79-year old President of Uruguay, with record of the poorest President in the world, Jose “Pepe” Mujica has just handed over power to his predecessor and successor — Tabaré Vázquez.
Mujica, who is a socialist, was elected President in 2010 for a five-year term. The Uruguayan constitution forbids an incumbent from seeking re-election, so he had to leave office on March 1, 2015 despite his street popularity. Of course, he made no attempts to change the constitution.
The former President who before he became President spent 13 years in jail, in an interview recalled the years he spent in detention, two of them lying at the bottom of an old horse trough.
“I was imprisoned in solitary [confinement] so the day they put me on a sofa I felt comfortable!” Mujica joked about his status as president.
“I’ve no doubt that had I not lived through that I would not be who I am today. Prison, solitary confinement had a huge influence on me. I had to find an inner strength. I couldn’t even read a book for seven, eight years – imagine that!”
Mujica cannot understand the global fascination with his modest lifestyle, adding: “this world is crazy, crazy! People are amazed by normal things and that obsession worries me!
“All I do is live like the majority of my people, not the minority. I’m living a normal life and Italian, Spanish leaders should also live as their people do. They shouldn’t be aspiring to or copying a rich minority.”
Mujica will also be remembered for stabilising the country’s economy and promoting equity and social justice.
Neither will he be forgotten for legalising abortion and marijuana in a country with Catholic majority.
He said: “Marijuana is another plague, another addiction. Some say it’s good but no, that’s rubbish. Not marijuana, tobacco or alcohol – the only good addiction is love!.
“But 150,000 people smoke [marijuana] here and I couldn’t leave them at the mercy of drugs traffickers. It’s easier to control something if it’s legal and that’s why we’ve done this.”
On his retirement plans, he is not going to be typical.
“I have no intention of being an old pensioner, sitting in a corner writing my memoirs – no way!” he said.