Jose Mujica, the humblest president in the world

Jose Mujica, the humblest president in the world

Jose Mujica, Ex-President of Uruguay

Photo credit: Eduardo Santillán

A president is a high-level official who is elected to carry out a function. He is not a king, not a god. He is not the witch doctor of a tribe who knows everything. He is a civil servant … I think the ideal way of living is to live like the vast majority of people whom we attempt to serve and represent.

– Jose Mujica (Source) –

Jose “Pepe” Mujica, has been labelled the poorest president in the world, due to his austere lifestyle and his donation of around 90 percent of his $12,000 (£7,500) monthly salary to charities. His charitable donations – which benefit poor people and small entrepreneurs – mean his salary is roughly in line with the average Uruguayan income of $775 (£485) a month. (Source)

However, he has this to say on being called the world’s poorest president:

“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 … 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” (Source)

I am sure there are other idealistic, hard-working and honest politicians in the world but none of them surely comes anywhere close to this Uruguayan ex-president when it comes to living by one’s principles. A man as good as his word, he demonstrated to us through his own living that one can live within his means and not be obsessed with a lot of material needs. In fact, on donating 90% of his salary to charity, he said: “I have a way of life that I don’t change just because I am a president. I earn more than I need, even if it’s not enough for others. For me, it is no sacrifice, it’s a duty.

How many leaders in the world would think likewise? Not afraid to take a swipe at his fellow leaders, he adds: “All I do is live like the majority of my people, not the minority. I’m living a normal life and Italian, Spanish leaders should also live as their people do. They shouldn’t be aspiring to or copying a rich minority.

“As soon as politicians start climbing up the ladder, they suddenly become kings. I don’t know how it works, but what I do know is that republics came to the world to make sure that no one is more than anyone else.” The pomp of office, he said, is like something left over from a feudal past: “You need a palace, red carpet, a lot of people behind you saying, ‘Yes, sir.’ I think all of that is awful.” (Source)

A former urban guerrilla fighter with the Tupamaros, he was shot six times and spent a total of 13 years in jail, two of them lying at the bottom of an old horse trough. It was an experience that almost broke him mentally and which shaped his outlook on life. Jose Mujica said that had he not lived through that he would not be who he is today; he had to find an inner strength through prison and solitary confinement.

Mr Mujica, is sometimes described as the president every other country would like to have and without doubt the humblest president in the world. Well, which other president in the world would give a hitchhiker a ride at the side of road in Uruguay?

Gerhald Acosta had been forced to leave his job at the Montes del Plata paper mill early and was walking home from work when a good Samaritan offered to give him a lift.

The shocked hitchhiker told a local newspaper that it was only as he got into the car – the president’s iconic 1987 blue Volkswagen Beetle – that he recognised that the elderly couple was actually President Jose Mujica and his wife Sen. Lucia Topolansky.

Gerhald told El Observador newspaper in Uruguay that 25-30 cars had already passed him by without stopping when the big-hearted head of state came to his rescue: ‘I couldn’t believe it. The president was giving me a ride. (Source)

Certainly this is one president I would like to have. In my opinion, Jose Mujica is not only the richest president but also the humblest. He surely is an inspiration to many and is a reminder that politics is meant to be a humble and honourable profession.

First read about Jose Mujica from BBC.
Photo credit: Eduardo Santillán / Presidencia de la República

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