Seventy seven year old Jose Mujica, like many Uruguayans, lives a life uncluttered by the possessions associated with our consumerist societies.
Last year his declared assets amounted to nothing else but his 1987 Volkswagen Beetle. He takes home the average pay of €550 per month, lives with his wife, his three-legged dog Manuela and his chickens. What marks him out as different is he also happens to be a former guerrilla who spent 14 years in jail and was shot 6 times…that and he is now President of Uruguay.
In the early 1960s, he joined the newly formed Tupamaros movement, an armed political group inspired by the Cuban revolution. He participated in the 1969 brief takeover of Pando, a town close to Montevideo, and was later convicted by a military tribunal under the dictator Pacheco, who had suspended many civil liberties.
Mujica was captured by the authorities on four occasions, and he was among those political prisoners who escaped Punta Carretas Prison in 1971. He was eventually re-apprehended in 1972, and was shot by the police six times. After the military coup in 1973, he was transferred to a military prison where he served 14 years. During the 1970s, this included being confined to the bottom of a well for more than two years.
During his time in prison, he remained in contact with other leaders of the Tupamaros, including Frente Amplio Senator Eleuterio Fernández Huidobro and the founder and leader of the Tupamaros, Raúl Sendic. After Uruguay’s popular movement brought the country back into democracy in 1985, many of Mujica’s former comrades joined a broad coalition, one which he became part of.
“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,” he says.
More here via the BBC.