January 6, 2013

"We have done everything possible to make the presidency less venerated."

Says José Mujica, the president of Uruguay, who lives "a run-down house on Montevideo’s outskirts with no servants at all... never wears a tie and donates about 90 percent of his salary, largely to a program for expanding housing for the poor." That leaves him with $800 a moth.
Quoting the Roman court-philosopher Seneca, Mr. Mujica said, “It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, who is poor.”...

Before Mr. Mujica became a gardener of chrysanthemums, he was a leader of the Tupamaros, the urban guerrilla group that drew inspiration from the Cuban revolution, carrying out armed bank robberies and kidnappings on Montevideo’s streets....

He spent 14 years in prison, including more than a decade in solitary confinement, often in a hole in the ground. During that time, he would go more than a year without bathing, and his companions, he said, were a tiny frog and rats with whom he shared crumbs of bread....

Mr. Mujica rarely speaks about his time in prison. Seated at a table in his garden, sipping his mate, he said it gave him time to reflect. “I learned that one can always start again,” he said.

38 comments:

alan markus said...

That leaves him with $800 a moth.

How does that compare to tuna @ $3603 a pound?

Shouting Thomas said...

Maybe, I believe this story. Maybe not.

The NY Times has always been invested in the romantic mythology of the Christ like revolutionary.

They've always been wrong before. But, maybe there's a first time.

ricpic said...

It's important, kiddies, to never forget that when the Tupamaros kidnap, torture and kill it's for a good cause...so it's good. Got it? Tomorrow's lesson: why it is important to spread Kwanzaa's lesson that our people and our struggle are more equal than, uh...theirs. Class dismissed.

Shouting Thomas said...

It occurred to me, after I read my first post, that the NY Times is always looking for that Christ like revolutionary figure... everywhere except in Jesus Christ!

The don't like Christ much.

Maguro said...

And how is Uruguay these days? Worker's paradise?

Maguro said...

Also, when's the photo op with Sean Penn?

Levi Starks said...

He sounds pretty hypocritical to me, I think maybe our communist in chief could give him some lessons.

EDH said...

Ever notice how "former guerrillas" decades later look more like gorillas than when they were guerrillas?

LYNNDH said...

In 2004 the cruise we were on around South America stopped there. What a pit it was then. Dirty, what people we saw were dispirited, packs of dogs roamed the streets. Just maybe his man has done some improvements. His predecessors certainly ignored to poor, and took what they could. You commentators are a very cyncial bunch.

Shouting Thomas said...

You commentators are a very cyncial bunch.

Yes.

I'd like to be wrong!

Michael K said...

Uruguay was a wealthy country. Now ?

In the late 1950s, partly because of a world-wide decrease in demand for agricultural products, Uruguayans suffered from a steep drop in their standard of living, which led to student militancy and labor unrest. An urban guerrilla movement known as the Tupamaros emerged, engaging in activities such as bank robbery and distributing the proceeds to the poor, in addition to attempting political dialogue. As the government banned their political activities and the police became more oppressive, the Tupamaros took up an overtly armed struggle.

President Jorge Pacheco declared a state of emergency in 1968, followed by a further suspension of civil liberties in 1972. In 1973, amid increasing economic and political turmoil, the armed forces closed the Congress and established a civilian-military regime.[9] Around 180 Uruguayans are known to have been killed during the 12-year military rule of 1973 to 1985.[22] Most were killed in Argentina and other neighbouring countries, with only 36 of them having been killed in Uruguay.[23]


Too bad. At the time of WWII it was a rich country.

Shouting Thomas said...

I'm not cynical about the aspirations of poor, ignorant and mistreated people.

I'm cynical about NY Times writers and editors!

Strelnikov said...

Well, we know where that veneration went...

Chef Mojo said...

Uruguay?

Aren't you getting a little ahead of yourself, Althouse?

kentuckyliz said...

I declare bullshit. It leaves him too open to the assassins of his rivals.

rhhardin said...

sipping his mate

Veneris: of beauty, love, desire

virgil xenophon said...

If the NYT chooses to favorably spotlight him..

EDH said...

