ONTD Political

Jose Mujica: The world's 'poorest' president

6:46 pm - 11/22/2012
Jose Mujica and his dogs outside his home

It's a common grumble that politicians' lifestyles are far removed from those of their electorate. Not so in Uruguay. Meet the president - who lives on a ramshackle farm and gives away most of his pay.

Laundry is strung outside the house. The water comes from a well in a yard, overgrown with weeds. Only two police officers and Manuela, a three-legged dog, keep watch outside.


This is the residence of the president of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, whose lifestyle clearly differs sharply from that of most other world
leaders.


President Mujica has shunned the luxurious house that the Uruguayan state provides for its leaders and opted to stay at his wife's farmhouse, off a dirt road outside the capital, Montevideo.


The president and his wife work the land themselves, growing flowers.


This austere lifestyle - and the fact that Mujica donates about 90% of his monthly salary, equivalent to $12,000 (£7,500), to charity - has led him to be labelled the poorest president in the world.




In 2010, his annual personal wealth declaration - mandatory for officials in Uruguay - was $1,800 (£1,100), the value of his 1987 Volkswagen Beetle.


This year, he added half of his wife's assets - land, tractors and a house - reaching $215,000 (£135,000).


That's still only about two-thirds of Vice-President Danilo Astori's declared wealth, and a third of the figure declared by Mujica's predecessor as president, Tabare Vasquez.


Elected in 2009, Mujica spent the 1960s and 1970s as part of the Uruguayan guerrilla Tupamaros, a leftist armed group inspired by the Cuban revolution.


He was shot six times and spent 14 years in jail. Most of his detention was spent in harsh conditions and isolation, until he was freed in 1985 when Uruguay returned to democracy.


Those years in jail, Mujica says, helped shape his outlook on life.


"I'm called 'the poorest president', but I don't feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more," he says.


"This is a matter of freedom. If you don't have many possessions then you don't need to work all your life like a slave to sustain them, and therefore you have more time for yourself," he says.


"I may appear to be an eccentric old man... But this is a free choice."


The Uruguayan leader made a similar point when he addressed the Rio+20 summit in June this year: "We've been talking all afternoon about sustainable development. To get the masses out of poverty.


"But what are we thinking? Do we want the model of development and consumption of the rich countries? I ask you now: what would happen to this planet if Indians would have the same proportion of cars per household than Germans? How much oxygen would we have left?


"Does this planet have enough resources so seven or eight billion can have the same level of consumption and waste that today is seen in rich societies? It is this level of hyper-consumption that is harming our planet."


Mujica accuses most world leaders of having a "blind obsession to achieve growth with consumption, as if the contrary would mean the end of the world".

But however large the gulf between the vegetarian Mujica and these other leaders, he is no more immune than they are to the ups and downs of political life.


"Many sympathise with President Mujica because of how he lives. But this does not stop him for being criticised for how the government is doing," says Ignacio Zuasnabar, a Uruguayan pollster.


The Uruguayan opposition says the country's recent economic prosperity has not resulted in better public services in health and education, and for the first time since Mujica's election in 2009 his popularity has fallen below 50%.


This year he has also been under fire because of two controversial moves. Uruguay's Congress recently passed a bill which legalised abortions for pregnancies up to 12 weeks. Unlike his predecessor, Mujica did not veto it.

He is also supporting a debate on the legalisation of the consumption of cannabis, in a bill that would also give the state the monopoly over its trade.


"Consumption of cannabis is not the most worrying thing, drug-dealing is the real problem," he says.


However, he doesn't have to worry too much about his popularity rating - Uruguayan law means he is not allowed to seek re-election in 2014. Also, at 77, he is likely to retire from politics altogether before long.


When he does, he will be eligible for a state pension - and unlike some other former presidents, he may not find the drop in income too hard to get used to.




Source has video and more photos

romp 23rd-Nov-2012 03:48 am (UTC)
I've seen this headline but hadn't taken the time to read the article. I'm glad you posted it here! Donating 90% of his income: he must truly know what it is to have *enough*. Sounds like Uruguay is lucky to have him.
aviv 23rd-Nov-2012 03:50 am (UTC)
:)
window_girl 23rd-Nov-2012 04:11 am (UTC)
MTE.

It's nice to see a leader that doesn't feel a need to roll in money for a change.

Too bad that the Uruguayan public seems to be displeased with his performance for allowing abortions up to 12 weeks and trying to legalize and tax marijuana.

