- The Washington Times - Monday, May 12, 2014

The leader of Uruguay told President Obama Monday that all Americans should learn Spanish because Spanish speakers will soon “fill this country.”

“You will have to become a bilingual country — yes, or yes? Because the strength of Latin women is admirable and they will fill this country with people who speak Spanish and Portuguese, too,” said Uruguayan President Jose Mujica during an Oval Office meeting with Mr. Obama.

Mr. Obama joked that his Spanish was shaky, because the translator for the session was few minutes late. 

Mr. Mujica also said that other nations such as his are compelled to learn English. 

During the meeting, the South American leader, a former guerrilla elected in 2010, also criticized tobacco companies for “murder.”

“In the world, per year, eight million people are dying from smoking,” he said. “And that is more than World War I, World War II.  It’s murder.  We are in an arduous fight — very arduous — and we must fight against very strong interests.”

He added, “Governments must not be involved in private litigation, but here we’re fighting for life.  And nobody must be distracted in this fight for life, because out of all values, the most important one is life itself.”

A pool reporter covering the meeting said Mr. Obama was “listening intently and nodding slightly” as Mr. Mujica spoke.

Mr. Obama said he has been impressed by Uruguay’s progress in recent years, and lauded Uruguay’s “contributions to peacekeeping in places like Haiti and Africa.” He called Mr. Mujica a leader on human rights throughout this hemisphere and said the U.S and Uruguay can learn from each other on how to deal with diverse societies.


• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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