The popular Uruguayan leader, once a guerilla fighter against corrupt regimes, made a similar point when he addressed the Rio+20 summit in June 2011. "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 as 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." (Vladimir Hernandez, BBX Mundo, 15 Nov. 2012)
As president, José Mujica gave up an official state palace to live in his farmhouse, and he donated the vast bulk of his salary to social projects. He flew economy class and drove an old Volkswagen Beetle. Like Pope Francis, Mujica fought for the poor, the neglected, the environment. He decried excessive consumption (Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, 13 December 2013). He still does.
Under the Constitution in Uruguay a president can only serve for one term. I don't know who will take his place (a runoff election between two candidates will be held in November 2015), but the people of Uruguay will be fortunate if he is as authentic and compassionate as Mujica.
I wish there were more leaders like him in this sad, mad world where the wealthy rule, extremism runs rampant, and war trumps peace. I don't think I've ever felt the presence of evil, or the need for leaders like Jose Mujica to give us hope, to lift us from despair, so strongly in my lifetime.