An Interview with Uruguay’s José Mujica: From Armed Struggle to the Presidency

By

Author’s Note: President “Pepe”. When used like that, it sounds like an electoral slogan. But Jose Mujica is about to conclude – on Mar. 1 – his term as President and he’s more “Pepe” than ever. In more than half a century as a journalist, I have had the opportunity to meet or mingle with all manner of leaders, from Ronald Reagan to Raul Alfonsín, to Fidel Castro, Mijail Gorbachov, “Lula”, François Mitterand, Sandro Pertini, Michèle Bachelet and Carlos Menem, but “Pepe” breaks the mold. On Feb. 11, at 10:00 in the morning, the Swiss journalist Camilla Landbö, photographer Oscar Bonilla, coordinator Fasano Mertens, presidential press secretary of Uruguay Joaquín Costanzo and myself arrived at “Pepe’s” very simple, blooming farm just a few miles outside of Montevideo. Out comes the President to greet us wearing his untucked button-down with sleeves rolled up over a pair of jeans, shoes half untied and a baseball cap. He says hello, exchanges handshakes, and we sit down under a tree where he grabs a thermos and begins to serve “mates” for the whole crew. Every now and then he interrupts to ask Bonilla for some tobacco and paper to roll up a smoke. But in spite of what this description might suggest, there was not a bit of posing, or anything picturesque about “Pepe” Mujica. Breathing, sweating, he exudes an authenticity demonstrated in all aspects of his life and, of course, by his deeds and words. He freely expresses the limitations and problems of his administration in an intellectual style with an everyman touch. “Pepe” is one of those rare Marxists that gets the humanist materialism of Marx and attempts to make it relevant to today’s world. A cultured and profoundly honest and sincere man, whether you agree or disagree with what he says. “Pepe”, President of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay. C.G.


Interview with José Mujica, President of Uruguay

CG (Carlos Gabetta): Let’s start with the formalities: what’s the proper way to address you? Should we call you President, Mr. Mujica, José, or…

JM (José Mujica): Pepe… and we’ll use “tu” (an informal conversation style – tn).

CG: Thanks, Pepe. Let’s get started then. For a man such as yourself, who struggled through the ‘70’s for urgent and definitive political, economic and social change; for a revolution, which cost you among other things 15 years in jail…. What does it mean, now years later after these experiences, to be elected President, to find yourself at the head of a center-left coalition, with partners that have different ideas, and with this responsibility to govern?

JM: Humans, just like any other living creature, we love life very much. So we wanted a perfect world. In the end we suffered quite bit, but mainly because we weren’t quick enough, and they caught us (laughing), not because we were heroes. But that’s where we started to reevaluate the meaning of life, nothing more and nothing less… It’s worth fighting for people to have a bit more food, a better roof over their heads, better health, better education, and to be able to spend their days on this earth the best they can. So nothing is more beautiful, more precious than life… And that’s true under capitalism, it was so under feudalism, and it was also true for primitive man… and it will continue to be so under socialism. There’s nothing like life…That’s what we learned in those years, that life itself is the main value, and in any case the second value is society.

That’s why now we go more slowly, but firmly, trying to fortify the transformations that are relevant; slowly, because they need to be consensual; and not so definitive, because death is really the only thing definitive…

CG: What you say could be understood, to translate, as adapting to reality…

JM: One never ceases to adapt to reality, it’s so complex… It’s a way of looking at the world… some see it through a religious equation, others strictly ideologically… I myself feel more and more closer to the old philosophers like Seneca, or Epicurus, or like….

CG: Heraclitus….

JM: Yes… Of course, there are convictions, an intellectual trajectory that one won’t abandon, but we shouldn’t be so schematic… I think that man, being the animal that he is, with the kind of hard-drive that we have inside, is essentially sociable; he’s not feline, but anthropologically socialist. In what way? Man needs a community to live in; he can’t live in isolation, there’s a deep dependence on the social group. 90% of our human existence was lived in a primitive state; there was no distinction between what’s mine and yours. Property, competition and all that came later. The development of civilization brought about individuality; the later idea of the selfish individual is modern, capitalist. We are capitalists as a result of historical formation, because we are living at this point of civilizational development.

