Uruguay President Jose Mujica and wife Lucía Topolansky-pubdomain

Uruguay’s president has become legendary for giving 90 percent of his salary to the poor, choosing to live on an austere farm, instead of the presidential palace, and using his 28-year-old Volkswagen Beetle to get around town.

Earlier this month President Jose Mujica and his wife, a senator, were traveling in a government vehicle in the south of the country when they stopped to give a hitchhiking mill-worker a ride.

After 25 or 30 cars passed him by, Gerhald Acosta, who was heading home after work, told the Uruguayan newspaper El Observador, “I couldn’t believe it. The president was giving me a ride.”

He managed to snap a couple photos, which he later posted to Facebook, and when he got out, he said, “I thanked them profusely, because not everyone helps someone out on the road, and much less a president.”

The vegetarian president who turns eighty years old on May 20 also grows and sells flowers on his farm and lives with a three-legged dog.

In the 60s Mujica fought as a guerrilla leader in the Tupamaros movement. He was arrested several times and almost killed in the 70s and spent 13 years in horrific captivity. He was freed in 1985 under an amnesty law that covered political and related military crimes. He later helped create the Movement of Popular Participation, a political party that was accepted into a broader left-wing coalition through which he was elected as a deputy minister, and twice as a senator. Due in part to Mujica’s charisma and economic gains of the previous government, he was elected president in 2009.

The poverty rate in Uruguay has plummeted from a high of 39.9 percent in 2004 to 12.4 percent in 2012 due to efforts on behalf of successive governments to provide more funds for programs to benefit the poor.

(READ the story en español, or READ a translated version from RT)

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