People anywhere in the world are used to the campaign promises of politicians. The poor will be prioritized, leaders will set the example, the government will spend within its means and the doors of authorities are always open to all sectors of society.
Then, once in office, all the promises will just vanish into thin air.
The Latin American region has seen a revolution of sorts the past few years. Popular presidents whose political beliefs are left of center have been elected in different South American countries. They have been walking the walk and have gone beyond the usual lip service of politicians. From Venezuela and Bolivia to Brazil and Chile, leaders who seem to be genuinely concerned with the plight of the people have been taking charge.
Uruguay has not been left behind in this recent wave. The country has elected a former leftist guerrilla as its president. Jose Mujica, an atheist, vegetarian, former member of the Tupamaro, Volkswagen Beetle-owner who has eschewed the privilege of living in a palace reserved for the country’s head of government for a humble farm in the outskirts of the capital of Montevideo, is known as the poorest president in the world and he is proud of it.
Mujica is the epitome of an anti politician in that he is not afraid to speak out his mind. He has declared his support for abortion in case a bill comes up to him for approval despite opposition from conservative and religious groups. He has also called for more acceptance of leaders of belligerent nations, even commending the Brazilian leadership’s friendship with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad because fencing in Iran will just make it harder for the rest of the world. He has also backed the legalization of marijuana, claiming that it would help weaken the drug cartels while at the same allow social service groups to monitor and help the most serious abusers.
Mujica lives in a humble farm near Montevideo, where he and his wife cultivate chrysanthemums. He has also practiced reverse tithing…instead of giving away 10 percent of earnings to charities, he only keeps 10 percent of his $12,000 salary while donating the rest to organizations that help small entrepreneurs and the poor.