Simple Living: President of Uruguay Leads by Example

May 3, 2013 | By | 9 Replies More

Uruguay's president Jose Mujica celebrates winning the presidential election in Montevideo in 2009     Photo © Frente a Aratiri

Uruguay’s president Jose Mujica celebrates winning the presidential election in Montevideo in 2009 Photo © Frente a Aratiri

Matthew Pike, Positive News
Waking Times

Despite being the figurehead of a country on the up, Uruguay president José Mujica donates his earnings to charity and lives on a small modest farm. Matthew Pike considers how his grounded principles are changing the political landscape.

When José Mujica became Uruguay’s 40th president in 2009, he chose not to accept the chauffeur-driven police escort to the elaborate presidential palaces of La Residencia de Suarez. Instead, on that victorious evening, Mujica drove home to his wife Lucia at their modest farmhouse on the outskirts of Montevideo in one of his few owned assets, a 1987 Volkswagen Beetle. It was a simple and modest act that was to be the cornerstone of Mujica’s political direction from then on.

Last year, published data showed he was donating 90% of his monthly salary to charity. This included support to a government-led project called Juntos, which aims to build low cost, accessible housing for many of the country’s poorest communities currently living in slums. Such policies have long been pushed by Mujica’s left wing ruling party, Frente Amplio, a coalition of many small leftist movements.

Such generosity, combined with his modest declaration of assets – including his VW Beetle, an old tractor and a small piece of land shared with his wife – quickly coined for him the moniker ‘the world’s poorest president’. However, speaking to members of the Associated Press last year, Mujica was quick to dismiss not the reality of the term, but the mentality behind it, stating: “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.”

“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” — José Mujica

Mujica has attempted to align himself with his people, and in choosing a life of simplicity he meets as many of his needs from his small farm as his busy head of state schedule will allow. His wife Lucia Topolansky, a senator herself, has long been growing chrysanthemums on the farm, which are sold at the local farmers’ market. This seemingly austere life was detailed in an interview with Topolansky for MercoPress in 2010, shortly after the presidential inauguration, where the couple admitted they “belong to the old cash generation – we have no bank accounts and have never owned credit cards.”

Mujica’s election became another chapter in an ever-familiar South American political story. The son of a poor immigrant farming family, Mujica became involved in the armed guerrilla activist group Los Tupamaros. Mujica’s status rose among the movement, setting the foundations for a future in politics. During this ascent he was imprisoned by the dictatorship for a total of 14 years, shot six times by police and kept in isolation at the bottom of a stone well for 18 months until his release in 1985, when democracy had been restored.

Under Mujica’s watch, Uruguay’s economy is growing, with the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects from January projecting a 4% growth rate for 2013. Unemployment levels have also been at their lowest under Mujica, falling to 6.1% last year, from 20% in 2002.

Estafania Galimberti, a 27-year-old graduate from Montevideo University who worked for the National Statistics Institute before finding work in one of the many newly invested foreign companies in the capital, believes her president is a great example to people all over the country. “Mujica really practices what he preaches and lots of people really love him because of it. It’s rare, but needed more than ever,” she says.

Despite drawing praise, Mujica has taken decisions that have caused divided opinion. A huge proponent of last year’s historic abortion legislation, giving the right to all women during the first trimester of pregnancy, Mujica signed it into law in January 2013. The decision caused much controversy, which he again stirred as the driving force behind a bill that would allow citizens to grow and sell a regulated quantity of marijuana. His original advocacy for the bill led to his lowest public support rating in September last year, where, according to pollster Cifra, his support dropped 11 percentage points on the previous year to an all-time low of 37% public approval. He has since loosened his support for the bill, suggesting the “time is not ripe.”

“Mujica really practices what he preaches and lots of people really love him because of it. It’s rare, but needed more than ever”

But as Agustina Russo, a young journalist living and working in the capital Montevideo suggests, it is his message that needs to be heard above the politics. “We are really proud of him for not changing his beliefs with all the power he has now,” she says. “He challenges us to use our knowledge to change the country, not to leave it to Europe or North America as so many have done before. Mujica says that everyone has a role and we must use it to improve our own country.”

When Mujica, the president not to have worn a tie in the last 20 years, ends his term of office in 2015, he will not retire with the thousands he’s earned; most of that will be in the hands of small charities. He will no doubt drive home to his wife Lucia and farm dog Manuela in that same old rusting VW Beetle, and while his politics will no doubt ripple into Uruguay’s future, it is his message and example that must reverberate further.

Speaking at last year’s Rio+20 sustainability conference, Mujica stressed: “Development cannot fly in the face of happiness; development should promote human happiness, love and human relations between parents and children and friends. Life is the most important treasure we have and when we fight, we must fight for human happiness.”

~~ Help Waking Times to raise the vibration by sharing this article with the buttons below…

Tags: , , , , , ,

Category: Culture, Governance, Ideas, Inspiration, Society

Comments (9)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Rene' Descartes says:

    A truly hart-warming account. To be a true leader, serve them all.

  2. branewaiver says:

    Little by little, bit by bit, the world will change because of men like this.

  3. hp says:

    Simple living, high thinking.

    The antidote for the demonic ubermaterialism of modern times.

  4. Lisa Moschetti says:

    I live in Uruguay for 2 years. It is a beautiful country with refined and intelligent people.

