MANILA - Even the rightwing British Daily Mail adores Uruguay’s leftwing president Jose Mujica, calling him the only head of state in the world who does not fiddle with his finances. Mujica has no pork; he does not travel at government expense; he does not have P80,000 dinner dates. What do two people eat at that price? Sure the bodyguards eat but in the same restaurant at the next table?
Mujica was a Tupamaro; a terrorist who was repeatedly wounded in skirmishes with police. He spent years in jail but somehow got elected president but he has opted to live the way he used to fight, with only the bare essentials. He will not live on government property at government expense like the usual old Palace; preferring a distantly located farmhouse. His only security are 2 guards and a 3-legged dog. He doesn’t have a police escort when he goes to work, so no wang-wang at all, and his constant companion is not the other kind of escort you call for but his wife who is a leading member of congress and who had also served as acting president.
Mujica has donated all his salary to charity; he wears old clothes; and though good looking even for his age, he does not date or hire out for pampam girls. He has pushed for same sex marriage; for legalised but tightly regulated marijuana. He wants a cap on marijuana use like he wants a cap on alcohol consumption. He thinks that the harm is worse from drinking. He has given up a Marxist or any other vision of society and sees his job as simply giving his people a progressively better material life. For that reason, he the nationalized power and telecommunications industries so that the people are well and not badly served, and yet charged exorbitant rates by utilities companies. He believes in the virtues recycling but not of political families, just of garbage even if it is the same thing.
He resents being called the poorest president. He says a rich man is just a man who needs less and not a man who has to have more. He does not tell his people to copy his simple life; that is his own choice. He wants them to have whatever they want but he hopes they will want a bit less and use what they have more wisely. Back to recycling. We will never have a president like this: a president who does not cost his people a peso to serve but we can dream.