President Barack Obama has been said to be the President of this generation, and one who has the interest of his citizens at heart. And while this may very well be true, there is another president who has his people in his heart. This president holds office purely for his citizens so much so that this president donates 90% of his salary to charity to enrich their lives.
His name is Jose Mujica, President of Uruguay.
A man who still drives a dark blue 1980s Volkswagon Beetle which has endured quite a bit, a man who grows flowers on a small farm located outside of the city, a man who owns a three-legged handicap dog, Mujica is a man who has the people of Uruguay’s interest at heart.
Prior to his presidency and political career, Mujica was a guerilla fighter who was a part of the Tupamaros, also known as the Movimiento de Liberación Nacional-Tupamaros, movement which was a guerilla organization that sought to represent the people of Uruguay against injustice. During the 70s, Mujica spent two years imprisoned at the bottom of a well under the presidency of Jorge Pacheco Areco for his political activities.
Now serving as President, Mujica is gaining attention around the world due to his efforts to tackle the country’s war on drugs. Mujica has also garnered attention in the headlines for passing landmark legislation which aids women rights in the country.
Currently, Uruguay is set to become the only second Latin American country to legalize abortion. Despite a ban on abortion throughout most of Latin America, the abortion rates in the region are higher than those in Western Europe or the United States. The reason for the high abortion rates has been linked to the lack of education regarding contraceptive use.
Since abortion is prohibited in Latin America, women are taking alternative steps to the treatment. Choosing the black market, women use the underground services to find private physicians to perform the procedure. An estimated 5,000 women are reported to have died from illegal abortion procedures ever year in the region.
In Uruguay polls have shown that citizen have narrow yet firm favoring of legalizing abortion. The support led to the parliament in the country passing the vote for it but it was vetoed in 2008 by the sitting president at the time President Tabare Vazquez. However, with the rising risk of illegal abortions there is a new bill.
The new bill does come with conditions however. The new bill allows abortion with certain restrictions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. One of the mandates to undergo the procedure is the potential patient will need to partake in an interviewed with a timed-panel of three to five days called a “reflection” period to ensure the patient wants to undergo the procedure.
While the mandate is unnecessary it does act as a sign the country is moving forward. The bill will be the first time in Uruguay’s history that women will have access to both safe and legal abortions. Uruguay comes in second behind Cuba who already allows women the right to choose.
On drugs Uruguay has proposed to legalize the sale and distribution of marijuana. Mujica’s backing of the legalization is due to the complaints made by citizens who have had it with the American and Mexican handlings of the war on drugs.
The Mexican Drug War began in 2006, and in the six year timespan there has been an estimated 60,000 people who have perished. Recently the president of the country, former- Mexican President Felipe Calderón acknowledged the failure of the drug war.
In a bid to make things right, Calderón has asked for a global debate to take place in order to develop a new approach to ending the drug trade. Joining Calderón are presidents of Colombia and Guatemala.
The role of Uruguay in the drug war is small, but as a way to combat the country’s issues regarding drug Mujica has placed the idea of selling drugs at prices that criminal gangs cannot compete with. With the removal of the drug cartels relying on markets, there is an expected decrease in drug-related crimes which would provide in carrying for the government’s bad revenue stream. By increasing the revenue stream the country can focus on addressing health problems.
With a reported 3 million people living in the country, Uruguay has been seen as the place to test out new ways of combating ongoing issues. In short, Uruguay is seen as the perfect research subject. According to Mujica this is beneficial because “someone has to be first.”
Individuals like Mujica should be the archetype for politicians. Politicians should have the interest of the people at heart, and while it is true most politicians do there are a few who don’t. Politics is a power game, and it is based upon having the numbers to back you up and the financial means to do so. Mostly about self-perseveration politics has become the medium to ensure it.
While Mujica many not have a large financial support, he does have the one thing most politicians cannot attain: the support of the people of Uruguay who Mujica works for.