[Video link] The presidential limo is a 1987 VW Bug. The presidential pooch has only three functioning legs. The presidential laundry hangs on the line, washed in water hauled from a well in the yard.
The president himself, Jose Mujica, who won a landslide victory in Uraguay’s 2009 election, carries six bullet wounds in his body, a legacy of his time with the Tupamaros guerrillas in the ’60s and ’70s. He also spent 14 years in a military prison, including two confined to the bottom of a well.
Mujica donates 90 percent of his $144,000 annual salary to charity, bringing his effective income down close to the Uruguayan average.
“No, I am not the poor president,” he told the BBC. “The poor people are those who always want more and more, those who never have enough of everything. Those are the poor because they are in a never-ending cycle and they will never have enough time in their lives.”
Mujica recently signed a law legalizing abortions in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and he is pushing a bill to legalize marijuana and give the state a monopoly over its production and sale.
Uruguayan voters appear to have a mixed reaction to Mujica’s ostentatious absence of material wealth. In recent polling, his personal popularity fell below 50 percent for the first time.
He needn’t worry though. When the 2015 elections roll around, he’ll be 79, too old to seek re-election under Uruguayan law.