José Mujica and Uruguay's "Robin Hood Guerrillas"

José Mujica and Uruguay's "Robin Hood Guerrillas"

The Volkswagen-driving former bank robber president and the Tupamaros, the Marxist insurgents for which he fought.

An additional lesson concerns Mujica’s unique lifestyle and the effect it has on his presidential leadership. International relations academics have long debated the usefulness of individual-level theories in explaining the flows of world politics. Beyond the merits of that debate, there is no question that Mujica has helped Uruguay’s image and built on its soft power. In a region full of colorful leaders, he retains a clear-cut aura of prestige and respect from politicians and citizens alike.

Lastly, the story of Mujica and the Tupamaros is interesting in itself because it is profoundly human. It is a rare case when insurgents—many of them terrorists—can look back on decades of war, imprisonment, and democratic politics, and balance their successes and mistakes, their achievements and their crimes.

Pablo Brum is a security analyst. He holds a Master’s Degree in Security Studies from Georgetown University, and is currently writing the first English-language history of the Tupamaros.

Image: Collage of Roosewelt Pinhieiro/ABr (foreground, CC BY 3.0) and Julio Vega (background, CC BY 3.0).