CG: A few days ago I read a statement of yours: “we will be at war until Nature demands that we become civilized”…

JM: Yes, that’s how we’re headed. Capitalism, like everything, is contradictory. On the one hand, you have the injustice, the inequality, the wars; but that selfishness we have inside is a powerful motor, that has led to the development of science, technology, and all that right? Capitalism has given us many a scourge, but it gave us 40 more years of average lifespan in the last century… what do you make of it? Now it seems that it’s given all it has to give; the logical step would be for democratic socialism to replace it, but historical timeframes are long. Capitalism developed during three centuries without any political democracy…

CG: At any point did you say something like “no use crying over your problems; you have to face them”..

JM: Yes, the trick is finding the way…

CG: Precisely, and now in a government such as the one you head, how are these contradictions resolved?

JM: They get negotiated as best they can, trying to contribute towards making society as equitable as possible, constantly intervening with fiscal and social policies, encouraging workers to organize so that they can negotiate the cost of their own labor. Because at the end of the day, the greatest factor of distribution in society, at least in ours today, is one’s salary. It’s not the only one, and of course it has a limit, because if I put my hand too deep into the pockets of those who need to invest, they don’t invest and I end up with less to redistribute…You see the human and practical result of the hurried, “definitive” experiments of socialism: in the end they had less to divvy up.

CG: And they were also undemocratic experiments…

JM: Of course, because when you run out of everything, you have to fall back on the firmness of repression… But the worst of that socialism is the bureaucracy…Instead of depending on the producers, you begin to rely on the supervisors…. Capitalism has the problems we all know of, but there’s always something to learn, even from the enemy. You have to learn from intelligence, not stupidity.

CG: How far has the Broad Front (Frente Amplio) advanced and what’s left for it to do?

JM: The problem is that we have an inheritance, which is normal. From around the ‘40’s – the dates can be somewhat arbitrary – in Uruguay democracy began to soften; we fell into clientelisms, using the State as a means of employing many people, too many people, and so it began to lose competitiveness.

Due to this “protectionism” towards the people that worked, we created a category of practically untouchable bureaucrats whose livelihood is guaranteed; after starting out in government, within 40 years they retire and nobody touches them, regardless of what they do. The State lost its vigor, and obviously the labor unions defended these “victories”, by which they themselves turned into defenders of the status quo which tied up the State… So addressing that in Uruguay is like starting a revolution… And so, we got about halfway there.

The Broad Front tried to strengthen the victories while being less demagogic, trying to use and do things a bit better, but we have to transform the state, to start this revolution. We have the tools, but we need to come to an agreement: in addition to Energy, Communications, etc., the State has in its hands the primary bank of the country; 60% of banking transactions are in the hands of the State and we (the BF, editor’s note) are still demanding to “nationalize the banks”…

Why would you nationalize the Banks? The state bank has to function under a “zero exceptions” regimen, to the extent that the private banking sector has no other option than to accept the rules of the game. This is one of the challenges that lies ahead.

CG: As in Chile, and contrary to the case with Argentina, in Uruguay the crimes from the dictatorship of the ‘70’s benefitted from an expiration law, approved by referendum…

JM: I think the people of Uruguay were afraid… but with good humor, in a way decided to “swallow the bitter pill”… Very hard and difficult, but it prioritized tranquility.

CG: But then later the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional some parts of that Full stop law, to use that term. How was this issue handled within your government?

JM: The problem is complex. On the one hand, the criminals would never accuse themselves; on the other, they left very few clues, I would say none, that would permit justice to be fully carried out, which would rightfully keep us busy for quite some time. Truth and justice tend to be contradictory and the problem lies in the political divisions and the disputes, grievances, that this generates in society when the situation is prolonged over time. Look at Argentina, they started out well, but then began mucking things up with such a generalized and massive effort where thirty years have passed leaving many loose ends and rough spots along the way… Not in Uruguay… We had violence and dictatorship, but then the people decided to forget it, if you like. We’ll have to see how this gets resolved institutionally with regards to the Supreme Court.

Also, on the subject of justice and not only referring to the crimes from the dictatorship, Uruguay functions under a system appropriate to the past, but not with the changes necessary for the present. In Uruguay today, if you want to impose a tax on land, on concentrated landholdings, they put an end to that by declaring it unconstitutional. As with anywhere in the world and as is typical in history, the system of jurisprudence was conceived and set up by the dominant classes, the conservative caste. We have to deal with this; we have not transformed it. We (the BF, editor’s note) for some time now should have pushed for a constitutional reform, because if you don’t change the instruments of justice, later you will find yourself trapped in these contradictions, by a very formidable wall. Justice, like the lady they show with a blindfold over her eyes and scales in her hands… that doesn’t exist, because the justice system reflects the weight of the classes that dominate the society. The instruments of justice are burdened by history, and that is the history of class struggle… All of this is influenced by politics. I don’t think a more political act exists other than a revolution, and all the revolutions have been foundations of law, sources of jurisprudence. In other words the or those classes that predominate, are those that establish the laws. That’s what we need now, democratic changes – meaning approved by the majority – to the very root, that reflect and at the same time allow for those changes that Uruguay needs at the present time.

