Leftist icon Mujica set for ministerial return in Uruguay

Montevideo (AFP) –


Ex-Uruguay president Jose Mujica is on the brink of a sensational return to the political spotlight, after the 84-year-old former guerrilla leader said Thursday he had agreed to be a minister in a Broad Front government.

Mujica has been tapped by the ruling party as minister for livestock, agriculture and fisheries should the Broad Front win a November 25 presidential run-off.

The announcement came as party candidate Daniel Martinez presented his proposed cabinet line-up at a news conference in Montevideo alongside Mujica.

"Because of my age, my skeleton, my guts, the job is too big for me," Mujica told reporters. But he said he would use it as a "springboard, so that they replace me in any case with someone with more advantages and youth."

Mujica became a cult figure during his 2010-15 rule, known as "the world's poorest president" for giving away most of his salary and driving an old Volkswagen Beetle.

He remains a figurehead of the Broad Front, the leftist coalition which has been in power since 2005.

Outgoing Montevideo mayor Martinez polled 47 percent in the first round but faces a strengthened challenge from Luis Lacalle Pou in the run-off.

The center-right candidate took 42 percent of the votes in the first round but has secured backing from other parties for the run-off.

Mujica wasn't the only aging stalwart called on by Martinez, whose proposed cabinet also includes 79-year-old Danilo Astori as foreign minister.

The choices prompted mockery from Lacalle Pou's advisor Pablo da Silveira, who said Martinez "campaigned on a ticket of generational change and independence from the old guard, but has ended up giving them the spotlight."