President Jose Mujica, the “world’s poorest president”, has surprised the world by making Uruguay the first country to entirely legalise marijuana.
A law already passed in the lower house of Congress and expected to pass in the Senate later in 2013 would make Uruguay the first country in the world to license and enforce rules for the production, distribution and sale of marijuana for adult consumers.
Uruguay is hoping to act as a potential test case for an idea slowly gaining steam across Latin America – that the legalisation and regulation of some drugs could combat the cartel violence devastating much of the region.
The thing is I have a way of life that I don't change just because I am a president. I earn more than I need, even if it's not enough for others.
Mujica’s recent speech to the UN General Assembly denouncing excess and frivolity, also received global attention:
“We have sacrificed the old immaterial Gods, and now we are occupying the temple of the Market-God. He organises our economy, our politics, our habits, our lives and even provides us with rates and credit cards and gives us the appearance of happiness,” he said.
“It seems that we have been born only to consume, and to consume, and when we can no longer consume, we have a feeling of frustration and we suffer from poverty, and we are auto marginalised.”
He may look like a working class grandfather, but 78-year-old Mujica is a man with a powerful message, a leader who is a one of a kind.
Also known as Pepe Mujica, he refused to move to the luxurious house the Uruguayan state provides for its leaders, and chose instead to stay in the modest home he shares with his senator wife in the capital.
His lifestyle and the fact that he donates 90 percent of his salary to charity has earned him the label “the poorest president in the world”.
“Those who describe me so are the poor ones,” he says. “My definition of poor are those who need too much. Because those who need too much are never satisfied.”
Mujica is a man who practices the simplicity he preaches and never minces words, a style some of his countrymen criticise as unpresidential, but which makes him a hero to others.
On this episode of Talk to Al Jazeera, President Jose Mujica discusses his peculiar approach towards marijuana and drug trafficking, his particular way of living and understanding life, and the repercussions the country’s new policies, if approved, might have in the region.