Sunday night, ex-guerrilla José Mujica won Uruguay’s elections to become president. The former senator and farmer said he plans to emulate Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and uphold the policies of recent president Tabaré Vázquez which have expanded the economy.
Even before official results were announced, rival and former president Luis Lacalle conceded the race to Mujica with 51% of the popular vote.
Known as “Pepe” during the 1960s and 1970s when he led the Tupamaros guerrillas, Mujica has promised to leave behind his radical past to uphold the current government. Mujica also dismissed critics who accused him of plans to align with Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez.
The new president is known for changing the Tupamaros into a political party, rather than a guerrilla movement that carried out robberies, kidnappings and bombings. After being imprisoned for Uruguay’s military dictatorship from 1973 to 1985, Mujica said prison cured him of the idea that armed revolution can achieve lasting social change.
Mujica inherits an economy which has grown for the past five years and says he believes economic development will eradicate poverty.
Despite the rain, Mujica’s supporters flooded the streets to celebrate the victory. “The world is upside down,” Mujica told the excited crowd.”It is you who should be up on this stage and us who should be cheering for you because it is you who have led this fight.”