Saturday, September 7, 2013

José Mújica – a labour president as one should be.

It is undeniable that what Europe lacks at this moment is an inspiring leadership, a true leader that will focus on the necessary reforms that are needed for his country. The crisis that our continent is currently going through, is not just an economic but also social, political, cultural and moral.

In Greece we have a saying, that "the fish stinks from its head." And that is a very good reflection of today's Greek and European political reality. Our politicians and their governments are rife with corruption, serving the interests of the global elites and the capitalist system. They bother little with the welfare of the ordinary citizens and they have lost any contact or reality with their needs.

In fact they are intoxicated with power and wealth, thinking of themselves as oligarchs. In a real democracy though, the politicians are appointed by the people and should be answerable to them. What really happens in Europe is that our politicians think that they know better and that they can ignore the concerns of their citizens.

One would think that will all their education, skills and background, because the European leadership is undoubtedly educated, that they would automatically attain people's and leadership skills. Unfortunately that is not the case. Because no matter how much you know about economics or politics, if you are unable to engage with the people who trust you with their votes, or you are unable to communicate your plans effectively preferring to ignore the public opinion, then unfortunately you are not a good leader.

Europe's misfortune is that it has too many professional politicians, that practice career politics and they will do anything to stay in power for too long. Anything but gaining the public's confidence that is. They prefer to engage with the big players in their country and with the international business and political elites, that will eventually support their political career inevitably prolonging it.

So what kind of politician is perhaps needed in Europe? For the first time the Eblana Blog will publish an article written by a friend, a Spanish Socialist living in Ireland, Mr. Álvaro Perez Escudero. He has found inspiration by the President of the small South American state of Uruguay, Mr. José Mújica.

Mr. Mújica has made himself heard in the last two to three years writes Alvaro, because of his unconventional kind of diplomacy and the citizen oriented politics that he's practicing, since he occupied his presidential position.

He was born on the 20th of May 1935 in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay and he's a descendant of
Basques that immigrated in the country during 1840. Pepe as he is nicknamed, received a basic school
education in the city quarter he was born and later started his law studies, which he never finished.

He instead became an active member of the Tupamaros National Liberation Movement, an
extremely left urban guerrilla group, since the beginning of the '60s. In 1972, he was taken hostage together
with other Tupamaros, by the then dictatorial government and kept in prison, continuously
threatened to be executed should his people ever reinitialize armed actions.

When democracy returned in 1985 and an amnesty law was introduced, he was released and
dedicated his time to active politics. He formed in 1989 the Movement of Popular Participation, which
is a strong part of the coalition “Frente Amplio” (Broad Front- the Uruguayan left-wing coalition), one of the strongest Uruguayan parties.

Five years later he was elected as a deputy of Montevideo, then as a senator and ten years later his M.P.P. party received the highest number of votes ever. He was assigned by the then President of Uruguay as Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries in March 2005. This position made him very popular because of his ability to communicate open-heartedly with the ordinary people. Many others criticised him because of his "lack of professionalism."

Three years later he returned to the senate, announcing that shortly after he would run for president in the next elections. In June 2009, he was elected as the only candidate coming from the Frente Amplio and five months later, after the second election that the Uruguayan electoral system requires, he finally won with 52% of the votes. On his presidential oath swearing ceremony were present among others, Hillary Clinton, the Argentinian president Cristina Fernández, her husband Néstor Kirchner, the Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa, and Hugo Chávez.

Pepe and his wife Lucía Topolansky, also a senator herself, have renounced the presidential
residence, preferring to continue living on their farm in a north-west region of the metropolitan area
of Montevideo. They work there as horticulturists for the past decades, under quite frugal conditions.

But his legacy and inspirational politics is not his struggle to become Uruguay's President, but his actual work and political ethos. He has been described as "the world's 'poorest' president", as he donates around 90 percent of his $12,000 monthly salary to charities to benefit poor people and small entrepreneurs.

One of them is “Juntos” (Spanish for Together), a housing project to provide poor families with appropriate accommodation. How many European leaders can you name that have actually done such thing? Their salaries are much higher than that of the Uruguayan President's, yet not only they do not donate part of it for charity, but they proceed with austerity policies for the citizens they are supposed to serve. Without of course taking a substantial salary cut themselves.

In June 2012, Pepe's government decided to legalize and regulate the sale of marijuana. This move brought him a lot of international criticism, but also plaudits from the British magazine Monocle . In September 2012, abortion is decriminalized and in April 2013, same-sex marriage legislation is approved in the country. For a small Latin American country all the above consist a great achievement, that many countries in Europe are still struggling to produce.

If we want to reform Europe and create a better, fairer and equal united continent, we should leave aside the ultra-liberal yet conservative "Thatcherite" legacy that our leaders are promoting behind. What we need is inspiring leaders that will get on with the job, pushing for necessary reforms that will promote better living standards for all Europe's citizens and by all means, lead by example.

The problem is that the European ruling elite has a different, industrial and capitalist background. They are spoiled and used to the amount of wealth and power that they have accumulated. They have concluded their studies in the best American or European Universities, in which they have mastered the art of public opinion manipulation.

Their goal is not to serve the citizens but the capitalist system itself and preserve it at all costs. Perhaps the only hope or solution for Europe is to try and find politicians with less academic education, but with passion and love for their country, its people and the whole continent.

Written by Christos Mouzeviris and  Álvaro Perez Escudero. Edited by Christos Mouzeviris.

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