José Mujica

This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Mujica and the second or maternal family name is Cordano.
José Mujica
40th President of Uruguay
In office
1 March 2010  1 March 2015
Vice President Danilo Astori
Preceded by Tabaré Vázquez
Succeeded by Tabaré Vázquez
President pro tempore of the Union of South American Nations
In role
4 December 2014  1 March 2015
Preceded by Dési Bouterse
Succeeded by Tabaré Vázquez
Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries
In office
1 March 2000  3 March 2008
President Tabaré Vázquez
Preceded by Martín Aguirrezabala
Succeeded by Ernesto Agazzi
Personal details
Born José Alberto Mujica Cordano
(1935-05-20) 20 May 1935
Montevideo, Uruguay
Political party Tupamaros (1966–1972)
Movement of Popular Participation (1989–present)
Other political
Broad Front (1971–present)
Spouse(s) Lucía Topolansky
Residence Rincón del Cerro, just outside Montevideo
Occupation Farmer

José Alberto "Pepe" Mujica Cordano (Spanish pronunciation: [xoˈse muˈxika]; born 20 May 1935) is a Uruguayan politician who was the 40th President of Uruguay between 2010 and 2015. A former urban guerrilla fighter with the Tupamaros, he was imprisoned for 13 years during the military dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s. A member of the Broad Front coalition of left-wing parties, Mujica was Minister of Livestock, Agriculture, and Fisheries from 2005 to 2008 and a Senator afterwards. As the candidate of the Broad Front, he won the 2009 presidential election and took office as President on 1 March 2010.

He has been described as "the world's 'humblest' president" due to his austere lifestyle and his donation of around 90 percent of his $12,000 monthly salary to charities that benefit poor people and small entrepreneurs.[1][2]

Early life

Mujica was born on 20 May 1935, to Demetrio Mujica, of Spanish Basque ancestry,[3][4] and Lucy Cordano, a daughter of Italian immigrants. Mujica's father was a small farmer who went bankrupt shortly before his death in 1940, when his son was five. His mother's parents were very poor immigrants from Liguria. Lucy Cordano was born in Carmelo, where her parents had bought five acres in Colonia Jose to cultivate vineyards. Between the ages of 13 and 17, Mujica cycled for several clubs in different categories. He was also active in the National Party, where he became close to Enrique Erro.

Guerrilla leader

See also: Tupamaros

In the mid-1960s, he joined the newly formed MLN-Tupamaros movement, an armed political group inspired by the Cuban Revolution.[5] He participated in the brief 1969 takeover of Pando, a town close to Montevideo, leading one of six squads assaulting strategic points in the city. Mujica's team was charged with taking over the telephone exchange and was the only one to complete the operation without any mishaps.[6] In March 1970 Mujica was gunned down while resisting arrest at a Montevideo bar; he injured two policemen and was in turn shot six times. The surgeon on call at the hospital saved his life. Tupamaros claimed that the surgeon was secretly Tupamaro and this is why his life was saved. In reality the doctor was simply following ordinary medical ethics.[7] At the time the president of Uruguay was the controversial Jorge Pacheco Areco, who had suspended certain constitutional guarantees in response to MLN and Communist unrest.[8][9]

In total Mujica was captured by the authorities on four occasions. He was among the more than 100 Tupamaros who escaped Punta Carretas Prison in September 1971 by digging a tunnel from inside the prison that opened up at the living room of a nearby home.[10] Mujica was re-captured less than a month after escaping, but escaped Punta Carretas once more in April 1972. On that occasion he and about a dozen other escapees fled riding improvised wheeled planks down the tunnel dug by Tupamaros from outside the prison.[11] He was re-apprehended for the last time in 1972, unable to resist arrest. In the months that followed the country underwent the military coup in 1973. In the meantime, Mujica and eight other Tupamaros were especially chosen to remain under military custody and in squalid conditions. In all, he spent 13 years in captivity. During the 1970s and 1980s, this included being confined to the bottom of an old, emptied horse-watering trough for more than two years.[12][13] During his time in prison, Mujica suffered a number of health crises, particularly mental issues. Although his two closest cellmates, Eleuterio Fernández Huidobro and Mauricio Rosencof often managed to communicate with each other, they rarely managed to bring Mujica into the conversation. According to Mujica himself, at the time he was suffering from auditory hallucinations and related forms of paranoia.[14]

In 1985, when constitutional democracy was restored, Mujica was freed under an amnesty law that covered political and related military crimes committed since 1962.[15]

Several years after the restoration of democracy, Mujica and many Tupamaros joined other left-wing organizations to create the Movement of Popular Participation,[16] a political party that was accepted within the Broad Front coalition.

