Saturday, 7 February 2015

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes

Uruguay's President José "Pepe" Mujica became an instant celebrity in 2012 after the BBC published a feature documenting his austere lifestyle and detailing his past. A former guerrilla fighter who spent 14 years in jail -- more than 10 of them in solitary confinement and two of them in the bottom of a well -- Mujica later swore off violence and became a successful politician of the leftwing Broad Front.
"Years ago, we used to think that there were good wars and bad wars," Mujica told students at American University in May. "Good wars were the ones supported by a just and noble cause, for processes of liberation. Today, with all of our technological and scientific knowledge, war -- whatever its tendency -- ends up becoming a sacrifice for the weakest people in society... The worst negotiation is better than the best war. That's what I think now, because I know the pain and sacrifice of war."

Mujica's international presence was solidified in 2013, as he became famous for legalizing the marijuana trade, a pioneering effort at reining in the power of drug traffickers and transitioning toward treating drug abuse as a public health issue rather than a criminal one.
Even in democracies, few people elected to the presidency live anything like the majority of people whom they are elected to represent. Part of the reason why Mujica gained international celebrity status was that his humble lifestyle and folksy aphorisms struck a nerve in a world where prominent politicians live more luxurious lives than any of us can imagine.
In 2015 Mujica's term in office began winding down. And there some things about him I didn't know:

He legalized marijuana sales

Uruguay's president signed legislation in 2014 creating the world's first national, government-regulated marijuana market. Mujica championed the idea, saying that it would wrest power away from drug cartels and allow the government to focus on the issue as a public health matter rather than a criminal one. "We ask the world to help us create this experience," Mujica told Brazilian newspaper. "It will allow us to adopt a socio-political experiment to address the serious problem of drug trafficking... the effect of the drug traffic is worse than the drug." 

He legalized gay marriage



Mujica also presided over Uruguay's legalizing of same-sex marriage in 2013. Uruguay was the 12th country in the world to do so.

José "Pepe" Mujica actually was a public servant


Dubbed the "world's poorest president" by the BBC, Mujica donates 90 percent of his salary to charity and lives a modest life. How many politicians, who claim to serve the public, can say the same? 

Averse to how he should dress: he wore sandals to state functions 

That's Mujica on Dec. 26, 2013, at the swearing in ceremony for his new finance minister, Mario Bergara.

He drives a Volkswagen Beetle even though he could afford something way better

An Arab sheik offered Mujica $1 million for his 1987 Beetle. Mujica turned the offer down.
"We could never sell it," Mujica said in November. "We would offend all those friends who pooled together to buy it for us."

Because he rocks

Aerosmith met up with Mujica in 2013, offering an autographed guitar as a gift. Mujica put the guitar up for auction to raise money to build housing. “It’s signed by all of them and that surely has a lot of value,” Mujica said, noting that he’s not much of a guitar player. “That instrument must have been invented by an anarchist who was also drunk, because it’s very difficult.”

He lives on a farm, instead of a mansion 

Uruguay's president says he likes to keep his life simple so he can enjoy the things he likes to do, like working on his flower farm. He continues to live there, without servants rather than the presidential palace. "I've lived like this most of my life," Mujica told the BBC in 2012. "I can live well with what I have."

...With his three-legged dog, Manuela

Meet his wife

In the words of journalist Will Carless, writing for the Global Post, Mujica's wife Lucía Topolansky is a "senator, ex-guerrilla, prison escapee, torture survivor, blonde-bombshell-turned-wild-haired, farm-living, hard-as-nails first lady."


  1. You are so right Han...heroes come in all shapes and sizes. I knew quite a bit about this man because my oldest son and DIL moved to Montevideo when my oldest granddaughter was a year youngest granddaughter was actually born in Uruguay and holds dual citizenship. This man is to be admired and there is much we can learn from him. Thanks for sharing.

    Hugs and Blessings...

  2. Definitely a hero. Why are there not more articles or new items about this phenomenal man - I don't think there's a leader anywhere that couldn't learn at least something from this extraordinary man. A true example of what a leader should be. Thanks for introducing me to a man of the people.

  3. Thank you, Han, that you paid attention to these fine people. Now I just want to read more and more about him.

    Take care,
    Mona Lisa

  4. I agree with Leigh, why aren't these kind of leaders given more publicity and the chance to shame those greedy ones.


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