.” Mujica believes that “by the time Chávez is gone there will be many Venezuelans who were living in misery and who will be better off, they will have better houses and services; but to my way of thinking he will not have built any socialism,” he concluded.
He also referred to the legal action being being carried out against our country by the Philip Morris tobacco company [over laws requiring prominent health warnings on cigarette packages]. “We are fighting with a giant and we are going to win this fight,” he declared, asserting,“Ours is a moral cause, theirs involves a lot of money, a lot of resources, but it is immoral; we are fighting for the health of our people.”
The president believes Philip Morris “saw that we were little and they made us a scape goat, to perform an experiment; then they will take it to others.”
“Philip Morris can pay lawyers, can have an international audience, that a small country cannot have. But a small country can have the sympathy of the world, because nobody can suspect Uruguay of imperialism,” he added.