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Former President Jose Mujica retires from Uruguay's Senate

In this Oct. 26, 2014 photo, Uruguay's former President Jose Mujica arrives to cast his vote in Montevideo, Uruguay. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) -- Former President Jose Mujica resigned his senatorial seat Tuesday despite having the right to remain as a Uruguayan lawmaker until 2020.

Mujica said in a letter read in the Senate chamber that he was stepping down for personal reasons. He first announced his resignation in 2016 but had postponed it.

"I'd say it's exhaustion after the long journey," Mujica said.

The 83-year-old former guerrilla leader was long imprisoned before he became a politician.

While serving as president in 2010-2015, his homespun oratory, simple ways and social reforms such as the legalization of marijuana and gay marriage made him wildly popular abroad. But critics said his administration failed to deal with problems in education, security and environmental protection -- all pillars of his presidential agenda.

Mujica still lives on a flower farm with his wife and drives an old VW Beetle. He said that after resigning as a lawmaker he plans to travel to Europe and attend the Venice Film Festival for the premiere of a movie that chronicles his life, directed by Emir Kusturica.

But Mujica added in his letter that he will not retire from politics.

"While my body is functioning, I can't renounce solidarity and the fight for ideas," he said.

Although Mujica has said he will not be a candidate in next year's election, there is speculation he resigned from the Senate so he can run for the presidency again. He also had denied he would run before he won the presidency in 2010.

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