February 05, 2015

25 Subversive Quotes From The World’s Poorest President, Uruguay’s José Mujica

José Mujica started his public life as a violent Marxist rebelling against the government of Uruguay. After multiple arrests and a couple of escapes, he was eventually thrown into solitary confinement and spent ten years in squalor. He hallucinated and suffered, but somehow after his release in 1985, he rebuilt his mind and started anew, this time fighting for his ideals as an elected official.

After serving in the Senate and as Uruguay’s Minister of Agriculture, Mujica ran for the presidency. He won the 2009 elections and entered office in 2010. During his term, Mujica has overseen the legalization of marijuana sales as well as Uruguay’s first legal gay marriages. The economy has grown as well. But Mujica is best known for the way he lives.

Since his term began, he has refused to reside in the presidential palace, preferring to live in his family’s shabby farmhouse instead. He doesn’t wear ties and often shows up to conferences in sandals and blue jeans. He gives away 90 percent of his presidential salary and is happy to live off around $800 a month. In other words, he rejects the pomp and self-importance typical of most public officials. And so Mujica has been called “the anti-politician,” “the world’s poorest president,” and the “most humble politician.”

What beliefs motivate Mujica’s life and politics? The quotes below offer a glimpse inside this perennial renegade’s mind.

On being poor:

“The thing is I have a way of life that I don’t change just because I am a president. I earn more than I need, even if it’s not enough for others.”
“My definition of poor are those who need too much. Because those who need too much are never satisfied.”
“I think the ideal way of living is to live like the vast majority of people whom we attempt to serve and represent.”

On legalizing marijuana:

“All of the police measures we’ve undertaken in the last 100 years against drug trafficking have multiplied crime. Drugs have spread and violence has overrun society.”
“We’re going to start an experiment. It’s almost certain that we’ll be under the international spotlight. We’re a petri dish, really, a social laboratory. But remember this: in Uruguay there are 9,000 prisoners. Three thousand of them are locked up for narco-trafficking crimes. What does that mean? That three out of nine incarcerations are drug-related. First and foremost we need to fix that.”

On revolution:

“The world will always need revolution. That doesn’t mean shooting and violence. A revolution is when you change your thinking. Confucianism and Christianity were both revolutionary.”
Still, Mujica remains skeptical about protest movements based primarily on social media:
“The protesters will probably finish up working for multinationals and dying of modern diseases. I hope that I am wrong about that.”
“We can’t live alone. For our lives to be possible, we depend on society. It’s one thing to overturn a government or block the streets. But it’s a different matter altogether to create and build a better society, one that needs organization, discipline, and long-term work. Let’s not confuse the two of them. I want to make it clear: I feel sympathetic with that youthful energy, but I think it’s not going anywhere if it doesn’t become more mature.”

On worshipping the market:

“We have sacrificed the old immaterial Gods, and now we are occupying the temple of the Market-God. He organizes our economy, our politics, our habits, our lives and even provides us with rates and credit cards and gives us the appearance of happiness.”
“The little man of our days goes faithfully everyday to his job, to his office, consuming, consuming, spending with plastic, with credit, with installments, hoping for vacations and never enjoying true life, and when he dies, with his funeral service financed in installments, he is replaced by another little man with the same mind-frame.”
“I’m just sick of the way things are. We’re in an age in which we can’t live without accepting the logic of the market… Contemporary politics is all about short-term pragmatism. We have abandoned religion and philosophy … What we have left is the automatization of doing what the market tells us.”

On climate change:

“What some call the ecological crisis of the planet is a consequence of the triumph of human ambition. This is our triumph as well as our defeat.”
“Consumerism could be the final stage in human civilization, if we keep battering and attacking nature.”
“Are we governing globalization or is globalization governing us? Is it possible to speak of solidarity and say that “we are all together” in an economy based on ruthless competition? How far does our fraternity extend?”
“I know that some of the things I am saying are grating. But we have to recognize that the water crisis and aggression against the environment are not the cause [of climate change]. The cause is the model of civilization that we have set up. And what we have to change is our way of life.”
“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, but we think as people and countries, not as a species.”

On policy, politics, and politicians:

Speaking of leaders who cling to power:
“The president is a high-level official who is elected to carry out a function. He is not a king, not a god. He is not the witchdoctor of a tribe who knows everything. He is a civil servant. As such, he must leave and be replaced.”
“We have done everything possible to make the presidency less venerated.”
“Being reactionary is the pathology of the conservative. It is go backwards and comes from a dogmatic and closed mindset. The pathology of the left is infantilism. It is the permanent confusion of an illusion with reality.”
“The first requirement in politics is intellectual honesty. If there is not intellectual honesty, the rest is worthless.”

On wearing ties:

“The tie is a useless rag that chokes the neck. I am an enemy of consumerism. On account of this hyper-consumerism, we are forgetting fundamental things and expending human effort on trivialities that have little to do with human happiness.”

On freedom:

True freedom is to consume little.”
“When you buy something, the instrument is money, but in reality you are buying it with the hours of your life that you spent earning that money. The greatest thing that you have is that you are alive.”
“To be free is… to spend most of the time in your life doing the things you enjoy.”
“I am frugal, not poor. Frugal, with a light suitcase. I live with little, just what’s necessary, not too tied down to material things. Why? So I can have more free time. To do what? What I like. Freedom is having time to live.”



  1. Oh no he didn't? Now we have to bomb his nation into the stone-age, we cannot have people thinking and using their minds freely?

    What does he want?

    A greater future for everyone in spite of Wall Street? Sheesh...everyone knows nothing can happen anymore unless it earns some billionaire a healthy cut.

  2. A bona fide Nobel Peace Prize candidate.

  3. Jesus sucked gay penisFebruary 6, 2015 at 1:45 AM

    That is one groovy dude.

  4. Most everyone else is holding on to for dear life to something that
    is impossible to take with you and useless in any other realm.

    Where does your treasure lie?
    In someone else s pocket or in your own heart and mind.

    The proper support system can make money and greed obsolete.

    I asked my father who taught me that I could fix anything about it and he said,
    What could he do about it?
    I ask my brother about it and he told me the same thing.
    The carrot can enslave you but, it can never set you free.

    A life well lived.
    Thank you.
    William Eon

  5. He sounds like someone who understands. ( Seriously rare in ANY public official. )