Uruguay President, Jose Mujica, Donates Most Of His Pay To Charity
If the world has an impoverished president, it may be Jose Mujica, the current head of state in Uruguay, the South American nation of some 3.3 million people that's about the size of Washington state.
As BBC News reports, President Mujica (pictured above) shunned the luxurious house that Uruguay provides for its leaders and stays at his wife's farmhouse, located off a dirt road outside the capital, Montevideo.
Beyond eschewing physical comforts that go along with being Uruguay's chief executive, Mujica donates around 90 percent of his monthly salary -- about $12,000 -- to charity, and so is labeled the world's poorest president.
Mujica admits that he may appear eccentric. "But this is a free choice," he says.
Mujica's charitable donations, which bring his salary roughly in line with the average Uruguayan's income of $775 a month, benefit the poor and small entrepreneurs, says the BBC.
His personal wealth, which Uruguayan law requires public officials to disclose, was about $1,800 in 2010 -- the value of his 1987 Volkswagen Beetle. This year, he added half of his wife's assets -- land, tractors and a house -- valued at $215,000.
"I've lived like this most of my life," he told the BBC. "I can live well with what I have."
Mujica's lifestyle is especially austere when compared to his American counterpart, Barack Obama, though there is one similarity. Mujica and his wife work their land themselves, growing flowers, not unlike Michelle Obama, who cultivates a 1,100-square-foot vegetable garden -- albeit on the South Lawn of the White House.
Mujica says that he is driven in his choices by concern for the world's poor. He questions whether the planet has enough resources for 7 or 8 billion people to consume and produce waste in the way many Western societies do.
"It is this level of hyper-consumption that is harming our planet," he says.
What's more, he says, many world leaders are pushing their nations toward a modern consumer economy as a way to build prosperity. But that achievement would likely mean "the end of the world," Mujica says.
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David Schepp has spent more than a dozen years covering business news for the electronic and print media, including Dow Jones Newswires, BBC News, Gannett Co., and most recently at AOL's DailyFinance. Nearly 10 years ago, he started writing a weekly People@Work column, looking in depth at issues facing workers in today's workplace. Follow David on Twitter. Email David at email@example.com. Add David to your Google+ circles.more...