il y a 4 heures
Loin du luxe et des salons feutrés, José Mujica, dirige ce petit pays d’Amérique du Sud depuis une ferme délabrée. Sa paie ? Il la redistribue presque entièrement.
En pleine crise financière transnationale, le chef de l’Etat uruguayen semble être un OVNI face aux plus grands dirigeants du monde. L’homme politique a choisi de rester en phase avec son électorat.
Exit le luxueux palais présidentiel de Montevidéo. José Mujica vit d’une ferme délabrée dans un petit village en compagnie de son épouse. Tous deux cultivent eux-même la terre pour le commerce des fleurs.
Ce mode de vie austère et le don de 90 % de son salaire d’environ 9.400 euros à des associations de bienfaisance ont fait de lui le Président le plus pauvre au monde, rapporte la BBC. Ce qui lui reste pour vivre est quasi équivalent au revenu moyen en Uruguay, soit 680 euros.
« J’ai vécu ainsi la plupart de ma vie »
Élu en 2009, Mujica a passé les années 60-70 auprès de la guérilla des Tupamaros uruguayens, un groupe armé de gauche inspirée par la révolution cubaine.
On lui a tiré dessus à six reprises et il a passé 14 ans en prison. Détenu dans des conditions difficiles et souvent en isoloir, il a finalement été libéré en 1985 lorsque l’Uruguay a renoué avec la démocratie.
Ces années de prison ont façonné sa vision de la vie, a-t-il expliqué à la BBC.
« On m’appelle « le président le plus pauvre », mais je ne me sens pas pauvre. Les pauvres sont ceux qui ne travaillent que pour essayer de garder un train de vie dispendieux, et en veulent toujours plus », dit-il.
« C’est une question de liberté. Si vous n’avez pas beaucoup de biens, alors vous n’avez pas besoin de travailler toute votre vie comme un esclave pour les garder, et donc vous avez plus de temps pour vous-même », conclut-il.
14 November 2012 Last updated at 19:29 ET
Jose Mujica: The world's 'poorest' president
Laundry is strung outside the house. The water comes from a well in a yard, overgrown with weeds. Only two police officers and Manuela, a three-legged dog, keep watch outside.
This is the residence of the president of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, whose lifestyle clearly differs sharply from that of most other world leaders.
President Mujica has shunned the luxurious house that the Uruguayan state provides for its leaders and opted to stay at his wife's farmhouse, off a dirt road outside the capital, Montevideo.
The president and his wife work the land themselves, growing flowers.
This austere lifestyle - and the fact that Mujica donates about 90% of his monthly salary, equivalent to $12,000 (£7,500), to charity - has led him to be labelled the poorest president in the world.
"I can live well with what I have."
His charitable donations - which benefit poor people and small entrepreneurs - mean his salary is roughly in line with the average Uruguayan income of $775 (£485) a month.
In 2010, his annual personal wealth declaration - mandatory for officials in Uruguay - was $1,800 (£1,100), the value of his 1987 Volkswagen Beetle.
This year, he added half of his wife's assets - land, tractors and a house - reaching $215,000 (£135,000).
That's still only about two-thirds of Vice-President Danilo Astori's declared wealth, and a third of the figure declared by Mujica's predecessor as president, Tabare Vasquez.
Elected in 2009, Mujica spent the 1960s and 1970s as part of the Uruguayan guerrilla Tupamaros, a leftist armed group inspired by the Cuban revolution.
He was shot six times and spent 14 years in jail. Most of his detention was spent in harsh conditions and isolation, until he was freed in 1985 when Uruguay returned to democracy.
Those years in jail, Mujica says, helped shape his outlook on life.
Continue reading the main story
Tupamaros: Guerrillas to government
- Left-wing guerrilla group formed initially from poor sugar cane workers and students
- Named after Inca king Tupac Amaru
- Key tactic was political kidnapping - UK ambassador Geoffrey Jackson held for eight months in 1971
- Crushed after 1973 coup led by President Juan Maria Bordaberry
- Mujica was one of many rebels jailed, spending 14 years behind bars - until constitutional government returned in 1985
- He played key role in transforming Tupamaros into a legitimate political party, which joined the Frente Amplio (broad front) coalition
"I'm called 'the poorest president', but I don't feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more," he says."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," he says.
"I may appear to be an eccentric old man... But this is a free choice."
The Uruguayan leader made a similar point when he addressed the Rio+20 summit in June this year: "We've been talking all afternoon about sustainable development. To get the masses out of poverty.
"But what are we thinking? Do we want the model of development and consumption of the rich countries? I ask you now: what would happen to this planet if Indians would have the same proportion of cars per household than Germans? How much oxygen would we have left?
"Does this planet have enough resources so seven or eight billion can have the same level of consumption and waste that today is seen in rich societies? It is this level of hyper-consumption that is harming our planet."
Mujica accuses most world leaders of having a "blind obsession to achieve growth with consumption, as if the contrary would mean the end of the world".
But however large the gulf between the vegetarian Mujica and these other leaders, he is no more immune than they are to the ups and downs of political life.
"Many sympathise with President Mujica because of how he lives. But this does not stop him for being criticised for how the government is doing," says Ignacio Zuasnabar, a Uruguayan pollster.
The Uruguayan opposition says the country's recent economic prosperity has not resulted in better public services in health and education, and for the first time since Mujica's election in 2009 his popularity has fallen below 50%.
This year he has also been under fire because of two controversial moves. Uruguay's Congress recently passed a bill which legalised abortions for pregnancies up to 12 weeks. Unlike his predecessor, Mujica did not veto it.
He is also supporting a debate on the legalisation of the consumption of cannabis, in a bill that would also give the state the monopoly over its trade.
"Consumption of cannabis is not the most worrying thing, drug-dealing is the real problem," he says.
However, he doesn't have to worry too much about his popularity rating - Uruguayan law means he is not allowed to seek re-election in 2014. Also, at 77, he is likely to retire from politics altogether before long.
When he does, he will be eligible for a state pension - and unlike some other former presidents, he may not find the drop in income too hard to get used to.