He lives on a farm, and his official car is a 1987 Volkswagen Beetle. He donates 90% of his monthly salary to charity. President of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, is not your average president.
It is commonplace to see some presidents of countries living lavish lifestyles, and in some extreme cases, looting their countries’ finances for personal gain. But not Mujica.
He is commonly known as the world’s “poorest” president because of his austere lifestyle.
Mujica rejected the luxurious presidential residence the government provided for him and instead opted to live on his wife’s farm located on a dirt road outside the country’s capital. They have no domestic workers – they do all the farm work by themselves. The only staff they have are two police officers.
In 2010, his annual personal wealth declaration – mandatory for officials in Uruguay – was $1,800, the value of his Beetle.
In an interview with BBC, he said:
“I’ve lived like this most of my life, I can live well with what I have…
I’m called ‘the poorest president’, but I don’t feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more
This is a matter of freedom. If you don’t have many possessions then you don’t need to work all your life like a slave to sustain them, and therefore you have more time for yourself…”
Mujica also has unique views about poverty alleviation. In the 2012 Rio+20 summit he stated:
But what are we thinking? Do we want the model of development and consumption of the rich countries? I ask you now: what would happen to this planet if Indians would have the same proportion of cars per household than Germans? How much oxygen would we have left?
“Does this planet have enough resources so seven or eight billion can have the same level of consumption and waste that today is seen in rich societies? It is this level of hyper-consumption that is harming our planet.
An Arab sheikh recently offered him $1 million for his Beetle. Mujica is currently considering the offer, and says that if he does sell it, he will donate the money to charity.
In a world where it is possible for one single state to spend over N442 million on plates, spoons, and curtains for a government house, it is somewhat refreshing to know that selfless leaders like Mujica still exist.
Photo Credit: Getty Images/AP