Sunday, March 01, 2015
José Mujica: The Pauper President Steps Down
In a world groaning under the weight of poverty, ignorance, and war, it's hard to imagine how we will ever solve all our problems.
Or even save the planet from destruction.
In a world full of grubby self serving politicians, it's hard to find a political hero.
But I do have one, and his name is José Mujica.
There are idealistic, hard-working and honest politicians the world over - although cynics might argue they're a small minority - but none of them surely comes anywhere close to the outgoing Uruguayan president when it comes to living by one's principles.
He was shot six times, he spent thirteen years jail, two of them at the bottom of a dry well, and most of them in solitary isolation.
But the fascist military regime couldn't break him.
"I've no doubt that had I not lived through that I would not be who I am today. Prison, solitary confinement had a huge influence on me. I had to find an inner strength. I couldn't even read a book for seven, eight years - imagine that!"
He legalized abortion, gay marriage, and marijuana. And he will always be remembered as the humble leader with grand ideas.
"Politics, which should rule human relations, has succumbed to economics and become a mere administrator of what the financial system does not control."
"My definition of poverty is the one we owe to Seneca: It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, who is poor."
You know, people are always criticizing the young for not turning out to vote in the numbers we need to help build a better country and a better world. And they are right to do that.
But if the young had leaders like that one to inspire them, I'm sure they would flock to the polls in numbers never seen before.
And the best news? That grand old man isn't giving up the struggle.
Mujica, who is sometimes described as the "president every other country would like to have," dismisses all the adulation and attention with a waft of his hand but he is not leaving the stage just yet.
"I have no intention of being an old pensioner, sitting in a corner writing my memoirs - no way!" he barks at me with a grin. "I'm tired of course, but I'm not ready to stop.
José Mujica, my political hero.
May he live forever...
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