José Mujica – the president who set himself down on the minimum wage

by Ole A. Seifert, first published September 4, 2012 at 5:57pm


Who has not seen the posters with “Put politicians on a minimum wage, and watch how fast things change” around the web? In Uruguay, President Mujica even put himself on a minimum wage. He donates 90% of his monthly salary of $ 12,500 to welfare purposes. When will this trend reach Zuma, Sarkozy, Merkel, Stoltenberg and the rest of the world leaders?


The presidential manor Suarez & Reyes House is located in the Prado area of Montevideo. The president now wants this put on the list of state housing for homeless compiled by the Ministry of Welfare. If other help centres will be filled up elsewhere, homeless can get to be familiar with this exclusive three-floor shelter.


José Mujica has been president since 2010. Not only is he  driving around in his old Volkswagen Beetle from 1987, his only official asset of  value, but he still lives in his old house in the outskirts of the capital Montevideo with his wife who own the place, Senator Lucia Topolansky, as he promised he would before the election. Also his wife donate part of her salary to welfare purposes. Before becoming president, Mujica  drove a Vespa scooter to the Senate. As a perspective, the Vice President Danilo Astori’s stated capital is $ 275,000 including a house and a car about ten times the value of Mujica bubble that is valued at $ 1,300.


State run marijuana monopoly

The president has now proposed the legalization of cannabis, not only for Uruguay, but the whole of South America. Marijuana should be sold at a reasonable low price, to take profits away from the criminals. Several other Latin American countries have also sought support for deregulation and legalization of a variety of drugs, including heroin and cocaine. Uruguay wants only to legalize cannabis. Not unlike the Norwegian liquor stores, Mujica wants to introduce a state run monopoly of hashish sales.


Urugay was also among the first to recognize a separate Palestinian state.


Free and open, green and peaceful

On the list of corruption by Transparency International,  Uruguay is the second least corrupt state in South America. Uruguay is also listed as number one in South America and number four in the world among the 25 full democracies (Economist Intelligence Unit). Uruguay is also regarded as one of the freest countries politically and with good working conditions. Also in the rankings in terms of peace, stability, ecological footprint and the most livable green country, they are best in class in America and Latin America.


José Mujica (Broad Front) was elected president in 2009. Presidential elections are every five years and run over two rounds if not first candidate receives an absolute majority (50.1%). Mujica got 47.96 in the first round. The following candidates respectively 29.07, 17.02 and 2.49%. In the second round, José Mujica got 52.39% against Luis Alberto’s (National Party) 43.51%.


He was designated by former president Vázqez as the Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries in 2005. Of this, he resigned his position as a senator, though returned to his seat in 2008 after the cabinet change in 2008.


José Mujica is a former guerrilla leader who has been both imprisoned and tortured for 14 years. Among others, he was held in the bottom of a well in more than two years. He escaped prison in 1971 but was re-apprehended in 1972 and shot six times by police.

(The article continues below the picture.)


The earthbound President José Mujica outside his home. And yes, he is a vegetarian. Photo: América

The earthbound President José Mujica outside his home. And yes, he is a vegetarian. Photo: América




The Whites

The National Party (Partido Nacional) is also known under the name of the White Party (Partido Blanco) — its previous name until 1872. It is one of the largest and oldest political parties and the major right-wing conservative party in Uruguay . Politics in Uruguay has previously been dominated by the two largest and oldest parties, aforesaid and Colorado. It is only at the last two elections Broad Front have controlled and held President. In return, they had a clear majority.


The front

Broad Front or Frente Amplio, FA, is a coalition between various, mainly but not exclusively left-wing parties and have close links with the trade unions and the cooperative housing movement. The coalition came into play in 1971 and was then composed of more than a dozen different parties and groups. Uruguay struggled with major political unrest in the postwar era and martial law was introduced in 1968. After the coup in 1973, the Broad Front was declared illegal, but became legal again in 1984, involving in the democratic restoration. Today there are 11 parties in the Broad Front.




(A shorter version of this, written in norwegian, was published by the independent magazine Gateavisa.


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