In the 1994 general elections, Mujica was elected deputy and in the elections of 1999 he was elected senator.[17] Due in part to Mujica's charisma, the MPP continued to grow in popularity and votes, and by 2004, it had become the largest of any faction within the Broad Front.[17] In the elections of that year, Mujica was re-elected to the Senate, and the MPP obtained over 300,000 votes, thus consolidating its position as the top political force within the coalition and a major force behind the victory of presidential candidate Tabaré Vázquez. Mujica was then elected in 2009 as president in the following elections.

Minister of Agriculture

On 1 March 2005, President Tabaré Vázquez designated Mujica as the Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries (Mujica's own professional background was in the agricultural sector).[17] Upon becoming minister, Mujica resigned his position as senator. He held this position until a cabinet change in 2008, when he resigned and was replaced by Ernesto Agazzi. Mujica then returned to his seat in the Senate.

Political positions

Mujica with the President of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in 2010

Mujica's political ideology has evolved over the years from orthodox to pragmatist. In recent times he has expressed a desire for a more flexible political left.[18] His speaking style and manner is credited as part of his growing popularity since the late 1990s, especially among rural and poor sectors of the population.[19] He has been variously described as an "antipolitician"[20] and a man who "speaks the language of the people" while also receiving criticism for untimely or inappropriate remarks.[21] Unlike president Vázquez, who vetoed a bill put forward by parliament that would make abortions legal, Mujica has stated that should it come before him in the future, he would not veto such a bill.[22] In the sphere of international relations, he hopes to further negotiations and agreements between the European Union and the regional trade bloc Mercosur, of which Uruguay is a founding member.[23]

On the Uruguay River pulp mill dispute between Argentina and Uruguay, Mujica was more conciliatory toward the Argentine government than the previous administration, and in 2010 the two nations ended their long-running dispute and signed an agreement detailing an environmental monitoring plan of the river and the setting up of a binational commission. Good personal relations between Mujica and Argentinian counterpart Cristina Kirchner helped lead to the accord, although several bilateral issues remain unresolved, including the dredging of the shared Martin Garcia access channel of Río de la Plata (River Plate).[24][25]

Asked about Brazilian President Lula da Silva's decision to receive Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he answered it was a "genius move" because "The more Iran is fenced in, the worse it will be for the rest of the world."[26][27]

Even though President Vázquez favored his Finance Minister Danilo Astori as presidential candidate of the then unified Broad Front to succeed him in 2010, Mujica's broad appeal and growing support within the party posed a challenge to the president. On 14 December 2008, The Extraordinary Congress "Zelmar Michelini" (a party convention) proclaimed Mujica as the official candidate of the Broad Front for primary elections of 2009, but four more precandidates were allowed to participate, including Astori. On 28 June 2009, Mujica won the primary elections becoming the presidential candidate of the Broad Front for the 2009 general election. After that, Astori agreed to be his running mate. Their campaign was centered on the concept of continuing and deepening the policies of the highly popular administration of Vázquez, using the slogan “Un gobierno honrado, un país de primera" (An honest government, a first-class country) – indirectly referencing cases of administrative corruption within the former government of the major opposition candidate, conservative Luis Alberto Lacalle. During the campaign, Mujica distanced himself from the governing style of presidents like Hugo Chávez (Venezuela) or Evo Morales (Bolivia), claiming the center-left governments of Brazilian Luis Inácio Lula da Silva or Chilean socialist Michelle Bachelet as regional examples upon which he would model his administration. Known for his informal style of dress, Mujica donned a suit (without a tie) for some stops in the presidential campaign, notably during visits to regional heads of state.[28]

