José Mujica

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José Alberto "Pepe" Mujica Cordano (born 20 May 1935) is a Uruguayan politician and farmer who served as the 40th President of Uruguay from 2010 to 2015. A former guerrilla with the Tupamaros, he was imprisoned for 12 years during the military dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s. A member of the Broad Front coalition of left-wing parties, Mujica was Minister of Livestock, Agriculture, and Fisheries from 2005 to 2008 and a Senator afterwards. As the candidate of the Broad Front, he won the 2009 presidential election and took office as President on 1 March 2010. He has been described as "the world's humblest head of state" due to his austere lifestyle and his donation of around 90 percent of his $12,000 monthly salary to charities that benefit poor people and small entrepreneurs.

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.
Mujica... put Uruguay on the map as one of the world’s most exciting experiments in creative, progressive governance.
Democracy is old, very old; it is an attitude of man… Democracy...has always been in crisis with authoritarianism. So democracy can never be considered to be finished or perfect, the end of history does not exist, historical steps exist.
We've been talking all afternoon about sustainable development. To get the masses out of poverty. But what are we thinking? Do we want the model of development and consumption of the rich countries?

Quotes[edit]

  • 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.
    • Jose Mujica: The world's 'poorest' president, Vladimir Hernandez BBC Mundo, (15 November 2012)
  • We've been talking all afternoon about sustainable development. To get the masses out of poverty. 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. (Speech at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, June 2012)
    • Jose Mujica: The world's 'poorest' president, Vladimir Hernandez BBC Mundo, (15 November 2012)
  • That (Guantanamo Bay detention camp) isn’t a prison. It’s a kidnapping den, because a prison entails subjection to some system of law, the presence of some sort of prosecutor, the decision of some judge — whomever that may be — and a minimal point of reference from a judicial point of view. Guantánamo has nothing.
    • Quoted in U.S. Transfers 6 Guantánamo Prisoners to Uruguay, Democracy Now! (8 December 2014)
  • Liberalism has the idea that democracy is its invention, that liberalism had to come about for democracy to exist... Democracy is old, very old; it is an attitude of man… Democracy is an imminent attitude, but one that has always been in crisis with authoritarianism. So democracy can never be considered to be finished or perfect, the end of history does not exist, historical steps exist. Maybe today conditions are being created--thanks to digital mass-communication—that are going to foreshadow a kind of democracy that today we cannot imagine.
  • Bourgeois democracy: I defend it and I criticise it. What do I criticise? That it promises a degree of equality that it does not fulfill in practice.. If democracy has to represent the majority, as a symbol I understand that those who have the highest responsibilities should live as the majority does, not the minority. We have become feudal and the monarchy has come back in a different form.Bold text Presidents—the red carpet, those who play cornets, vassals on the bridge, all this paraphernalia which is not republican, because republics came into the world to reaffirm this: that men are basically equal.
    • Quoted in: A conversation with President José Mujica, M.R. and H.C. Montevideo, The Economist , (21 August 2014)
  • The philosophy of my heart is libertarian. I don’t like the idea of the exploitation of man by man. I believe that one day human civilization will overcome this somehow. But that is not to say that I favour the state as the owner of everything, no, no, no. I can’t conceive of that. I lean a lot towards self-management, with all of the risks it entails for any important institution. It is not exactly the state that should manage things, it’s the people that have to manage them.
    • Quoted in: A conversation with President José Mujica, M.R. and H.C. Montevideo, The Economist , (21 August 2014)
  • Locked up, I almost went mad... Now I'm a prisoner of my own freedom to think and decide as I wish. I cultivate that freedom and fight for it. I may make mistakes, some huge, but one of my few virtues is I say what I think... I re-read Plato in search of keys to understand what is going on, for nothing is completely new...
    Politics, which should rule human relations, has succumbed to economics and become a mere administrator...
    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... I have the aggressive courage to speak out. It's not done in the modern world, where people conceal and disguise their feelings. Maybe that's why I get people's attention... This [marijuana] law is a trial. It doesn't mean we have the final answer....The only thing I'm sure of is that the policy of combating drugs which has been enforced for decades is a crashing failure.... I think recognition of gay marriage, abortion and the law on marijuana all represent progress. But they will really achieve something when there is less of a gap between the poor, the destitute and the very rich... You know what getting old means? No longer wanting to leave home.
  • We are a republican voice for the world – a proclamation that has been interpreted to signpost a “possible future, a path, however modest, to take for the common good with politics as its ethical base and honesty as its guiding light.
    • Quoted in Leadership Lessons From Mujica... The Guardian, (29 March 2015)

