Ex-guerrilla, pot-legalizing, champion of the poor president: Uruguay's Mujica steps down
Uruguay's president, Jose "Pepe" Mujica
March 02, 2015 – RT
Uruguay's president, Jose "Pepe" Mujica, a former guerrilla who lives on a farm and gives most of his salary to charity, is stepping down after five years in office, ending his term as one of the world's most popular leaders ever.
Mujica, 79, is leaving office with a 65 percent approval rating.
He is constitutionally prohibited from serving consecutive terms.
"I became president filled with idealism, but then reality hit," Mujica said in an interview with a local newspaper earlier this week, according to AFP.
Some call him "the world's poorest president." Others
the "president every other country would like to have."
But Mujica says "there's still so much to do" and hopes that the
next government, led by Tabare Vazquez (who was elected president
for a second time last November) will be "better than mine
and will have greater success."
Mujica said he succeeded in putting Uruguay on the world map. He
managed to turn the cattle-ranching country, home to 3,4 million
people, into an energy-exporting nation, Brazil being Uruguay's
top export market (followed by China, Argentina, Venezuela and
Uruguay's $55 billion economy has grown an average 5.7 percent
annually since 2005, according to the World Bank. Uruguay has
maintained its decreasing trend in public debt-to-GDP ratio –
from 100 percent in 2003 to 60 percent by 2014. It has also
managed to decrease the cost of its debt, and reduce
dollarization - from 80 percent in 2002 to 50 percent in 2014.
"We've had positive years
for equality. Ten years ago, about 39 percent of Uruguayans lived
below the poverty line; we've brought that down to under 11
percent and we've reduced extreme poverty from 5 percent to only
0.5 percent,"Mujica told the Guardian in
After Latin America's anti-drug war proved a failure, the South
American country became the first in the world to fully legalize
marijuana, with Mujica arguing that drug trafficking is in fact
more dangerous than marijuana itself.
READ MORE: Six
released Guantanamo detainees 'happy to be' in Uruguay
One of the most progressive leaders in Latin America. Muijica
also legalized abortion and same-sex marriage and agreed to take
in detainees once held at the notorious Guantanamo Bay. Six
former US detainees, who were never charged with a crime, came to
Uruguay in December as refugees. The six included four Syrians, a
Palestinian and a Tunisian. Although they were cleared for
release back in 2009, the US was not able to discharge them until
Uruguayan President offered to receive them.
Mujica, a former leftist Tupamaro guerrilla leader, spent 13
years in jail during the years of Uruguay's military
dictatorship. He survived torture and endless months of solitary
confinement. Majica said he never regretted his time in jail,
which he believes helped shape his character.
Mujica's kindness speaks volumes: He refused to move to Uruguay's
luxurious presidential mansion to live in a farm outside
Montevideo with his wife and a three-legged dog named Manuela.
Pepe gives away about 90 percent of his salary to charity, saying
he simply doesn't need it. He drives an 1987 Volkswagen Beetle.
MORE: Ride with the president! Uruguay's Mujica picks up a young
Last year, Mujica turned down a $1 million offer from an Arab
sheik who offered to buy his blue car. Pepe refused to sell the
vehicle, saying it would offend "all those friends who pooled
together to buy it for us."
In January, a young Uruguayan man posted a message on his
Facebook page recounting how Mujica and his wife picked him up
while he was hitchhiking.
"On Monday, I was looking for a ride from Conchilla and guess
who picked me up on the road?" Gerhald Acosta wrote on his
Facebook post January 7. "They were the only ones who would
"When I got out, I thanked them profusely because not
everyone helps someone out on the road, and much less a
president," the man told Uruguay's El Observador newspaper.
Reproduced from: www.rt.com/news/236581-uruguay-president-mujica-quit/