Not many people have heard of Jose Mujica, the outgoing president of Uruguay, yet his achievements are second to none. He is an inspiration and this is why….
Uruguay has a population of around 3.4 million (133 world ranking). has a GDP of $59 billion (78 world ranking) and per capita £17k (48 world ranking). Its punching above its weight.
Jose was elected president in 2010 but was acting in government long before. In his earlier years he was a member of MLN Tupamaros, a left wing armed political movement. He spent years in prison (once digging his way out, 1971), he was shot 4 times in 1970 but lived and was freed from prison in 1985. He worked his way up through government eventually leading the Broad Front coalition of left wing parties. In 2010 when he became president he took over 48% of votes.
Uruguay had strong economic performance between 2006 and 2013 (still does but not official yet for 2014), not going into recession when every other Latin American country did at one point or another. In 2013 the word bank named Uruguay as a high income country, going at 4.4%, not bad given the global economic conditions.
So, good political achievements and clearly sound economic policy but these are not the reasons I admire him.
Jose Mujica is known as the humble president. He shunned the presidential palace, preferring to live in his small 2 bed farm house on the outskirts of Montevideo. He drives a VW beetle, it’s knackered, he shunned all presidential vehicles. He gives 90% of his salary away to charity and entrepreneurs. He moved GDP investment from 13% to 25%. By 2016 30% of Uruguay’s energy will come from renewable sources such as wind. He changed Uruguay into an energy exporter. He helped lift those living in poverty from 39% to 11%. He legalised abortion. He legalised Marijuana stating “We’ve been repressing drugs for 80 years and it doesn’t work. Drug trafficking is much worse than the consumption of marijuana….look at Mexico”. In short, he does things differently, he acts the way I suspect many of us wish our heads of state, prime ministers, presidents etc acted. He lives his values. He leads by example.
Finally he states “If majorities are supposed to decide in a democracy, as I see it the rulers must tend to live like the majority of their people, not the minority”.
So Mr Cameron and the Etonian front bench, what do you say to that?
Jose Mujica has weeks left in his presidency, I hope more people hear about him and how he has conducted himself as a leader of millions.