CG: Marx would agree with you.

JM: Better yet, I agree with Marx…

CG: I would like to move to a regional topic, Pepe. Mercosur, for example, which was created in 1989 and still has not moved beyond a few commercial and tariff agreements, which at any rate don’t work very well… What do you think about these organizations, of their present status, of what they should become?

JM: In South America, and in all of Latin America, we have a great challenge ahead. If we do not create mechanisms that continue to integrate us, that can provide us with a greater international presence, we will end up like so many leaves blowing in the wind. It’s obvious that in today’s world gigantic blocks are being formed. China is an ancient plurinational state; India similarly so. The United States with the power and necessities it has, with Canada just behind it and Mexico, that morsel just an arm’s reach away, are practically already converted into a block. Europe, in spite of all the problems taking place, continues ahead with its goal of constituting a gigantic block. And if it falls apart tomorrow it will just be swallowed up by a superior block.

And what then are we doing in this world, a handful of isolated republics that are trying to catch up? We stay stuck in “the national projects”. In the key countries of the Latin American region, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, the leaders talk of and assume an integrationist discourse, but from a practical point of view, they are up to their ears in the contradictions of the nation-state. On a diplomatic level, towards the other countries of the region, they conduct themselves as their own internal tensions dictate… We are far from reaching constructive policies. We reached an agreement on tariffs for business, all right?… but as far as any internal contradictions go, well! they just put a lid on it… A few days ago I attended a ceremony of the Brazilian Workers’ Party, where who else but the President Dilma Roussef along with Lula were there… I listened carefully to their speeches, and at no point did they mention integration. And it’s not out of bad intentions; they’re excellent people. Any time we have a problem with Brazil, we talk and negotiate and we find a solution, but the internal political concerns and problems of Brazil determine their agenda… So you see, what are we doing? We create these organisms, new institutions, Mercosur, UNASUR…

The integrationist project is two hundred years old, since San Martin, Bolívar, Artigas, but the leftist parties have been so inept to the point that it’s not a popular idea; nowhere in Latin America will you find a mass demonstration demanding integration… it only recently has achieved a veneer of intellectual support, but it’s not yet accepted as a basic historical necessity.

Do you know who are the most pro-integration? The smaller countries; out of necessity… because we are running from behind. Integration requires leadership, and that leader’s name is Brazil… but Argentina would have to come along, and they are not at all, in reality it’s just the opposite, it’s as if Argentina had turned back to a 1960’s vision.

CG: When the winds are blowing their way, Argentina forgets about integration, when things are going well for them they look the other way…

JM: Brazil does too… I’ll confess something to you: the President of Brazil once said to me: “Ay, Pepe, with Argentina you have to have strategic patience…!”.

Brazil has put up with everything from the Argentines, everything… But they don’t want to lose them as an ally. Argentina ends up being decisive in everything… what Argentina does or does not do will influence the direction Brazil takes.

CG: Dilma said this? Or Lula?

JM: Dilma. Lula thinks the same way… And they come looking for me so that I can take the lead with this struggle towards integration. Lula says: I can’t Pepe, I can’t because I’m Brazilian (…) there’s a strong Sao Paolo merchant class, and without political guidance, instead of integrating they colonize. They invest in Uruguay and buy something that we were making instead of starting something new. Now we have 40% of the meat packing sector in Brazilian hands. They go to Argentina and do the same thing. This behavior, the only thing it does is dis-integrate us…

CG: The Argentines do a little bit of the same when they can…

JM: That’s true, because that’s natural under capitalist greed. But politically speaking… I’m not going to expect the bourgeoisie to become socialists…

CG: But at least they should be good bourgeoisie…

JM: Of course!… That’s the most serious of all the problems… our bourgeoisie our very backwards, they are capitalists bourgeoisie but they have a pre-capitalist mentality; in any case a dependent one.

