‘El Pepe’ Ode to Leader Who Gives Socialism Good Name

As Venezuela descends into economic chaos and Brazil’s former president Lula is barred from making a comeback because of a corruption conviction, filmmaker Emir Kusturica has made an ode to one Latin American leader who gives socialism a good name.

El Pepe: A Supreme Life, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival on Monday, is a documentary about Jose “Pepe” Mujica, a former leftist guerrilla who as Uruguay President from 2010-15 earned a reputation as a man of the people, giving away much of his salary and eschewing the luxury trappings of office.

Double Palme d’Or winner Kusturica said Mujica was “the only president in the world who is leaving office and 150,00 people are crying.”

“I am positive he’s going to be an inspiration for those who are today losing love and belief in socialism,” the Serbian director told Reuters in an interview.

Former guerrilla

Mujica, now 83, was a leader of the Tupamaros guerrilla movement that carried out robberies, political kidnappings and bombings against the government in the 1970s.

He says he was shot six times, tortured and held by security forces in solitary confinement in a deep well. He was freed under an amnesty enacted following the end of Uruguay’s 1973-85 military dictatorship.

Asked about his biggest political concerns today, Mujica said it was the combination of capitalism and climate change that could cause an “ecological holocaust.”

“Soon there will be 9 billion people living in this world,” he said.

Climate change, capitalism

Driven by profit, consumption ever growing with mountains of useless things, “If the 9 billion people will live like the North Americans do today, the earth will not endure it,” he told Reuters.

“The danger for my generation was the atomic holocaust. The new generations run the risk that if temperatures go off balance this (world) turns into a huge frying pan.”

El Pepe screened out-of-competition at the Venice Film Festival, which runs from Aug. 29 to Sept 8.

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