Civilization Against Freedom, 2013 Address to the United Nations General Assembly, 68th Session, in New York City (September 24, 2013)[edit]

(Read/pdf; Listen)

  • I am greatly anguished by the future that I will not see, and to which I have committed myself. Yes, it is possible to have a world with better humankind, but perhaps today the main task is to save life...
  • I bear upon my shoulders the indigenous cultures, the remains of colonialism in the Malvinas, and the futile and regrettable blockades of Cuba under the Caribbean sun.
  • I also bear the consequences of the electronic surveillance, which does nothing but create the distrust that poisons us needlessly.
  • I also come with a huge social debt and with the need to defend the Amazon, the seas, and our great rivers of America.
  • I have the duty to fight for tolerance for those who are different and with whom we have differences and disagreements. We do not need tolerance for those with whom we agree. Tolerance is the foundation of peaceful coexistence, understanding that we are all different in this world.
  • The fight against the dirty economy, drug trafficking, theft & fraud, corruption - all of these contemporary scourges which were adopted by this opposite set of values, those who maintain that we are happier when we are richer no matter what means are used.
  • We have sacrificed the old immaterial Gods and now we are occupying the temple of the market god. This god organizes our economy, our politics, our habits, our lives and even provides us with rates and credit cards and gives us the appearance of happiness.
  • It seems that we have been born, only to consume. And when we can no longer consume, we have a feeling of frustration, we suffer from poverty and we are marginalized....
  • It is true that today, in order to spend and to bury our garbage in what science calls the carbon footprint, if in this world we aspired to consume like the average American, we would need three planets in order to be able to live.
  • Our civilization has mounted a deceitful challenge, and as we go on it is not possible for everyone to achieve that goal. Indeed, our culture is increasingly driven by accumulation and market forces. We are promised a life of spending and squandering; in fact, it is a countdown against nature and against future humankind. It is a civilization against simplicity, against sobriety, against all natural cycles; It is a civilization against freedom, which requires time to experience human relationships and the most important things: love, friendship, adventure, solidarity and family
  • Stupefied, we have rejected our own biological imperative, which defends life for life’s sake as a superior cause, and we have replaced it by functional consumerism and accumulation.
  • Politics, the eternal mother of all human endeavors, has remained shackled to the economy and to the marketplace.
  • Going from one adventure to another, politics achieves little more than perpetuating itself, and as such it delegates its power and spends its time bewildered, fighting for the Government. Out of control, human history marches forward, buying and selling everything and innovating in order to negotiate what is, in a way, non-negotiable...
  • The average city dweller wanders between financial institutions and tedious office routines, sometimes moderated by air conditioning. He often dreams about vacations and freedom. He dreams about having the ability to pay his bills until one day his heart stops and he is gone. Other such soldiers will fall prey to the jaws of the marketplace.
  • Today, it is time to fight to prepare a world without borders.
  • The globalized economy has no other driving force except that of the private interests of the very few, and each nation State seeks only to maintain its own stability.
  • Truly productive capitalism is a prisoner of the banks, which are at the summit of global power.