CG: Let’s get back to Uruguay. Among things still needing to improve, the BF has stated that education is essential…

JM: I’m not a specialist in education, I’m an observer. We Uruguayans still have an old dilemma: which should be the priority, an integrated humanistic education, or one of a more technological, scientific nature? That’s the debate that drags on to this day, and it’s common throughout Latin America, after all we are descendants of Spain, not England… The fact is that we prioritized the humanistic oriented education and that produced a particular culture. If a family decided to send their sons to the industrial school, we interpreted that as something second class. We have an educational tradition that did not emphasize mathematics, physics, chemistry, the different fields of engineering that are related to material production in society. We are prolific poets, writers and journalists, a very important intellectual quality, but we abandoned the work-related specializations…

CG: Those related to scientific education and research…

JM: Yes… we fell into a kind of fantasy; believing that the path of mathematics or physics would not lead on to philosophy, putting at odds things that really shouldn’t be.

CG: In fact it’s just the opposite…

JM: Right! The classical mathematicians were all philosophers, weren’t they?

CG: Starting with Pythagoras.

JM: Yes… but the people of Uruguay have been giving us a hint: many wait days in line to be able to sign a boy up for an industrial education. The registration rate increased by almost 40%, but we didn’t assign enough resources to satisfy the demand; so we’re in an in-between situation.

CG: More like a transition, correct?

JM: With some combat in the realm of ideas, because I didn’t have the support of the political forces… As my consolation prize they conceded to a new technological university for the interior…

CG: When you say “they conceded”, are you referring to Congress, to the parliament?

JM: No, in the prior negotiations… I ended up with my own political allies divided on the issue. I’m going to remind them of that till the final judgment day. Now when it’s time to debate the budget, I’m going to fight for them to approve an independent budget for the Labor University of Uruguay (UTU); if you give it money independence will come along on its own. Education is fundamental, but it’s not isolated from the other basics, because if I educate and train, but don’t develop the country, the only thing I’m accomplishing is getting people prepared so that they can leave; in other words, I end up with the bill. You can’t have education without political guidance, without political orientation. If we believe that through mass education society will spontaneously come to bloom, we’re dreaming, bluffing, avoiding the drama of the class struggle. That’s the problem.

CG: One must develop the material infrastructure of the country, the economy…

JM: Exactly… we can’t fixate on education as a panacea, because Latin America has been a factory for educated brains that went off to who knows where…

CG: In Argentina some 50,000 first rate scientists and technicians left the country in recent decades.

JM: The problem is economic. If I train them and then don’t provide any opportunity; if I pay them a quarter of what they can make out in the world, they’re going to leave!

CG: What other things would you say you haven’t gotten done during your government, or things you could have done better?

JM: I believe we are behind in infrastructure. The country’s economy grew quite a bit, the production, but not the infrastructure. We have clogged up ports, poor communication methods, lack of transportation, we don’t take advantage of the rivers… It’s criminal; there’s ample area to work on… We have progressed well with energy, a problem now solved for several years, but the battle for infrastructure still needs to be fought…

CG: Any other faults of the BF governments?

JM: We didn’t make serious attempts to realize the transformations that the State needs. But there’s lots of resistance… the State needs to see some changes in Uruguay, it is imperative. Because we cannot expect that Uruguay, a small underdeveloped country, should have a foundational, creative bourgeoisie class. The State has to be opening up the channels… because otherwise we’ll end up in the hands of the multinationals. The only thing with sufficient stature to substitute the presence of those multinationals is the State, but it can’t be this current State…

CG: And what about an agrarian reform? Would you consider it necessary, possible…?

JM: In the ‘40’s, after a historic debate Uruguay approved a law that was more than an agrarian reform: it was a national plan. We founded something called the National Institute for Colonization…

CG: Colonization?…

JM: Yes… it is the largest proprietary landholder in Uruguay. The largest estate holder in the country is the State… with nearly a half-million hectares, and good ones. But for a long time, it was not given economic resources. As an old politician said, “we voted for the law but we didn’t give them the resources”. If during the ‘60’s or the ‘70’s we had applied in full the content of that law, Uruguay would probably look more like New Zealand today than what we are…