In October 2009, Mujica won a plurality of over 48 percent of the votes compared to 30 percent for former president Lacalle, falling short of the majority required by the constitution, while at the same time renewing the Broad Front's parliamentary majority for the next legislature (2010–2015). A runoff was then held on 29 November to determine the winner; on 30 November Mujica emerged as the victor, with more than 52% of the vote over Lacalle's 43%.[29] In his first speech as president-elect before a crowd of supporters, Mujica acknowledged his political adversaries and called for unity, stating that there would be no winners or losers ("Ni vencidos, ni vencedores"). He added that "it is a mistake to think that power comes from above, when it comes from within the hearts of the masses (...) it has taken me a lifetime to learn this".[30]


Mujica formed a cabinet made up of politicians from the different components of the Broad Front, conceding the area of economics to aides of his vice president Danilo Astori.

On 21 June 2012, the Argentine philosopher Eduardo Sanguinetti, in an editorial in the Uruguayan newspaper La República, proposed to nominate President José Mujica for the Nobel Peace Prize, arguing that the philosopher "who cannot be anything in his life example of austerity, dignity and honesty, adding its actions in favor peace of peoples today in conflict".[31]

In June 2012, Mujica's government made a controversial move to legalize state-controlled sales of marijuana in Uruguay in order to fight drug-related crimes and health issues, and stated that they would ask global leaders to do the same.[32][33] Mujica said that by regulating Uruguay's estimated $40 million-a-year marijuana business, the state would take it away from drug traffickers, and weaken the drug cartels. The state would also be able to keep track of all marijuana consumers in the country and provide treatment to the most serious abusers, much like that which is done with alcoholics.[34]

In September 2013, Mujica addressed the United Nations General Assembly, with a very long speech devoted to humanity and globalization.[35] The speech called on the international community to strengthen efforts to preserve the planet for future generations and highlighted the power of the financial systems and the impact of economic fallout on ordinary people. He urged a return to simplicity, with lives founded on human relationships, love, friendship, adventure, solidarity and family, instead of lives shackled to the economy and the markets.[36]

On 1 March 2015, Mujica's term as president came to an end.[37] According to BBC correspondent Wyre Davies, "Mujica left office with a relatively healthy economy and with social stability those bigger neighbours could only dream of."[38]

Personal life

Mujica and his wife

In 2005, Mujica married Lucía Topolansky, a fellow former Tupamaros member and current senator, after many years of co-habitation. They have no children and live on an austere farm in the outskirts of Montevideo where they cultivate chrysanthemums for sale, having declined to live in the opulent presidential palace or use its staff.[39] His humble lifestyle is reflected by his choice of an aging Volkswagen Beetle from 1987 as transport.[40] In 2010, the value of the car was $1,800 and represented the entirety of the mandatory annual personal wealth declaration filed by Mujica for that year. In November 2014, the Uruguayan newspaper Búsqueda reported that he had been offered 1 million dollars for the car, which was manufactured in 1987; he said that if he did get 1 million dollars for the car it would be donated to house the homeless through a programme that he supports.[41] His wife owns the farm they live on. He has drawn much attention for his unique personality and lifestyle.[1][42][43][44][45][46] He describes himself as atheist.[47] Also living at the farm is his three-legged dog, Manuela.[48]

International relevance

During the last months of 2013, the renowned Serbian film director Emir Kusturica started shooting a documentary film on the life of Mujica, whom he considers "the last hero of politics".[49]

During a talk at the 28th Guadalajara International Book Fair (Mexico), on Sunday 7 December 2014, Mujica was interviewed by Mexican journalist Ricardo Rocha. Uruguay's President addressed several topics, such as drug trafficking, drug legalization, poverty and social injustice. "We live on the most unjust continent in the world, probably the richest, but with the worst distribution [of wealth]." On Latin America, José Mujica stated that he was "passionate about bringing Latin Americans together, about what defines us as belonging to a great nation that is to be created. There are multinational states, like China, like India, like what Europe is doing after a history of wars." Mujica also addressed the question of the shared linguistic heritage of Latin Americans, remarking with respect to the region's two major languages that "Portuguese is a sweet Spanish, if you speak it slowly... and even more so if it has a feminine sweetness." And he pointed out another element that unites the countries in Latin America: "We have another identity: the Christian and Catholic tradition." He concluded his talk by adding: "I see that there are many young people here; as an old man, a little advice... Life can set us a lot of snares, a lot of bumps, we can fail a thousand times, in life, in love, in the social struggle, but if we search for it we'll have the strength to get up again and start over. The most beautiful thing about the day is that it dawns. There is always a dawn after the night has passed. Don't forget it, kids. The only losers are the ones who stop fighting."[50]

