Jose Mujica was the president of Uruguay. Growing up in the poor and remote section of his native country, he had a difficult start in life. When his father was crushed by heavy debt, which eventually led to his death, Jose was forced to help his family survive. He took this sense of toughness with him when he joined an armed revolutionary group. Training and living in the jungle, the guerillas were determined to fight off the yoke of a brutal dictatorship. After a series of daring raids, Jose and his companions were unable to resist the overwhelming opposition forces and were convicted and given long sentences behind bars. After a grueling, difficult period of incarceration, he was finally released. Determined to pursue change by a different path, he ran for office and quickly rose through the ranks. After securing a productive term as a cabinet minister, Mujica threw his hat in the ring and was elected president. Following through on his campaign promises, he quickly implemented a number of far-reaching social justice programs for his country. Making alliances with a number of friendly, like-minded nations led to greater influence and trade in the region. After a transformational and productive term in office, Mujica peacefully stepped down from the presidency and peacefully retired to a private life
Childhood & Early Life
José Alberto "Pepe" Mujica Cordano was born on May 20, 1935 in Montevideo, Uruguay. His father, Demetrio Mujica, was a Basque and his mother, Lucy Cordano, a descendent of Italian immigrants.
When Jose was 5 years old, his father went bankrupt. A few months later he died, leaving the family in dire straits. Alberto was forced to work delivering goods for a local bakery.
Jose was an avid cyclist when he was a teenager. He raced for several different bicycle clubs.
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In 1966, Mujica joined the MLN-Tumpamaros, an armed revolutionary group. Three years later, he led a squad of MLN guerillas in the mission to take over the city of Pando.
In 1970, he was shot six times by police. He was expected to die in the hospital but made a miraculous recovery.
In 1971, he was arrested for his involvement in revolutionary activities but escaped from prison. He was quickly re-arrested but managed to escape again the following year.
Mujica spent the next 13 years in prison. While imprisoned he faced numerous atrocities and at one point he was held in a watering trough. He also spent several years in solitary confinement.
In 1985, a new amnesty law freed thousands of prisoners. Mujica was among the liberated prisoners.
In 1989, he founded the ‘Movement of Popular Participation’ (MPP) political party. He soon rose through the ranks.
In 1994, he successfully stood for election as a deputy. He was just one of two MPP members to win their election. Five years later, was successfully elected as a senator.
In 2004, Mujica's MPP party became the most powerful party in the country. This helped boost his successful re-election bid as senator.
In 2005, he was appointed as the Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries. Accepting the cabinet position meant resigning from the senate. Later in the same year, he married Lucia Topolansky, a fellow Aymara.
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In 2008, the ‘Broad Front’, a coalition of several political parties, agreed on Mujica as their candidate for president.
In 2009, he was elected as president after winning a run-off election. The following year, he settled a long running dispute between Argentina and Uruguay over a key river.
In 2011, he became ‘president pro tempore’ of the Mercosur trading bloc. He served for one year.
In 2012, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. At the end of the year, he began another term as ‘president pro tempore’ of Mercosur.
In 2013, his government formally legalized state-controlled sales of marijuana. Same-sex marriage was also legalized at this time.
Mujica served as the ‘president pro tempore’ of the ‘Union of South American Nations’. He served from December 4, 2014 to March 1, 2015
On March 1, 2015, Mujica's term in office came to an end. He has now retired to private live where he plans to grow chrysanthemums.
Awards & Achievements
On August 16, 2010, he was awarded the ‘Grand Collar of the National Order of Merit’, the highest order of merit in Paraguay.
On January 25, 2011, he was conferred upon the ‘Grand Collar of the Order of the Sun’, the highest order of merit in Peru.
On January 28, 2014, Mujica was awarded the ‘Order of the Aztec Eagle’, the highest award in Mexico.
On December 4, 2014, El Pepe was awarded the ‘National Order of San Lorenzo’, the highest award in Ecuador.
Personal Life & Legacy
Jose is married to Lucia Topolansky. They have no children. The humble politician is known for his simple lifestyle and donates 90% of his Presidential salary to the needy. He also refused to live in the presidential palace, preferring his humble farm instead.
Mujica is a self-described atheist. His nickname is "El Pepe". He has a three-legged dog named Manuela