This man is a threat to the world order

While some of us are appalled at the trend of US president’s arrogating to themselves increasing powers so that they approach that of imperial leaders, with president Obama’s preposterous claim of having the legal authority to murder anyone anywhere in the world being the most extreme manifestation of this tendency, there is a country whose leader is moving in the opposite direction.

We are so used to seeing a country’s political leaders surround themselves with all the trappings of office (palaces, motorcades, elaborate security, obsequious and groveling underlings, and the like) that we have come to think of that as the natural order of things and so the life lived by Uruguay’s current president Jose Mujica can come as a shock.

He lives in a run-down house on Montevideo’s outskirts with no servants at all. His security detail: two plainclothes officers parked on a dirt road.

Mr. Mujica, 77, shunned the opulent Suárez y Reyes presidential mansion, with its staff of 42, remaining instead in the home where he and his wife have lived for years, on a plot of land where they grow chrysanthemums for sale in local markets.

His net worth upon taking office in 2010 amounted to about $1,800 — the value of the 1987 Volkswagen Beetle parked in his garage. He never wears a tie and donates about 90 percent of his salary, largely to a program for expanding housing for the poor.

His donations leave him with roughly $800 a month of his salary. He said he and his wife, Lucía Topolansky, a former guerrilla who was also imprisoned and is now a senator, do not need much to live on.

The 77-year old leader was once the head of the Tupamaros guerilla group and spent 14 years in prison, more than a decade of it in solitary confinement. He says that in order for democracy to function properly, elected leaders should be ‘taken down a notch’.

“We have done everything possible to make the presidency less venerated,” Mr. Mujica said in an interview one recent morning, after preparing a serving in his kitchen of mate, the herbal drink offered in a hollowed calabash gourd and commonly shared in dozens of sips through the same metal straw.

In terms of the usual measures of a country, there is nothing exceptional about Uruguay. It ranks in the middle on economic and social indices, 79th out of 226 in per capita GDP, 65th out of 190 on the WHO’s health index, and 57th out of 111 in the quality of life, all of which are pretty good for a country that is not rich. It is a world soccer powerhouse, though, having twice won the World Cup, are the current Latin American champions, and at present is ranked #2 in the world, astounding for a country with a population of only 3.25 million.

But Uruguay also currently ranks among the least corrupt, least unequal, and most safe countries in the region. According to a recent poll, Uruguayans “are among the most supportive of democracy and by far the most satisfied with the way democracy works in their country.”

This is surprising because its leader is obviously crazy, a danger to his people, and destroying his country with his bizarre ides about what a democracy should look like and how a country’s leaders should live and behave. If his model spreads to other countries and their people start to expect the same kind of behavior from their leaders, who knows what might happen?

There is nothing more dangerous to the transnational oligarchy than a model of government in which economic and social gaps are narrowed. Why has the US not invaded Uruguay, overthrown Mujica, and replaced him with someone who likes palaces and motorcades, would cut taxes on the rich, reduce social services, privatize everything, and make the rich richer and the poor poorer? Isn’t that the model of democracy we uphold?


  1. coragyps says

    “Why has the US not invaded Uruguay, overthrown Mujica, and replaced him with someone who likes palaces and motorcades,…”

    Hush, Mano! Now you may have tipped our government off as to the existence of Uruguay -- I hope this isn’t a self-fulfilling prophecy…..

  2. sunny says

    “Why has the US not invaded Uruguay, overthrown Mujica, and replaced him with someone who likes palaces and motorcades,…”

    Because the USSR is not around any more.

  3. ollie says

    Uh, what exactly does Uruguay have that the US would want? If they had oil…then it might be a problem.

  4. AsqJames says

    I visited Uruguay briefly in 2009 and none of the above is at all surprising, but it’s interesting that Mano mentions the strength of football, because this was both the reason for our visit and seems to me to have an intimate, and two-way, connection to the national character (can’t think of a better phrase).

    We actually went to visit a local amateur football club named after the English team i support, Everton. Club Atletico Everton are based in a town of about 10,000 in Rosario and play in a league with 5 other teams in the town. I’d say over half the town are members of one of the 6 sports clubs or “Socios”, from the smallest kids to retired folk. And almost everybody seemed to be actively involved in some way, whether playing (in senior or one of the youth football teams or one of about a dozen other games/sports), coaching, running the bar, maintaining the club house/pitch, etc

    I grew up in a similar sized village/small town in rural England, and although there was a pretty active PTA, annual village show, church fete, some local youth clubs, and not a few people willing to put time and effort into the community, it was nothing like the level I saw in Rosario.

    I just got the impression that the wide communal participation increased the importance of sport (and especially football) for everyone, and that the importance of the community teams gave everybody an incentive to get involved. And I can’t help thinking that the mixing of age groups and social classes that resulted must have an impact on how those people relate to all areas of life.

  5. says

    AsqJames, out of curiosity is all that effort put towards boys teams, or do girls teams get a lot of support too? Every time I hear about communities putting that much support towards sports teams (football in the States, hockey here in Canada) it tends to be almost exclusively the boys who are getting that support.

  6. Mano Singham says

    That’s interesting. It could well be that soccer in Uruguay provides the kind of communal glue that societies need to have all members value and support each other.

  7. baal says

    “But Uruguay also currently ranks among the least corrupt, least unequal, and most safe countries in the region. ”
    I’m certain these details are not an accident but rather go hand in hand.

  8. AsqJames says

    I’m pretty sure there are girl’s teams, but obviously it’s far from 100% equality to say the least.

    In that respect, Everton de La Plata in Argentina (which we also visited) was probably more progressive. Although there the two main sports, football and hockey are basically split on gender. It’s also a much bigger place and they have the resources to provide a much wider range of activities. So both boys and girls can do gymnastics, Tae Kwon do, various forms of dance and other stuff.

  9. dardo says

    He will be visiting USA in 2013. He was invited by Obama who already know of presidential meetings. and responding to someone out there, Uruguay has water, lots of water and that today is worth as oil.

  10. MNb says

    Beware, MS, the threat is bigger than you can imagine.

    The worst part is that both prominent Dutch politicians (the left one is the current prime minister) are right wing!

    This socialist guy is the leader of the current second biggest party in The Netherlands.
    To top it off:

    Yup, in the middle we can see the woman who will be queen within a few month and at the utter left her husband -- Prince (soo to be King) Willem Alexander the First.

    “soccer ….. provides the kind of communal glue”
    Alas, falsified as far as The Netherlands go.

  11. Kimpatsu says

    James is clearly deranged. Everyone knows the One True God(TM) is Liverpool, not the Toffeemen.


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