  • The world is clamoring for global regulations that respect scientific achievements, which abound, but it is not science that governs the world.
  • We have to figure out how to recycle more and how to counter global warming. What are the limits of each human task? How many years ago did they tell us in Kyoto about certain facts linked to climate change?
  • We have finally learned that intelligence must be at the helm, guiding the ship to port.
  • The fact is that we tend to cultivate feudal anachronisms, spoiled affectations and hierarchical distinctions that undermine the best feature of republics — the fact that no one is better than anyone else. The interaction of those factors and others keeps us living in prehistory, and today it is impossible to renounce war when politics fails. Thus, economies are strangled and resources wasted.
  • Every minute in the life of our planet, we spend $2 million on military budgets around the world — $2 million a minute.
  • Medical research on all manner of diseases, which has made huge advances and is a blessing that promises longer life, receives barely a fifth of what is budgeted for the military. That process, from which we cannot escape, perpetuates hatred, fanaticism and distrust, fuels new wars and wastes fortunes.
  • Today, the world is incapable of establishing global regulations for the planet, due to the failure of lofty global politics, which meddles with everything.
  • We must achieve a broad planetary consensus to unleash solidarity among the most oppressed and to punish and tax waste and speculation by mobilizing the large economies not to produce disposable goods, but rather useful goods without planned obsolescence or excess, which would help the world’s poorest peoples. Useful goods could stand against world poverty.
  • Turning to a useful neo-Keynesianism on a global scale in order to abolish the world’s most flagrant embarrassments would be a thousand times more profitable than making war.
  • How many millions of dollars have they taken from our pockets deliberately creating junk so that people will buy and buy and buy?...In our culture, we act as if nothing had happened. Instead of us controlling globalization, it controls us.
  • The greed that pushed us to domesticate science and transform technology — is paradoxically pushing us over the edge into a shadowy abyss, towards an unknown fate, an era without history, and we are left without eyes to see or the collective intelligence to continue to colonize and transform ourselves.
  • What is the big picture of which we speak? It is the system of global life on Earth, including human life, with all the fragile balances that make it impossible for us to continue as we are.
  • With talent and collective work, with science, step by step humankind can make deserts green; humankind can bring agriculture to the seas; humankind can develop agriculture that lives with salt water.
  • If the power of humankind is focused on what is essential, it is infinite.
  • It is possible to eliminate poverty from the planet. It is possible to create stability. It will be possible for future generations, if they begin to reason as a species and not just as individuals...
  • If our dreams are to come true, we will have to control ourselves or we will die. We will die because we are not capable of being at the level of the civilization that we have been developing with our efforts. That is our dilemma. We should not spend our time merely correcting the consequences.
  • Let us consider the deep-rooted causes, the civilization of waste, the present civilization that is stealing time from human life and wasting it on pointless matters.
  • Consider that human life is a miracle, that we are alive as a result of a miracle, and that nothing is more important than life.
  • Our biological duty is, above all, to respect life, promote it, take care of it, reproduce it and understand that WE are the species.