Taxpayers spent $1.4 billion on Obama family last year, perks questioned in new book

Taxpayers spent $1.4 billion dollars on everything from staffing, housing, flying and entertaining President Obama and his family last year, according to the author of a new book on taxpayer-funded presidential perks.

In comparison, British taxpayers spent just $57.8 million on the royal family.

West Town said...

I believe that Seneca was one of the wealthiest Roman citizens assuming that we are talking about the stoic philosopher. I'm currently reading his "Moral Essays". Recommend the Loeb Classical Library edition (available through Amazon).

Michael said...

True story. This is the way the guy lives; to the delight of the underclass. Up the coast the delightful resort of Punta del Este appeals to the rich of Latin America.

edutcher said...

Some of the Lefties in Iran talked like that. They're dead or in exile.

If memory serves, the Tupomaros were quite vicious. I have a feeling his presidency is going to be whole lot less venerated before it's over.

AprilApple said...

If true, (and yeah - that's a question mark coming from the NY Times) it's fantastic.

Synova said...

If someone wants to give their money away, fine. The problem is when they also believe in confiscating and redistributing what other people don't freely give.

But he'd be helping people more if he gave out those micro-loans for individual business start-ups or invested in small businesses. Or he could at least hire some "servants" and pay them well. Then he'd have the moral authority of being able to say... look, this is how employees should be treated... and set a standard. But probably investing in small manufacturers would be best because he could still be conspicuously poor.

Synova said...

I mean, housing is nice, but if the poor don't have a job, then they're just poor forever, except with an apartment they can't maintain.

bagoh20 said...
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bagoh20 said...

I've known a few ascetics over the years, including people who consciously chose to be homeless their entire lives, and I suppose someone could become an national leader somewhere, although it seems to indicate their politics are about as dysfunctional as ours.

What I've noticed about such people is that they were all pretty intelligent, but unlike this dude, not very generous. I'd say stingy to the point of even denying themselves what they could easily afford. In my layman's opinion, it's a disorder more than a philosophy. It's like hording or OCD. I would avoid such people for leadership positions. They tend to be pretty inflexible, and limited in the options they consider in solving problems. I don't know if this guy is the philosophical or neurotic cheapskate type, but they both scare me in power.

Some of my friends consider me a little like this, but I have an electric toothbrush, and that usually settles the argument, despite recycling my TP.

William said...

Mao claimed to be living in a cave under primitive conditions. Actually he had comfortable accomodations elsewhere, but the cave was where he granted interviews to journalists....I know nothing about Uruguay, but my guess is that they have problems that will not be solved by liberalized abortion, marijuana and same sex marriage laws. Perhaps he has other items on his agenda, but if that's the top of his things to do list, he's pretty lame.

whoresoftheinternet said...

lol. Uruguay elected a violent criminal as its president, and he pretends austerity.

This shit is hilarious, when you stop thinking you can stop it

Viva la Revolucion, Comrades! Seig Heil, Mein Obama!

Dante said...

Fifty shades of Jerry Brown.

I don't hold the prison thing against him, because I don't know why he and others were rebelling.

Rabel said...

He sounds like a nice guy. I bet that if he had a half-brother living in abject poverty he'd send him part of his $800 a month.

Laura said...

He's been in solitary a little too long for my taste. How does he do with the ladies? Got any kids? And why is he drinking tea popularized by Brazil? Late to the cash flow?

Hopped up on amphetamines much? Or does he run the two bodyguards in 12-hour shifts...

NY editors forgot to close up the links.

Laura said...
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Laura said...

Like a moth to the flame, he donates to the program. Hint: chicken or egg?

Laura said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dante said...

"despite recycling my TP."

Dare I ask, what does this mean? I assume it's a joke, I really, really, really, hope.

But in today's world, when you have Darryl Hannah sitting in a tree for weeks, who knows what it might mean.

Paul Zrimsek said...

If you're out to make the presidency less venerated, electing an armed robber is about as good as it gets.

BarryD said...

American Presidents have done far more of the hard work it takes to make the presidency less venerated, and they've been more comfortable doing it.

Susan Stewart Rich said...

"But in today's world, when you have Darryl Hannah sitting in a tree for weeks, who knows what it might mean."

The baroness in the trees?

I lived in Uruguay for 16 months in 1999. Most important 16 months of my life.