He’s been jokingly called “the world’s poorest president.”
This Sunday, Jose "Pepe" Mujica steps down as president of Uruguay, ending his run as one of Latin America’s most popular leaders.
Mujica, a 79-year-old former guerrilla, came to power promising to bring an everyday-man sensibility to the presidency — and he certainly succeeded. He won plaudits from around the world for eschewing the trappings of power, choosing to live in a rundown farmhouse instead of the presidential palace, and donating nearly all of his $12,000 monthly salary to charity.
His austere and laid-back presidential style didn't stop there. Mujica never wore a tie, flew economy class and occasionally swore when he spoke.
But he also raised the global profile of Uruguay, a cattle-ranching country home to over 3 million people. As president, Mujica, who took office in 2010, pushed through legislation legalizing marijuana and same-sex marriage, took in detainees once held at Guantanamo, and increased the use of renewable energy sources. He helped transform Uruguay into one of the world’s most progressive countries.
He had his critics, too. Some Uruguayans questioned his folksy, plain-spoken style, arguing that he didn't come off as very presidential. But in an age of scripted appearances, carefully framed photographs and poll-tested political messages by other world leaders, Mujica was wonderfully original.
Here are 5 reasons we're going to miss him:
Mujica drove an 1987 Volkswagen Beetle. Last year, he turned down a $1 million dollar offer from an Arab sheik who wanted to buy the car, which became a symbol of Mujica's unpretentious style. "We could never sell it," Mujica told Uruguayan radio at the time. "We would offend all those friends who pooled together to buy it for us."
Mujica clearly dressed himself in the morning.
In January, a young Uruguayan posted a message on his Facebook page recounting how Mujica and his wife stopped and picked him up while he was hitchhiking.
"On Monday, I was looking for a ride from Conchilla and guess who picked me up on the road?" wrote Gerhald Acosta. "They were the only ones who would stop!"
"When I got out, I thanked them profusely because not everyone helps someone out on the road, and much less a president," Acosta told the Uruguayan daily El Observador.
The president posing in front of his house, with Manuela.