Even as a muffler-wrapped, sweater spotting Arvind Kejriwal sleeps in a rajai in the middle of a road, the picture of a casually dressed Uruguayan President José Mujica has gone viral with many calling him the people’s president. Beating the protocol and perhaps the convention, Mujica was spotted in a shirt, pant and slippers during an official programme of the country. This is not quite a picture when you think of a president. But Mujica is known to live a simple life without the usual paraphernalia associated with heads of states.
A former guerrilla and Marxist, the Uruguayan President’s belief in an egalitarian society has impressed many. So much so that the Economist has named Uruguay as the country of the year for 2013. The Foreign Policy featured him in the list of its 100 Leading Global Thinkers. Mujica lives in a cottage, drives a Beetle and donates 90 per cent of his earnings for charity. The donations are reported to benefit the poor and small entrepreneurs.
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Mujica, who didn’t opt to live in the opulent presidential palace and use its staff, has now become popular as the world’s poorest president for leading an austere life. Under his leadership, Uruguay passed the groundbreaking gay marriage act and legalised cultivation and sale of marijuana. The marijuana law is aimed at fighting the illegal drug trade.