The World’s ‘Poorest’ President

The long-standing president of Uruguay, José ‘Pepe’ Mujica, isn’t your average president. He has been called the ‘world’s humblest president’. Instead of living in his palace and enjoying his $150 000 salary, he lives on a small farm and donates 90% of his income to charitable organisations.

He drives an old Volkswagen Beetle (worth about $1800), for which he was offered $1 million. He refused to accept, unless it was given to a local charity. Laundry is strung outside the house, water comes from a well in the yard, overgrown with weeds. Only two police officers and Manuela, a three-legged dog, keep watch outside.

The residence of the president of Uruguay differs sharply from that of most other world leaders. Which president could say that he lives on a farmhouse, off of a dirt road? The president and his wife also work the land themselves, growing flowers.

This simple lifestyle, and the fact that Mujica donates 90% of his monthly salary to charity, has led him to be labelled the poorest president in the world. He says: “I’ve lived like this most my life. I can live well with what I have”.

His charitable donations – which benefit poor people and small entrepreneurs – mean that his salary is roughly in line with the average Uruguayan income of $775 a month.

“I’m called the ‘poorest president’, but I don’t feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try and keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more. This is a matter of freedom. 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.”