    • Anonymous says:

      I would like to live in Uruguay. I think I’d like to live up that river that flows south into the ocean as a fisherman. I would work cheap for the government as an engineer possibly

    • Dick Greenfield says:

      I would like to live in Uruguay — where did you move from, and how did you arrange to become a permanent resident?

  5. Dr. Warren says:

    I have traveled all over S. America. And, Uruguay is my favorite S.American country. The capital, Montevideo is beautiful. And, the cost of living is very reasonable. Beachfront property is unbelievably inexpensive by U.S. standards. In a nutshell, nice people elect and maintain nice leaders.

  6. kenguru says:

    If he is so modest, why the hell they installed tolls on the road and jacked up taxes for ordinary people? He is a globalist wolf in sheepskin.

Leave a Reply

Must Watch Videos

Toxic Hot Seat—What You Don’t Know About Flame Retardant Chemicals Can Hurt You

Toxic Hot Seat—What You Don’t Know About Flame Retardant Chemicals Can Hurt You













Dr. Mercola
Waking Times

Fear of fire is primal. No one wants to burn to death. This is undoubtedly why it’s so difficult to repeal laws relating to the use of fire retardant chemicals—even though experiments show they do not work… and worse, they’re actually exposing you to … More

July 21, 2014 | By | Reply More
Humans of Manufactured Purpose

Humans of Manufactured Purpose













Raghav Bubna, Fractal Enlightenment
Waking Times

Until we are born we don’t have any perception of existence riddling within us, we are lovingly thrust into birth by the biological frivolity of corporeal matter and witness the first moments in our life of purest expression.

As children we interact through experience … More

July 18, 2014 | By | Reply More
Not Just the Bees – Pesticides Wiping Out Birds Too

Not Just the Bees – Pesticides Wiping Out Birds Too













Heather Callaghan, Contributor
Waking Times

Netherlands researchers fear the second coming of Silent Spring.

“Neonicotinoids were always regarded as selective toxins. But our results suggest that they may affect the entire ecosystem,” says Hans de Kroon of Radboud University and co-author of a study recently published in Nature journal.… More

July 18, 2014 | By | 2 Replies More
The Importance of Sleep, and the Hazards of “Dream Deprivation”

The Importance of Sleep, and the Hazards of “Dream Deprivation”













Dr. Mercola
Waking Times

Dr. Rubin Naiman, author of Hush: A Book of Bedtime Contemplations, is a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine directed by Dr. Andrew Weil. As a sleep and dream expert, his focus is how sleeping … More

July 14, 2014 | By | 2 Replies More
Why Do Scientists Deny Psychic Phenomena?

Why Do Scientists Deny Psychic Phenomena?













Aliston Texeira, Fractal Enlightenment
Waking Times

Even though films like ‘Inception’, ‘Waking Life‘ and more recently, ‘John Dies at the End’ and ‘Now You See Me’ wouldn’t be approachable without assuming the authenticity of unexplainable events, most people, including most scientists, are unaware of the vast abundance of … More

July 12, 2014 | By | 11 Replies More

Activism Works

Triumph For Citizens in Florida As Hughes Oil Company Drops Fracking Project

Triumph For Citizens in Florida As Hughes Oil Company Drops Fracking Project













Julie Dermansky, DeSmogBlog
Waking Times

On Friday morning, Dan A. Hughes Oil Company and the Collier Resources Company agreed to terminate their lease agreement, with the exception of the Collier Hogan 20-3H well, next to the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, Florida.

Hughes Oil dropped its plans to drill … More

July 14, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More
A Forgotten Community in New Orleans: Life on a Superfund Site

A Forgotten Community in New Orleans: Life on a Superfund Site













Julie Dermansky, DeSmogBlog
Waking Times

Shannon Rainey lives in a house that was built on top of a Superfund site in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans.

“I bought my house when I was 25, and thirty years later, I still can’t get out,” she told DeSmogBlog.

Rainey’s … More

June 23, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More
Wave of GMO Labeling Victories Emboldens Movement to Take Back Food Democracy

Wave of GMO Labeling Victories Emboldens Movement to Take Back Food Democracy













Michele Simon, EcoWatch
Waking Times

The East Coast has been getting most of the attention lately on the state by state effort to label genetically-engineered food. Vermont recently passed a bill and New York State’s bill is now moving. But let’s not forget about the western states, which are also … More

June 11, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More
Monsanto’s Roundup Found in 75% of Air and Rain Samples

Monsanto’s Roundup Found in 75% of Air and Rain Samples













John Deike, EcoWatch
Waking Times

A new U.S. Geological Survey has concluded that pesticides can be found in, well, just about anything.

Roundup herbicide, Monsanto’s flagship weed killer, was present in 75 percent of air and rainfall test samples, according to the study, which focused on Mississippi’s highly fertile … More

May 27, 2014 | By | 2 Replies More
How to Bring Minerals Back Into the Soil and Food Supply

How to Bring Minerals Back Into the Soil and Food Supply













Dr. Mercola
Waking Times

There are now many studies clearly documenting that if you eat processed foods, you’re being exposed to toxic herbicides. These toxic chemicals have been found in everything from breast milk to umbilical cords and placentas.

This of course means that children are now born with a … More

May 26, 2014 | By | 3 Replies More