He is now an old man. If you look at him you couldn’t imagine that has been the world’s poorest president, a flower grower, a guerillero, a farmer an example and so much more. So many different and controversial occupations, translate a controversial being. José Mujica is loved by many South Americans and acclaimed as a hero, but also despised by many others. Nevertheless he is an interesting figure that often stays unnoticed, despite him having done pretty unusual things.
José Mujica was born in 1935 in Montevideo Uruguay. His father died when he was young and there is not much known about his early years. As a growing adult he became politically active and joined the Tupamaros.
The Tupamaros were created in the mid-60s by Raùl Sendic and were an urban guerrilla movement. Uruguay, which was a long time known as “Switzerland of south America”, went downhill when a depression lead to nearly 50% of the population losing their jobs. In 1964 the State bank froze all bank accounts, while corruption and mismanagement made the other banks collapse. That’s when some people decided to take action and created the Tupamaros. Those were inspired by Fidel Castro’s guerillero group. But because Uruguay has, unlike Cuba, no hilly and dense countryside, they had to fight in the cities, therefore making it an urban guerrilla. At the beginning they were acclaimed by the population, because the Tupamaros goal was to help it. For instance, they hijacked milk trucks and distributed this milk to the poor. Or they stormed a Bank to get secret account books proving corruption in the government. But due to increasing repression, the Tupamaros eventually turned to violence to defend themselves against the authorities. Their bombs killed innocent people and wounded kids until the USA send agents to stop them. In 1972 most of the terrorists were arrested and spend the years of the following dictatorship (1973-1985) in prison. When democracy was re-established in 1985 they came out and most of them turned to politics. So did José Mujica.
He was amongst the creators of the “Tupamaros” and was caught four times by the authorities and escaped 3 times. When he was finally incarcerated for good in 1972, he was kept under military custody like the other Tupamaro leaders and spend his time in solitary confinement. During these years he suffered from severe health issues. Nevertheless, when he came out in 1985 after a total of 14 years in jail, he joined his former brothers in arms in their peaceful actions. He became minister from 2005-2008 and then senator, before becoming president of Uruguay from 2009 to 2015. Many people in South America were reproaching him his past as a terrorist. In their eyes such a person is unable to lead a country because if you are a terrorist once, you’ll stay it.
Mujica however, was not a violent revolutionary anymore. He quickly became “the world’s most humble president” or “the world’s poorest president”. This name came from the fact that he gave nearly 90% of his presidential salary to small entrepreneurs and charities. He also drove his old Volkswagen beetle from 1987, which he still drives today. He is the perfect example of a politician who does not only preach about austerity, helping the poor, improving the country and getting rid of social injustice but he also acts accordingly. He sticks to his ideas and does not want power, but change. When he left power in 2015 he left a stable economy and social stability.
All this shows us how much a human can change. Despite his actions as a president being in the line of the early Tupamaro ideology and therefore not surprising, he still managed to become one of South America’s most liked presidents. And this after being one of the most dangerous and hated people in his country. But Mujica is also an example for all of us. Despite being the president of a country, he lives soberly. He has what he needs and is satisfied with it.
Another thing he teaches us is that, in our world of consuming, we waste our time with it. When we buy something, we don’t buy it with money, we buy it with the time we spend gaining that money. The only thing money can’t buy is life and we are wasting ours to earn money to spend, instead of living life.
This is why José Mujica is such an interesting person. He shows us what’s good in humans. We are able to change, as is our society. Evil does not prevail neither in humans nor in a system or a society.
(sources: wikipedia, el pais, geo epoche)