We saved the life of the Institute for Colonization. When we took over the government it was dying, the income it collected barely covered the costs of the bureaucracy. We gave it resources, tried to give it a push, get it up to date. There are sectors of production that to this day still fit in the small, family-business structure; for example dairy, milk production. But we can’t apply the same criteria to the policies for grain producers, because the world and technology has changed. I think we need to continue with the policies of colonization by the State, in favor of those sectors of production that are economically viable, but we can’t transform the land into a system that produces poverty. With the large business we have to nail them down and require them to comply with the modern legislation, to pay decent salaries, to comply with the social security programs and contribute to getting people out of poverty… I don’t worry if there are gringo landowners, because they can’t take the land with them. And truth be told, there are some criollos that are worse than gringos… What does concern me is what they pay and how they treat the people, and what is the added-value that remains in the country. We have to be careful and not cut off our nose to spite our face, something that, by our very nature leftists can be prone to…

We have the tools, we don’t have to do anything: that necessary and possible agrarian reform in Uruguay has a name, it’s the National Institute for Colonization, which instead of having a half-million hectares, should eventually have a million and a half, up to two million… The day that we have the capacity to advance more, maybe other options can be debated, but I reject the idea that agricultural policy should generate more poverty.

CG: Actual socialism had us fooled on that…

JM: I used to not think so, but the failures of the socialist model have taught me a few things, because it doesn’t make sense that the Cuban Revolution after all these years still has trouble providing milk for kids… they have to rely on imports. Why did it fail? What exactly failed? It tried to create gigantic collectivized units and ended up with one hell of a bureaucracy… In Venezuela they ended up nationalizing 40 and 50 thousand hectare estates, that today are desolate, just a wasteland; they don’t produce a thing, you know?

CG: Marihuana was legalized during your government.

JM: That’s something we want to have under control. It’s not some hippy liberalism. Nothing to do with the idea of “free marihuana” and all that. We don’t defend the idea of marihuana as a panacea that’s good for the health. It’s really a measure taken against drug trafficking, because one thing that’s worse than marihuana and any other drug is the drug trafficking. So it’s a policy intended to take away that market from the drug traffickers. Make it a legal business, because otherwise you have to use repression…

If you have one hundred and fifty thousand people that decide to smoke, we need to have them identified, give them access to a good product, and when we see that the person has symptoms indicating that he’s gone overboard, say to him “son, you need to get some treatment”… just like an alcoholic. If we leave this world in the shadows, when the problems finally manifest it’s often too late, or very expensive…

CG: And on top of that you have to charge a tax. I mean, on the drug trade. The drug traffickers don’t pay taxes… the State has to deal with the addicts but doesn’t receive anything…

JM: Yes, and in the case of marihuana, we’ve demonized a plant that at heart is marvelous. As a source of textile fiber, the uses are infinite, to make fabrics and so many things… And since it’s illegal, we can’t move ahead with any scientific studies regarding the possible applications that it could have in healthcare.

CG: Will Tabaré Vázquez carry on with this policy? He seems somewhat hesitant, just as with the abortion issue…

JM: As far as these policies go, it seems that he at least puts up with them… (laughter).

CG: Before we end, let’s talk a bit about your past, your life, your history?

JM: I don’t really have a history, more like a comedy… (laughter) My past? There must be 20 books written on that; the journalists hunt for the story at my expense (laughter)… don’t read all of them please, they’re unbearable…

CG: Maybe as you say your life is more of a comedy, but a passionate one. Just imagining it: an armed militant, 15 years in prison, some of them in a hole, a well, so… What did you do, what strategy did you come up with to survive and end up here today, President of Uruguay? Most people in that situation would either die, go crazy, or be broken…

JM: I don’t know if it has anything to do with genetics, but I never doubted that I would eventually get out and continue fighting. It never crossed my mind that I would die or drop the political struggle… It’s an ideal I’ve always held, and perhaps it has helped me… I spent six years without books, so I invented things for myself, tricks to keep my spirits up…

CG: Like what?

JM: I would come up with ideas for tools, I mentally invented farm implements, that would be for this or that, I calculated them, manufactured them mentally and so kept myself entertained… I walked several miles a day. More than I do today, for sure…

CG: In the hole?

JM: Oh yes, three steps one way, three steps the other; three steps one way, three steps to the other… until my legs hurt…

CG: And you never once doubted that you’d get out alive?