Honours and awards

Award or decoration Country Date Place
Grand Collar of the National Order of Merit  Paraguay 16 August 2010 Asunción Paraguayan highest order of merit. [51][52]
Grand Collar of the Order of the Sun  Peru 25 January 2011 Lima Peruvian highest award. [53][54]
Order of the Aztec Eagle  Mexico 28 January 2014 Havana Mexican highest award. [55][56]
National Order of San Lorenzo  Ecuador 4 December 2014 Guayaquil Ecuador highest award.



  1. 1 2 Hernandez, Vladimir (14 November 2012). "Jose Mujica: The World's 'Poorest' President". BBC News Magazine.
  2. Jonathan Watts (13 December 2013). Uruguay's president José Mujica: no palace, no motorcade, no frills. The Guardian. Retrieved 15 December 2013.
  3. Mujica paseará por Muxika, la tierra de sus antepasados, Diario La República
  4. Mujica recibió las llaves de la ciudad de Muxika, Diario La República
  5. Maria Ximena Alvarez. "Tupamaros revolution – La revolución imposible" (in Spanish).
  6. "Pablo Brum's "The Robin Hood Guerrillas: The Epic Journey of Uruguay's Tupamaros (CreateSpace, 2014). Pages 99-109.".
  7. Brum, The Robin Hood Guerrillas, Pages 122-123
  8. Mallinder, Louise. "Uruguay's Evolving Experience of Amnesty and Civil Society's Response".
  9. (Spanish)"El 13 de junio de 1968: hace 40 años nació el Pachequismo". 13 June 2008. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  10. "The Tupamaros".
  11. Brum, The Robin Hood Guerrillas, Pages 201-229 and 250-254
  12. Lucho Soria. "Entrevista a José "Pepe" Mujica". Retrieved 7 July 2014.
  13. Andavolu, Krishna (May 9, 2014). "Uruguay and Its Ex-Terrorist Head of State May Hold the Key to Ending the Global Drug War". Vice. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  14. Brum, The Robin Hood Guerrillas, Pages 331-336
  15. "Ley 15.737". Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  16. "Uruguay – Broad Front". Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  17. 1 2 3 Stephen Gregory (1 February 2016). José 'Pepe' Mujica: Warrior, Philosopher, President. Sussex Academic Press. pp. 81–. ISBN 978-1-78284-304-7.
  18. Warren, Michael (29 November 2009). "Ballot box gives ex-guerrilla Uruguay's presidency". The Seattle Times.
  19. Carroll, Rory (25 October 2009). "Former guerrilla Jose Mujica favourite in Uruguay election". London: TheGuardian. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  20. "Ex-guerrilla wins Uruguay presidency". 30 November 2009. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  21. "Runoff forced in Uruguay's election". AS/COA online. 21 October 2009.
  22. "Mujica headed for presidential victory in Uruguay".
  23. "El acuerdo entre la UE y el Mercosur es prioritario para Mujica." (in Spanish). 29 November. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  24. Argentina and Uruguay settle seven-year pulp mill row, BBC News, 16 November 2010.
  25. Uruguay/Argentina implement the end of the pulp mill dispute, Mercopress, 31 August 2010.
  26. "Mujica supports Lula da Silva's Iran policy". 27 November 2009.
  27. "Mujica elogió a Lula por recibir a Ahmadinejad". 28 November 2009.
  28. "Mujica se compra para traje para ver a Lula" (in Spanish). 29 July 2009.
  29. "Mujica invites opposition to a unity pact." (in Spanish).
  30. ""El poder no está arriba sino en el corazón de las grandes masas", dice Mujica"" (in Spanish).
  31. "El Nobel de la Paz para Pepe Mujica". 21 June 2012. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
  32. "BBC News – Uruguay government aims to legalise marijuana". 21 June 2012. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  33. "Should the world follow Uruguay's legalization of marijuana?". Time Magazine. 26 June 2012.
  34. Oppenheimer, Andres (23 August 2012). "Uruguay's plan to sell pot may not be that crazy". The Korea Herald.
  35. "Mujica addressing the UN" (in Spanish). El Observador. 25 September 2013.
