My Person of the Year, 2013

Jose Mujica

Jose Mujica

Who do you think should be ‘Person of the Year, 2013’? Nelson Mandela would probably be most people’s vote, but his great achievement was guiding South Africa out of Apartheid in the 1980s and 90’s. I want someone currently active and giving leadership now. Time magazine has chosen Pope Francis as their ‘Person of the Year, 2013’. The Catholic Church was long overdue a radical change of direction and in Pope Francis they do seem to have someone of exceptional quality, renouncing personal excess and becoming an effective and outspoken advocate for peace and for social justice. He would be in my top 20, but not the number one slot: that accolade goes to Jose Mujica.

Jose Mujica is president of Uruguay. His life story is pretty amazing: left wing revolutionary shot six times by police, imprisoned for 14 years, tortured, held in solitary confinement at the bottom of a well for 2 years. In 1985 as the military dictatorship was replaced by democracy he was freed and built the Broad Front political grouping, becoming a deputy, then senator, in Parliament during the 1990’s. In 2010 he became President of Uruguay. What he has achieved since is remarkable.

At a time when numerous politicians in the UK and around the world are revealed as corrupt and self-serving it’s refreshing to have one who clearly is quite the opposite. Mujica gives 90% of his salary to charity, lives on his ramshackle small farm rather than in the presidential palace and drives an old VW beetle. His voluntary frugality is liberating and he seems a genuinely happy person. The pursuit of human happiness and its connection to environmental sustainability was at the heart of his speech to the Rio+20 conference last year, which was such a refreshing and insightful act of political leadership.

Jose Mujica is providing leadership in so many areas it’s hard to pick just a few to put into this blog. His recent legalisation of production, sale and consumption of cannabis helps end the pointless war on drugs that has so enriched the drug cartels, corrupted politics and fuelled violence in countless countries around the world. Under his watch Uruguay is now leading the world with the speed with which it is decarbonising its electricity sector, with a goal of generating 90% of their electricity from renewables by 2015. They are rapidly developing onshore wind, and just starting a rapid roll-out of solar photovoltaics, which combined with existing hydro and biomass should see fossil fuel use plummet over the next few years. Yes, Jose Mujica is definitely my ‘Person of the Year, 2013.’

Wikipedia on Jose Mujica


Rio+20 speech:

Simon Jenkins, cannabis

90% renewables by 2015 wind and solar