As the former president of Uruguay, in office from 2010 to 2015, José Mujica has been described as the most humble president in the world partly because he was known for leading a simple lifestyle and partly because he devoted 90% of his salary to charity (90%!!!).
Upon becoming president in 2010, Mujica decided “to forgo the luxury of the Presidential Palace” and opted to live in his one-story home on a rural smallholding on the outskirts of Montevideo instead.
In his younger years Mujica was a rebel with the armed guerrilla movement Tupamaros and was imprisoned for 13 years for his activism, under the military dictatorship of the 1970s and ’80s. Two of those years were spent entirely in solitary confinement, “an experience that almost broke him mentally and which shaped his transformation from fighter to politician.”
As president, Mujica introduced the world’s most progressive legislation regarding marijuana, legalizing it completely, and also ushered in progressive legislation on gay marriage and abortion. Although ideologically he finds drug addiction to be a major problem, seeing no benefits to using Marijuana, he believes government control is inherently better, freeing those who smoke it from “the mercy of drug traffickers.”
On an international level he has become well-known for speaking the truth, sometimes in a manner others find too brusque. He has often criticized rampant consumerism, calling on the UN to stop hosting wasteful summits that rarely produce solutions and pointing out the double standard of Western states that criticize developing nations for environmental issues, despite the fact that the typical standard of living in most industrial nations would be completely unsustainable on a global scale. He has also called out other politicians and presidents for their corruption, noting that “as soon as politicians start climbing up the ladder, they suddenly become kings” and “that republics came to the world to make sure that no one is more than anyone else.”
Further, his blunt truth-telling has garnered Mujica tremendous support both at home and abroad. Perhaps more importantly, Mujica is the rare type of politician who actually lives by his words and enacts real change, maintaining his simple lifestyle both during and after his presidency, and implementing policies that left Uruguay relatively economically and socially stable when he left office.
In the above clip, Jose Mujica speaks with Al Jazeera English to discuss his decision to legalize marijuana in 2013.