Uruguay's Farmer President Shuns Wealth

 @crvillarreal
on November 15 2012 6:30 PM

Uruguayan President Jose Mujica would rather live on his small farm on the outskirts of the capital Montevideo than the posh residence provided by the state.

Mujica has been described by international media as the “world’s poorest president” for his austere lifestyle and the fact that he donates 90 percent of his monthly salary ($12,000) to charity, aligning his income with the average Uruguayan citizen's.

“They say I am the poor president. No, I am not a poor president,” Mujica told the BBC in a recent interview.

“Poor people are those who always want more and more. Those who never have enough of anything. Those are the poor, because they are in a never-ending cycle and they won’t ever have enough time in their lives.”

“I choose this austere lifestyle,” he added. “I choose not to have too many belongings so to have time to live how I want to live.”

In his latest declaration of personal wealth, Mujica’s assets -- which include a 1987 Volkswagen Beetle and his wife’s farmhouse -- totaled $215,000, MercoPress reported.

Mujica manages the small flower farm with his wife, accompanied by their three-legged dog Manuela.

“I may appear to be an eccentric old man, but do allow me to express myself,” Mujica told the BBC.

“When world leaders talk about sustainable development, what is that growth based on? It’s based on pushing people into mass consumption. But then you face an economic crisis like the one we see today.”

Mujica first engaged in politics with a rifle as a Marxist guerilla in the 1960s and ‘70s, inspired by the Cuban Revolution. He ended up serving 14 years in prison and was released in 1985.

Entering electoral politics, he distanced himself from radical left ideologies.

Elected in 2009, Mujica has been characterized as a pragmatic leftist, whose Broad Front coalition embraces a free-market economy but with expansive social programs.

Lately, Mujica has drawn criticism from the conservative opposition over his approval of abortion legislation and his support for legalizing marijuana, pushing his approval rating below 50 percent for the first time since his election.

Mujica has appeared unfazed by the criticism as he will not be able to run for re-election in 2014 under Uruguayan law. Furthermore, at age 77, it is not likely that he would want to run again even if he could.

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