Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | November 26, 2012

World’s Poorest President

José Mujica, President of Uruguay, has been dubbed by media organizations as the world’s “poorest” president. His lifestyle stands in sharp contrast to that of other world leaders. The 77-year-old president has shunned the comforts of the presidential Residencia de Suárez and the convenience of chauffeured limousines. Instead, he lives on a small ramshackle farm on the outskirts of Montevideo, the capital of this Southern Cone nation, and drives his own 1987 Volkswagon Beetle. Mujica’s modest little home is guarded by two police officers and his three-legged dog, Manuela. He draws his water from a well, hangs his laundry out to dry, grows flowers, and battles weeds. Mujica reasons, “I’ve lived this way most of my life. I can live well with what I have.”

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Mujica is what he does with his $12,000.00 monthly salary. He donates 90 percent of his monthly salary to charitable organizations that help the poor and small businesses. Mujica says, “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.” Wise words, indeed, and worthy of consideration. Mujica had lots of time for the kind of reflection that led him to reorder his priorities. He spent 14 years in prison during Uruguay’s military dictatorship in the 1970s and 80s and was released in 1985 when Uruguay returned to democracy.

Although I do not agree some of the decisions Mujica has made as President of Uruguay, I do admire his personal example. And, I certainly do not regard him as the world’s poorest president. When I first read about Mujica, I remembered something that Mother Teresa had written: “Whoever is dependent on his or her money or worries about it is truly a poor person. If that person places his or her money at the service of others, then that person becomes rich, very rich indeed.” Jim Elliot, a Christian missionary martyred in Ecuador in 1956, wrote something equally profound in his journal. Elliot wrote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” We can all learn something from this diminutive old man who has chosen to give away his possessions and to live a simple life. After all, it appears that he is actually much richer than people give him credit for.


Responses

  1. Awesome story brother Omar…..That’s sounds like my motto, “Keep It Simple”

    • Thanks. Could not pass up telling the story of this leader willing to keep it simple and real.

  2. I want to be like him!

    • He is certainly setting an amazing example of selfless and compassionate living.

  3. While watching the high level expenditure of the President-Prime Ministers-Ministers and other political leaders around the world simply blowing the tax-payers hard earned money, this story is very inspiring and challenging.
    When I read about the huge amount spent on imported German vehicles for the Indian political leaders, I was great surprised because 400 million people of India (33%) are living with $ 1.25/day according to the World Bank’s recent report. Until GOD’s children show mercy to the crying world, there is no solution to the hunger and poverty in the world.

    • President José Mujica of Uruguay has certainly given all leaders something to think about. In light of the fact that many people in the world live on just a few dollars a day, our leaders could certainly cut back on their extravagant expenses and through their example remind others about the importance of loving and serving the least of these.


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