The Economist recently named Uruguay the 2013 country of the year, noting that the country, which is described as “modest yet bold, liberal and fun-loving,” also has a leader who fits that description as well.
President Jose “Pepe” Mujica, also known as the world’s poorest President, has drawn attention not only because of his policies and bold leadership, but also because of his leadership philosophy and modest lifestyle.
At a time when world leaders often have hoards of staffers at their beck and call, it is a rare phenomenon to see a President who looks on convention and decides against it. Uruguay’s “poor” president lives in a small, one-bedroom farmhouse with his wife and donates 90 percent of his salary to charity. He drives a Volkswagen Beetle and he rarely wears a suit.
Uruguay, which has seen its fair share of conflict, has been able to make tremendous strides in poverty reduction over the past few years, falling from 22.4 percent of the population in 2008 to 12.4 percent in 2012. With a President who leads by example, it’s clear that he is just what the country needs during times of austerity and difficult decisions.
Here are 5 famous quotes from Uruguay’s Presidnet Mujica on his thoughts about revolution, leadership, and global consumption
1. “I’ve seen some springs that ended up being terrible winters. We human beings are gregarious. We can’t live alone. For our lives to be possible, we depend on society. It’s one thing to overturn a government or block the streets. But it’s a different matter altogether to create and build a better society, one that needs organization, discipline and long-term work. Let’s not confuse the two of them. I want to make it clear: I feel sympathetic with that youthful energy, but I think it’s not going anywhere if it doesn’t become more mature.”
2. “It seems that we have been born only to consume and to consume, and when we can no longer consume, we have a feeling of frustration, and we suffer from poverty, and we are auto-marginalized.”
3. “We can almost recycle everything now. If we lived within our means, by being prudent, the 7 billion people in the world could have everything they needed. Global politics should be moving in that direction. But we think as people and countries, not as a species.”
4. “Businesses just want to increase their profits; it’s up to the government to make sure they distribute enough of those profits so workers have the money to buy the goods they produce… It’s no mystery — the less poverty, the more commerce. The most important investment we can make is in human resources.”
5. “My goal is to achieve a little less injustice in Uruguay, to help the most vulnerable and to leave behind a political way of thinking, a way of looking at the future that will be passed on and used to move forward. There’s nothing short-term, no victory around the corner… What I want is to fight for the common good to progress.
– Andrea Blinkhorn