Quotes about Mujica[edit]

President José Mujica... told Obama that Americans should smoke less and learn more languages... lectured a roomful of businessmen at the US Chamber of Commerce about the benefits of redistributing wealth and raising workers’ salaries... students at American University that there are no “just wars” ... he spoke...with such brutal honesty that it was hard not to love the guy... ~ Medea Benjamin
  • Meet the president - who lives on a ramshackle farm and gives away most of his pay. Laundry is strung outside the house. The water comes from a well in a yard, overgrown with weeds. Only two police officers and Manuela, a three-legged dog, keep watch outside. This is the residence of the president of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, whose lifestyle clearly differs sharply from that of most other world leaders. President Mujica has shunned the luxurious house that the Uruguayan state provides for its leaders and opted to stay at his wife's farmhouse, off a dirt road outside the capital, Montevideo. The president and his wife work the land themselves, growing flowers. This austere lifestyle - and the fact that Mujica donates about 90% of his monthly salary, equivalent to $12,000 (£7,500), to charity - has led him to be labelled the poorest president in the world... Elected in 2009, Mujica spent the 1960s and 1970s as part of the Uruguayan guerrilla Tupamaros, a leftist armed group inspired by the Cuban revolution. He was shot six times and spent 14 years in jail. Most of his detention was spent in harsh conditions and isolation, until he was freed in 1985 when Uruguay returned to democracy. Those years in jail, Mujica says, helped shape his outlook on life....Uruguayan law means he is not allowed to seek re-election in 2014. Also, at 77, he is likely to retire from politics altogether before long.
    • Jose Mujica: The world's 'poorest' president, Vladimir Hernandez BBC Mundo, (15 November 2012)
  • President José Mujica of Uruguay, a 78-year-old former Marxist guerrilla who spent 14 years in prison, mostly in solitary confinement, recently visited the United States to meet with President Obama and speak at a variety of venues. He told Obama that Americans should smoke less and learn more languages. He lectured a roomful of businessmen at the US Chamber of Commerce about the benefits of redistributing wealth and raising workers’ salaries. He told students at American University that there are no “just wars.” Whatever the audience, he spoke extemporaneously and with such brutal honesty that it was hard not to love the guy... Mujica’s influence goes far beyond that of the leader of a tiny country of only 3 million people. In a world hungry for alternatives, the innovations that he and his colleagues are championing have put Uruguay on the map as one of the world’s most exciting experiments in creative, progressive governance.
  • To see him today, now aged 78, sitting on his wooden chair, surrounded by books and silence, a pair of sandals on his feet and a bust of Che Guevara opposite him, you might take Mujica for some Latino Diogenes, a benevolent patriarch, the last man on Earth and obviously indignant. He is also one of the few people to have experienced nothingness, spending two years' captivity at the bottom of a well... The international media have described him as "the most incredible politician" or indeed "the best leader in the world". Some have suggested he should win the next Nobel peace prize. He is also thought to be the world's poorest president, because he gives almost 90% of his income to low-income housing organisations. He is not very keen on such labels.
    The pinnacle of his presidential career came in June 2012 when defence minister Eleuterio Fernández Huidobro announced that the state would be taking over the production and sale of marijuana, which would be legalised and regulated... Mujica, who says he has never smoked a joint and knows very well that 62% of voters are opposed to legalisation, yet has no qualms about launching the world's first state-grown marijuana. He says it is a question of public security and that he is determined to separate consumers from dealers, and marijuana from other narcotics... He may indeed be a bit crazy, but he is also captivating and quite unique among world leaders.
  • Jose Mujica, a former leader of the Marxist Tupamaros guerrilla group, left behind a progressive model of governance, characterized by frugality, simplicity and focused leadership. With a moral and ethical underpinning that emphasizes love, concern and sacrifice, his model of leadership is a telling lesson to a world run by cabals and institutions whose sole idea of development revolves around exploitative and lopsided power relations...
    In November 2009, at 74, Pepe, as he is fondly called, was elected president, having polled 53 per cent of the vote. The result is a new, improved Uruguay, economically strong, politically stable, socially bonded and with a reduced crime rate. Mujica... demonstrates a genuine spirit of selflessness and concern for his people...
    The 79-year old Mujica, who as president, lived with his wife in his rustic farm settlement in the country-side and drove to work in his weather-beaten 1987 Volkswagen Beetle, has been renowned for other eccentricities: even while in office, he grew flowers, enjoyed the bucolic wild, and continually soaked his intellect in classical philosophy texts from Plato, Seneca to Marx and Segundo. While he sees himself as a ‘humble peasant’, he has been variously described as ‘the most incredible politician’, ‘best leader in the world’, and even ‘the world’s poorest president’.
    • Leadership Lessons From Mujica... The Guardian, (29 March 2015)
  • Pepe Mujica, former president of Uruguay who enjoys almost universal admiration in Latin America, said: “Anyone who looks at a map to say that Venezuela could be a threat has to be quite mad. Venezuelans have a marvelous Constitution – the most audacious in all of Latin America.” [xi]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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