JM: I don’t think about death. Death has flirted with me several times; it’s given me a few close calls, but never really wanted me. That’s probably the most ingrained part of my way of thinking; I love life, I would never take my own life… for me life is a beautiful thing. I don’t live out in the country because I’m strange, rather it’s because I love nature…

Yesterday I hurt myself with some pliers right here (he points to a scab on the tip of his nose) twisting some wire (laughter). I’m President of the Republic, sure, but I was running around on the tractor breaking ground over there, came home a total mess, took a bath, cleaned up my nose and straightened myself out a bit…

I know those are small details for most people, but for me they’re essential; I can’t live any other way… Other people have their own ways; fine, that’s the beauty of human freedom, everybody needs to have the time, at least some time set aside to do things they feel motivated to do. That’s true liberty; it’s such a grandiose word, so French, it has to be brought down to earth…

CG: You often mention happiness in your speeches.

JM: Some people say that I’m a “poor” President, but in reality I just have a simple lifestyle. I get by with little, keep my bags light on purpose, it’s a choice. Why? To have the free time and be able to spend it on the things that truly motivate me. If I spend all my effort making money, then I’ll have to constantly run around anxiously looking after it; worrying if someone’s going to steal from me here or screw me over later and so on, and all the while I’m taking time out of my life –time that you can’t buy – on things that don’t motivate me. For some maybe that is a motivation; there again, that’s freedom for them, there has to be a margin of free choice… I’m not arguing for a State or a society where everything is regulated either: you wear a coat and tie if you want, or wear… just whatever you like! Do as you wish, as long as you don’t offend anyone… Maybe I’m part anarchist after all…

CG: What’s your dream, what project’s left for you to accomplish?

JM: As long as we’re alive our dreams never end… I have socialist convictions, and I aspire to contribute towards an intelligent legacy, with the kind of leaders that when they die, or at the end of their government, the people and society are better off than they are… Because things drag out over time and a human life is short when compared to the infinite tasks of the future, to create more just societies…Those just societies don’t result from spontaneous generation; they require organized human willpower. To me that’s what is indispensable; it’s not the only thing, but without organized human willpower, things won’t get done, and then there’s that determinism …

CG: Like the quote from Gramsci, “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will”.
JM: Correct… the creation of a public culture that facilitates change is a formidable task. It’s the only thing that can sustain revolutionary changes, in the deepest sense…

CG: You say you don’t hate, but when you got out of prison, out of the hole, you didn’t hate then?

JM: No, I don’t hate. Honestly if one has an understanding of the class struggle in society, one knows that the dirty work that one person does, even if they refused to do it someone else would, because it’s a byproduct of the circumstances. Of course, there is that greater or lesser degree of sadistic behavior each individual contributes. But I also came to know interesting characters while in prison… soldiers that risked their neck to bring us a bowl of rations or an apple. I saw officers that disagreed with the orders they received… There’s no black and white; there are always shades of gray in between. But obviously, if I’m a political or social militant, I have to fight to gain power, to be able to implement structural changes.

Today, the Left seems to believe that they should abandon or substitute the struggle for power for a social agenda: marriage equality, abortion, minority rights, the indigenous, feminism… All that is very good, and I support it, but the person of color who is really damned is the poor one; the woman who’s the greatest victim of discrimination is the poor woman, overwhelmed, with too many children living day to day; with the indigenous, it’s the same. Don’t try to camouflage or hide class differences with me.

CG: Yes, but then there are personal questions too, emotionally speaking, when one walks away from a place where they were truly mistreated, how is that to change?

JM: I went to visit the guards at the jail where I was imprisoned… I took a picture with coronels there now and everything… (laughter). The past is water under the bridge. Yes, it can seem painful, but life…life is incredible; you don’t have to live constantly thinking back on what you went through, licking your wounds, limping around, because if you’re just whining about what happened to you, you’re stuck in the past. And life is what’s yet to come, life is tomorrow; we have to learn from the past, but not let it bury us.

CG: Last year you were nominated for the Nobel Peace prize.

JM: And I told them they were crazy, because it seemed like wars were popping up all over the place, it was a real disaster what was happening, and then you decide to nominate me for a peace prize! Don’t they have any sense? (laughter)… What peace are we talking about? I suggested they should award it posthumously to Gandhi. It would make more sense…

CG: So what’s next for you? What do you plan to do after March 1st, after you leave government?

JM: I think now I’ve got one foot in the grave (laughter)…

CG: Good thing you loved life so much then…

JM: I’m going to take it as slow as I can (laughter). I see death as a very basic part of life… You have to learn to die like the mountain wolf, without causing such a fuss (sic). It’s just a means of going back to the source; it should be accepted as natural… but in the meantime, as long as I can move my bones, old though they may be, I’ll continue to struggle. I can’t imagine retiring… I would surely die then, but out of sadness over in a corner.