a trinity of latin leaders


My best blogging buddy, and erstwhile blogging neighbour, is the colourful Brazilian resident and wordsmith extraordinaire, John Zande. He’s a huge fan of my photography, but we occasionally discuss other matters too.  He recently drew my attention to my shocking levels of ignorance. Having lived in Argentina for three years, it would be normal for me to know a bit about politics in South America, but it seems some basic facts escaped my attention. In order to redress this shameful oversight, I thought it would be useful to pull together an educational post about some of the oddly fascinating heads of states ruling in that now faraway continent.

President of Uruguay – José “Pepe” Mujica

  • 77-year-old vegetarian dog-owner
  • donates 90% of his monthly salary to charity
  • lives on a farm and drives a VW Beetle
  • got shot six times and spent two years at the bottom of a well as a political prisoner in the 1970s
  • he’s an atheist

meaningful quotes

“This is a matter of freedom. If you don’t have many possessions then you don’t need to work all your life like a slave to sustain them, and therefore you have more time for yourself.”

“[there is a] blind obsession to achieve growth with consumption, as if the contrary would mean the end of the world”

President of Venezuela – Nicolás Maduro

  • good buddy of deceased former president, Hugo Chavez – calls himself ‘son of Chavez’, and calls Chavez ‘Christ of the poor of America’.
  • while praying in a chapel, he believes the spirit of Chavez came to him in the form of a bird and gave him his blessing. [worrying youtube video link]
  • he’s a follower of contraversial Indian guru, Sathya Sai Baba,

meaningful quote

“Suddenly a bird entered, very small, and flew round three times. It stopped on a wooden beam and began whistling [whistles like bird] I stared at him and whistled back. The bird looked at me strangely, whistled for a little while, flew around and left, and I felt the spirit [of Chavez].”

President of Argentina – Cristina Fernández de Kirchner 

  • widow of former President Nestor Kirchner
  • the couple’s personal wealth has grown dramatically since being in office due to supposedly astute business investments. Allegations of Kirchner money laundering scandals are currently daily news in Argentina.
  • in order to stop losing foreign currency reserves from the country, the government has made it impossible for the average citizen to legally buy foreign currency in Argentina – the official exchange rate is around 5 pesos to the dollar, while the black market rate is around 10 pesos to the dollar
  • the official rate of inflation is around 10%, while unofficial estimates run at 25% (any private companies within the country who publish their own figures are promptly shut down)
  • her government recently changed the scheduling of top football matches to 9.30pm in order to clash with the TV programme of the journalist releasing weekly Kirchner corruption scandals. For the first time in Argentinian history, football came second.
  • she’s a devout Catholic, whose political arch-enemy was Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio … until he became the strategically useful Pope Francis.

meaningful quotes

None. Cristina gives no interviews, has no press conferences and never has to answer questions about her policies. She even refuses to comment when around 1 million Argentinians take to the streets to demonstrate against her corruption.