Sounds like a decent guy to me.
perthro 23rd-Nov-2012 06:31 am (UTC)
Because he's the President Uruguay deserves, but not the one it needs right now.
asrana 23rd-Nov-2012 10:08 am (UTC)
That's an interesting comment; would you mind elaborating please? I don't know anything about the situation over there and would be interested to know why there's that distinction (between what they deserve and what they need).
martyfan 23rd-Nov-2012 12:16 pm (UTC)
It's a Batman reference.
perthro 23rd-Nov-2012 07:18 pm (UTC)
It's a line from The Dark Knight movie (Batman). It was talking about how Batman was the hero that Gotham deserved- a man who loved the city despite it's downfalls, and was willing to do what it took to help it... and yet, who was often villified by the residents.

President Mujica is generally not well-liked for his stance on abortion (having legalised abortions up to 12 weeks, perhaps before most women even know they're pregnant), and for wanting to legalize marijuana. We can all agree that these are generally good things to legalize in terms of quality of life, but... the residents hate him for it. He is interested in improving his country, but they are not ready to see the good in him. He is the man they deserve, but not who they need.
hinoema 23rd-Nov-2012 04:39 am (UTC)
"But what are we thinking? Do we want the model of development and consumption of the rich countries? I ask you now: what would happen to this planet if Indians would have the same proportion of cars per household than Germans? How much oxygen would we have left?


"Does this planet have enough resources so seven or eight billion can have the same level of consumption and waste that today is seen in rich societies? It is this level of hyper-consumption that is harming our planet."


You go, President Mujica. Talk about truer words...
pamelalillian 23rd-Nov-2012 05:36 am (UTC)
The Uruguayan opposition says the country's recent economic prosperity has not resulted in better public services in health and education

i don't know much about the politics in this country, but i doubt the president has all the power to put those things into law. and just because there's been a bit of increase in money doesn't mean health and education gets boosted over night. of course, i could be wrong, but i just feel like that statement puts all the blame on the president.

hmm approving abortions in the first trimester and trying to legalize marijuana is so bad... i understand the background of the country, especially from a religious viewpoint, but he sounds pretty damn decent to me.f
yndigot 23rd-Nov-2012 05:48 am (UTC)
My former roommate is Uruguayan. I kind of really want to ask her for her thoughts now that I've read this. I haven't had a chance to talk to her much in ages, but a feeling she's probably a big fan.
violetrose 23rd-Nov-2012 06:16 am (UTC)
He sounds like a decent man. I wish more leaders could be like him.

"Does this planet have enough resources so seven or eight billion can have the same level of consumption and waste that today is seen in rich societies? It is this level of hyper-consumption that is harming our planet."

I think he makes a good point here; the reason the world's richest countries have all the things that we have is the result of serious exploitation of poorer countries labour forces and resources. It isn't realistic or very pragmatic to try and get all countries to the same level of consumption, when not all societies operate in the same way, and in many places - it just can't happen.

We can't have everyone consume energy, oil and food in the same way because we're running out of these things. The world is running out of food and resources and we need to reevaluate our lifestyles to try and rectify this problem. Of course, this would mean admitting that we are a problem, and I don't know if the majority of people want to do that.
poetic_pixie_13 23rd-Nov-2012 04:31 pm (UTC)
"But what are we thinking? Do we want the model of development and consumption of the rich countries? I ask you now: what would happen to this planet if Indians would have the same proportion of cars per household than Germans? How much oxygen would we have left?

"Does this planet have enough resources so seven or eight billion can have the same level of consumption and waste that today is seen in rich societies? It is this level of hyper-consumption that is harming our planet."

Mujica accuses most world leaders of having a "blind obsession to achieve growth with consumption, as if the contrary would mean the end of the world".


How do you flawless?

Everything I've heard about Mujica make me love him so much. He's like a real life version of Iroh.

Basically:

fauxparadiso 23rd-Nov-2012 06:36 pm (UTC)
lmao adorable
aviv 23rd-Nov-2012 09:18 pm (UTC)
OMG that giiiiiiiiif!! right click save.
ms_maree 24th-Nov-2012 12:48 am (UTC)
Wow,I could not even imagine our local Councillors doing half as much in Australia and that makes me sad. So may politicians are frauds who see their job as a career, a way to line their pockets, and not about bettering the lives of the people they lead.

In fact, I go as far to say that a large majority of the time, the people who seek out leadership in a democracy are the worse people for the job. The system rewards the most ambitious, for you need to be ambitious and cutthroat to get to the top in the game of politics, and ambition does not sit well with compassion.
eldvno 24th-Nov-2012 03:38 am (UTC)
This makes me want to visit Uruguay even more. This man is amazing, I have some serious respect for him.
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