Uruguayan President José Mujica attempted to woo foreign investment to his country in a speech given on Tuesday to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“It seems like Uruguay is a fashionable country…this is thanks to the people, not the government” he said as part of his address entitled “Uruguay: A New Age of Global Dynamism”.
Mujica emphasized to the crowd of U.S. businessmen and Uruguayan expats that his country has overcome the “vicious cycle” of anxiety towards foreign investment and Uruguay has enjoyed steady economic growth over the past decade. As a result, Uruguay’s leader since 2010 observed that his country has “the mechanisms for investment and this will lead to a multiplication of productivity and competitiveness.”
The 78-year-old former guerrilla fighter turned president also defended economic policies that have not been seen favorably by local business interests such as raising the minimum wage to one of the highest in Latin America.
“Uruguay grows due to (income) distribution…We have achieved growth while distributing wealth. I acknowledge that we’ve had problems but they’re related to (economic) expansion,” Mujica claimed.
Mujica’s visit to the U.S. continues today when he meets with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and an address to students at American University. On Monday he visited the White House where he met his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama, and reportedly did not talk about controversial issues such as Uruguay’s legalization of marijuana and the transfer of a handful of Guantanamo detainees to the South American country. Nevertheless, Mujica criticized tobacco use and advised Americans to learn to speak Spanish:
The Uruguayan president spoke about his country's tough restrictions on tobacco smoking, which have led to it being sued by the US tobacco giant Philip Morris.
"In the world, eight million people die each year from smoking tobacco," he said.
"This is mass murder. We are in an arduous fight, very arduous, and we must fight against very strong [corporate] interests."
Mr Mujica also said that, as people were learning English in his country out of necessity, Americans also had to learn Spanish because of an increase in the Latino population.
"The strength of Latin women is admirable, and they will fill this continent with people who speak Spanish and also Portuguese."Aside from backing the plan for the legalized distribution and production of marijuana, Mujica has become a “cult hero to droves of young progressives around the world” due to other policy chances including legalizing gay marriage and the decriminalization of certain types of abortion. He cannot run for immediate reelection though polls indicate that the ruling Broad Front of leftist parties is expected to continue in power following the October 26th presidential elections.
Video Source – YouTube user teleSURenglishtv
Online Sources – El Observador; Buenos Aires Herald; BBC News; MercoPress; VICE News; Prensa Latina; Caracol Radio