UPDATE : 2018.9.19 WED 11:21
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'Ten reasons why you cannot help loving President Jose Mujica'

A leading Korean-language media, NEWSIS, and an American Media, Counter Punch, have published the reasons why people around the world as well as in Uruguay cannot help loving President Jose Mujica of Uruguay.

Many people complain that after they elect politicians they lead a luxurious life that is far from their expectations. However, we should not indulge in generalization because not all politicians are the same.

President Jose Mujica of Uruguay, 78, who is the poorest Head of Government of the world is a good example.

President does not live in the Presidential Mansion provided by the State but at a farm house on the outskirts of Montevideo, the capital city of Uruguay, with his wife. To live like the common people of his country, he closed the official residence of the President.

▲President Jose Mujica of Uruguay (right) and First Lady Lucia Topolansky Saavedra.

The only protection provided to the President by the State consists of two policemen and one dog that has lost one leg.

The monthly pay for the President in Uruguay is US$12,775. However, President Mujica receives only US$775 a month which is the average wage of an Uruguayan worker and donates the reminders (US$12,000) to the society for the poor people.

Statistics show that in Korea people in the upper 10% group make an average of 170 million Won while the lower 90% make an average of only 22.8 million won. This indicates that the upper 10% get 60% of the total amount of income while the remaining 90% have to share the remaining 40%.

For the Korean people, the majority 90% of the people have a much stronger cause to love President Jose Mujica than other countries where the income gaps among he different strata of people are not that bad.

1. President Jose Mujica of Uruguay focuses on redistributing his his country? wealth, claiming that his administration has reduced poverty from 37% to 11%. “Businesses just want to increase their profits; it’s up to the government to make sure they distribute enough of those profits so that workers have the money to buy the goods they produce,” he told businessmen at the US Chamber of Commerce. “It’s no mystery--the less poverty, the more commerce. The most important investment we can make is in human resources.” His government’s redistributive policies include setting prices for essential commodities such as milk and providing free computers and education for every child.

2. He lives in a one-bedroom house on his wife’s farm and drives a 1987 Volkswagen. He spent 17 years in prison for his involvement in Marxist activities. When he is reminded that he is the poorest president in the world, Mujica says he is not poor. He says, “A poor person is not someone who has little but one who needs infinitely more, and more and more. I don’t live in poverty, I live in simplicity. There’s very little that I need to live.”

3. He supported the nation’s groundbreaking legalization of marijuana. “In no part of the world has repression of drug consumption brought results. It’s time to try something different,” he said. So this year, Uruguay became the first country in the world to regulate the legal production, sale, and consumption of marijuana.

4. In August 2013, Mujica signed the bill making Uruguay the second nation in Latin America (after Argentina) to legalize gay marriage. He said that legalizing gay marriage is simply recognizing reality. “Not to legalize it would be unnecessary torture for some people,” he said.

5. He’s not afraid to confront corporate abuses, as evidenced by the epic struggle his government is waging against the American tobacco giant Philip Morris. A former smoker, Mujica says that tobacco is a killer that needs to be brought under control. But Philip Morris is suing Uruguay for $25 million at the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes because of the country’s tough smoking laws that prohibit smoking in enclosed public spaces and require warning labels, including graphic images of the health effects.

▲Left photo shows the Presidential Palace of Uruguay where President Mujica is supposed to live. But he refused to live there in order to live like the common people of his country, and chose to live in the humble house of his wife. This is one of the reasons why Koreans (and perhaps all the peoples of the world, for that matter) cannot help loving him. Right photo shows the house of his wife where he lives with his wife and a a dog that has lost one leg.

6. He supported the legalization of abortion in Uruguay (his predecessor had vetoed the bill). The law is very limited, compared to laws in the US and Europe. It allows abortions within the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy and requires women to meet with a panel of doctors and social workers on the risks and possible effects of an abortion. But this law is the most liberal abortion law in socially conservative, Catholic Latin America and is clearly a step in the right direction for women’s reproductive rights.

7. He’s an environmentalist trying to limit needless consumption. At the Rio+20 Summit in 2012, he criticized the model of development pushed by affluent societies. “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,” he said.

8. He has offered to take detainees cleared for release from Guantanamo. Mujica has called the detention center at Guantanamo Bay a “disgrace” and insisted that Uruguay take responsibility to help close the facility. The proposal is unpopular in Uruguay, but Mujica, who was a political prisoner for 14 years, said he is “doing this for humanity.”

9. He is opposed to war and militarism. “The world spends $2 billion a minute on military spending,” he exclaimed in horror to the students at American University. “I used to think there were just, noble wars, but I don’t think that anymore,” said the former armed guerrilla. “Now I think the only solution is negotiations. The worst negotiation is better than the best war, and the only way to insure peace is to cultivate tolerance.”

10. He has an adorable three-legged dog, Manuela! Manuela lost a foot when Mujica accidentally ran over it with a tractor. Since then, Mujica and Manuela have been almost inseparable. Mujica’s influence goes far beyond that of the leader of a tiny country of only 3 million people. In a world hungry for alternatives, the innovations that he and his colleagues are championing have put Uruguay on the map as one of the world’s most exciting experiments in creative, progressive governance.

이경식 기자  edt@koreapost.com

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