special disco mention #6: Jose Mujica


Jose Mujica the poorest president in the world, is the leader of Uruguay. Im sure those with a more nuanced understanding of South American politics will have a range of considered, educated opinions about the man in question: undoubtedly he has his critics. There are those that say his public appearances are ramshackle, that his record on the economy is less than great, that taxation is unfair. 

His approval rate currently sits at around 50% within Uruguay, so half the nation thinks hes no good – and hes clearly no shoe in for the next election (actually hes against Presidents serving more than a single term anyway). Hes an interesting proposition though, Jose. For starters, that poorest president tag comes from his humble way of life – he lives on an unprotected farm, where he tends to the land himself, living in a basic home without the usual trappings associated with heads of state. 

Watch the BBC news profile of Jose from last year.

Then theres the fact that he donates 90% of his presidential salary to charity. Or that he stood up to the oppressive Uruguay government in the late 60s/70s, as part of the guerilla group Tupamaros, who robbed banks and redistributed the money to the poor in and around Montevideo. He took six bullets for his beliefs, followed by a ten year stint in jail – a portion of which he spent in solitary confinement, apparently at the bottom of a well. 

Then the fact that hes reformed abortion laws, legalized same sex marriage and, you may have heard, is currently bringing in reforms to legalize cannabis – regulating it, taxing it, charging $1 a gramme and, as a result, taking the power out of the hands of the criminal gangs who run the trade and re-diverting the profits into the national purse. So, heres a progressive president who happens to be a philanthropist, appears to have no desire to hold onto power, rejects the trappings of political success and has more moral fibre than the whole of the UK political system combined. Sounds unbelievable, but it appears to be true. Raising a glass of champagne to Mr Mujica would seem inappropriate – this isnt the Tony Blair school of socialism. More fitting would be a cup of mate and, perhaps, a small reefer. Salute Jose Mujica, if you tire of governing Uruguay, youd be more than welcome over here.