What Makes This Man The 'Poorest' President?

Uruguay's Jose Mujica gives 90% of his pay to charity

By Liam Carnahan,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 17, 2012 4:06 PM CST

(Newser) – He's a vegetarian, drives a 1987 VW Beetle, and runs a flower farm. Did we mention he's also the ruler of Uruguay? Jose Mujica is known as the world's 'poorest' president, but the one-time guerrilla revolutionary has chosen to shun the state's grand presidential home for his wife's ramshackle farmhouse. He chooses to give 90% of his monthly salary—about $12,000—to charities supporting the poor and small businesses, reports the BBC. He says spending 14 years as a political prisoner helped change his perspective on life.

"If you don't have many possessions then you don't need to work all your life like a slave to sustain them, and therefore you have more time for yourself," he explains. His lifestyle also exemplifies his environmental views: At a world summit this summer, he asked whether Earth has "enough resources so seven or eight billion can have the same level of consumption and waste that today is seen in rich societies?" But this doesn't mean he's a popular president. In fact, his approval rating has dipped below 50% after two controversial decisions: signing a bill to allow abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and supporting a debate on the legalization of marijuana.

Uruguay President Jose Mujica is seen in Oslo, Norway, Friday Oct. 14, 2011.
Uruguay President Jose Mujica is seen in Oslo, Norway, Friday Oct. 14, 2011.   (AP Photo/Scanpix, Morten Holm)
Uruguay's President Jose Mujica delivers a speech at the Uruguayan Congress in Montevideo, Uruguay, Wednesday, March 21, 2012.
Uruguay's President Jose Mujica delivers a speech at the Uruguayan Congress in Montevideo, Uruguay, Wednesday, March 21, 2012.   (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico)
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