  36. "Uruguayan President focuses on climate change, environment in UN Assembly speech". UN News Centre. Retrieved 2014-06-27.
  37. Davies, Wyre (28 February 2015). "Uruguay bids farewell to Jose Mujica, its pauper president". BBC. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
  38. "Uruguay bids farewell to Jose Mujica, its pauper president - BBC News". Retrieved 2015-05-22.
  39. Romero, Simon (4 January 2013). "THE SATURDAY PROFILE: After Years in Solitary, an Austere Life as Uruguay's President". New York: The New York Times. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  40. "Clarí > El Mundo > Carlos Mujica, de tupamaro en los años 70 a nuevo líder del Senado". Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  41. "Uruguay's Jose Mujica gets $1m offer for his VW Beetle". BBC News. 7 November 2014. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  42. "Uruguay's elections: The mystery behind Mujica's mask". The Economist. 22 October 2009. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
  43. "Mujica en "El Pato Encadenado" –" (in Spanish). (LaRed21). 18 February 2010. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  44. "Monocolumn – South America's unsung political hero". 9 August 2012. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  45. Zap, Claudine (20 September 2012). "'Poorest president' donates 90% of his salary". Yahoo! News. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  46. «Folclórico deslumbramiento primermundista», artículo de Adolfo Castells en El Diario (Montevideo) del 10 de enero del 2013. Consultado el 30 de marzo de 2013.
    Afirma: «El [periódico] francés Liberation [...] ―en el colmo de la desinformación― afirma que nuestro presidente es vegetariano. Seguramente piensa que los chorizos del Quincho de Varela están rellenos de berenjena y soja».
  47. Hebblethwaite, Cordelia (20 May 2014). "#BBCtrending: Wishing for someone else's president". BBC News. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  48. "Uruguay's beloved Pepe bows out to spend time with his Beetle and three-legged dog". The Guardian. 16 November 2014. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  49. "Local images of Kusturica's documentary" (in Spanish). El Observador (Uruguay). 2 April 2014.
  50. Jorge Pérez (8 December 2014). "No quiero que estén de acuerdo, les pido que piensen: José Mujica/I do not want you agree, I ask you to think: José Mujica" (in Spanish). El Informador (Guadalajara, México). Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  51. "Lugo entrega a Mujica Orden Nacional al Mérito Mcal. Francisco Solano López" (in Spanish). Diario ABC Color. 16 August 2010. Retrieved 16 June 2013.
  52. "José Mujica fue condecorado con la Orden Nacional del Mérito en Paraguay" (in Spanish). TeleSUR. 16 August 2010. Retrieved 16 June 2013.
  53. "José Mujica agradece condecoraciones y afirma que América es la "gran causa" por seguir" (in Spanish). 25 January 2011. Retrieved 16 June 2013.
  54. El Presidente recibirá condecoración creada por José de San Martín en 1821, 25 January 2011 (Spanish)
  55. Enrique Peña Nieto condecora a Mujica "José Mujica agradece condecoraciones y afirma que América es la "gran causa" por seguir" Check |url= value (help) (in Spanish). 28 January 2014. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  56. Mujica fue condecorado por el presidente mexicano, 28 January 2014 (Spanish)
  57. "Ecuador: pdte. Mujica condecorado con Orden Nacional del Gran Collar". 4 December 2014. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  58. "Mujica apasionado" (in Spanish). 7 December 2014. Retrieved 7 December 2014.

Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
Martín Aguirrezabala
Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries
Succeeded by
Ernesto Agazzi
Preceded by
Tabaré Vázquez
President of Uruguay
Succeeded by
Tabaré Vázquez
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