José Mujica

A good man is hard to find.

A good man who makes a career in politics is probably even harder. Yet in the midst of one of the greatest political crisis ever, where social trust in political leaders is slowly crumbling, one leader from a small Latin American country appears as a breath of fresh air. His name is Jose Mujica, he’s the 40th President of Uruguay, and he’s also known as “the world’s poorest president”.

Born in 1935 from a poor farming family in Montevideo, Mujica joined the Tupamaros guerrilla in the 1960s, a movement which earned the reputation of the “Robin Hood guerrillas”. Among other illicit activities, its members robbed banks and distributed the stolen money to the poor. Mujica was eventually captured by the authorities on several occasions, but escaped in a famous prison evasion from the Carretas Prison in 1971. Nevertheless, in 1972, he was recaptured, and following the military coup in Uruguay in 1973, he was sent to a military prison where he spent 14 years, of which two years in in solitary confinement.

With the return to democracy in 1985, Mujica was freed and later joined the left-wing party Movement of Popular Participation. In 1994, he was elected deputy and in 1999, voted for senator. Only ten years later, in 2009, José Mujica was elected President of Uruguay. He became the President of “No palace, no motorcade, no frills”, and one of his first measures was to donate 90% of his monthly salary to charity. As The Guardian describes, “the only security detail in Mujica’s residency are two guards parked on the approach road, and Mujica’s three-legged dog, Manuela”.

Since becoming the leader of his country, “Mujica has reaffirmed Uruguay as the most socially liberal country in Latin America”. In 2012, he pushed for the same-sex marriage bill, as well as for the legalisation of abortion, making Uruguay the second country in Latin America after Cuba to legalise abortion for all women. In 2013, Uruguay became the first nation in the world to legalise marijuana trade.

In this inspiring and philosophical speech at the UN Rio +20 conference on sustainable development, President Mujica protested against “the blind obsession to achieve growth through greater consumption”. It’s controversial, but definitely worst seeing. Learn more about the exceptional José Mujica here and here.

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