José Alberto Mujica Cordano, popularly known as “Pepe”, who took charge of Uruguay as President on March 1, 2010, after winning presidential election in 2009 as candidate of Broad Front coalition of left-wing parties, step down as President after successfully completing his five year term.
Mujica gained the reputation of being one of the most progressive and selfless Presidents of the modern times. A true son of his motherland, Mujica donated 90% of his salary to charities that helped poor people and small entrepreneurs in Uruguay.
The world’s ‘humblest’ president”, Mujica who always lived a much disciplined life and lived life of a farmer in the outskirts of Montevideo refused to move to his presidential palace and inspired his officials to maintain austerity in spending of public money, brought Uruguayan economy to the world map.
According to the World Bank, Uruguay’s $55 billion economy grew an average 5.7 percent annually since 2005, and Uruguay has maintained its decreasing trend in public debt-to-GDP ratio from 100 percent in 2003 to 60 percent by 2014. It has also managed to decrease the cost of its debt, and reduce dollarization from 80 percent in 2002 to 50 percent in 2014.
Taking various bold measures such as: legalization of gay marriage, legalization of marijuana and offered refuge to Guantanamo prisoners, Mujica become very popular among common masses not only in Uruguay but in all corners of Latin America. In an interview to Guardian, the leading daily Mujica told “we’ve had positive years for equality. Ten years ago, about 39 percent of Uruguayans lived below the poverty line; we’ve brought that down to under 11 percent and we’ve reduced extreme poverty from 5 percent to only 0.5 percent”.
It is interesting to note that during his tenure the bilateral trade between India and Uruguay doubled from approx 60 Million Dollars in 2009 to 130 Million dollars. In addition to TATA, Mittal and Reliance reaching Uruguay for strengthening India’s presence in the country, the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements Treaty (DTAA) and a series of agreements on renewal energy cooperation were signed between India and Uruguay that further strengthened India-Uruguay relations.
It will be interesting to watch how the new president Tabare Vazquez who was sworn in as president of Uruguay on March 1, 2015 develops equations with India and the world.