Uruguay's ex-president 'Pepe' Mujica home after fish bone scare

Montevideo (AFP) –


Uruguay's leftist ex-president Jose Mujica, 85, returned home Wednesday after swallowing a fish bone and requiring surgery, doctors said.

Surgeons found no foreign object in Mujica's esophagus, but observed an injury consistent with him having swallowed a fish bone, said Andres Munyo, who performed the procedure.

"Sometimes, foreign objects cause damage... on their way to the digestive tract. Now we wait for this wound to heal, which will take about 10, 15 days," he told a press conference.

After confirming that Mujica was able to eat, it was decided to send him home to his to his farm on the outskirts of Montevideo, added Mujica's personal physician, Raquel Pannone.

The former guerilla fighter became a cult figure during his 2010-2015 rule, known as the world's "poorest president" for giving away most of his salary and driving an old Volkswagen Beetle.

On his watch, Uruguay passed a number of progressive laws -- legalizing abortion and gay marriage and becoming the first country in the world to allow recreational cannabis use, in 2013.

He remains a figurehead of the Broad Front, the leftist coalition in power from 2005 until it was ousted in 2019 elections by center-right leader Luis Lacalle Pou.

Last October, Mujica resigned from frontline politics, quitting his Senate seat amid the coronavirus epidemic, saying a weakened immune system put him at risk and staying in the office was no alternative to going out and meeting people.

"Honestly, I'm going because the pandemic is tossing me out," he said at the time.

Mujica was part of the MLN-Tupumaros rebels that waged an insurgency during the 1960s and 70s against democratic governments.

Though popular, many Uruguayans blamed them for provoking the 1973 military coup that ushered in a dictatorship that lasted until 1985.

Mujica spent a decade in prison during that time, much of it in solitary confinement.