What kind of World Leader do we need today? Prominent examples offered by a variety of nations include: Joe Biden (U.S. president, 2021-), Angela Merkel (chancellor of Germany, 2005-present), Emmanuel Macron (French president since 2017), Fumio Kishida (Prime Minister of Japan, 2021-), Boris Johnson (UK Prime Minister since 2019), Xi Jingping (President of the People’s Republic of China since 2013), Vladimir Putin (Russian president from 1999-2008 and 2012-present), and Bahsar al-Assad (Syrian president since 2000 and until human extinction).
Each of these leaders personifies a particular kind of socio-political regime, which variously you might be favorably disposed to or disapprove of depending on your own political and moral values. To my tastes, the absolute best national and world leader we could possibly have would be José Alberto “Pepe” Mujica Cordano, who was president of Uruguay during 2010 to 2015, or an individual just like him.
I was brought to this thought by recently seeing a number of movies and documentaries about Mujica, and the Tupamaros urban guerrilla group in which he got his start.
Tupamaros (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tupamaros), also known as the MLN-T (Movimiento de Liberación Nacional – Tupamaros, or Tupamaros – National Liberation Movement), was a left-wing urban guerrilla group in Uruguay in the 1960s and early 1970s. The Tupamaros started as a youthful group of students and professionals, and attracted trade union members and people of poor socio-economic status from rural areas. They formed in the 1960s during a time of instability in Uruguay caused by low food prices in Europe and Asia decreasing the value of exports from Uruguay and resulting in lower wages for unionized workers, fewer social services, and increased national tension accompanied by a diminishment of constitutional guarantees by an increasingly authoritarian government. In their low-level insurgency against the Uruguayan government, the Tupamaros killed 50 soldiers, policemen and also civilians. 300 Tupamaros died either in action or in prisons (mostly in 1972), and about 3,000 Tupamaros were also imprisoned.
In their early years, the Tupamaros avoided political violence, but increasingly violent pressure by the government’s military forces pushed them into low intensity guerrilla warfare in 1970, which continued until they were forcefully neutralized in 1972 by the Uruguayan army. ‘State of Siege’ (Etat de Siege) (https://youtu.be/rjv36b99JXk) is a 1972 film by Costa-Gavras about the 1970 kidnap-capture by the Tupamaros of Dan Mitrione, the American torture instructor to the militarized police forces of Uruguay. The Tupamaros’s aim in kidnapping Mitrione was to ransom him in exchange for imprisoned Tupamaros. Such a prisoner exchange was denied by Uruguay and the U.S. (during the Nixon-Kissinger regime), and Mitrione was later executed. 
The 2018 film ‘A Twelve Year Night’ (La Noche de 12 Años) (https://youtu.be/y97o1phiyRY) is about the capture, along with with murders, of Tupamaros urban socialist-communist guerrillas in 1972, with subsequent tortures and long brutal imprisonment in solitary confinement of nine specially selected and still surviving Tupamaros leaders, from 1973 to 1985. The last vestiges of Uruguayan democracy were removed in 1973 when the right-wing authoritarian government became a pure dictatorship. For more about this excellent movie, see .
What struck me as I watched ‘A Twelve Year Night’ was that it was more than just a searing Uruguayan story of personal struggles for survival by prisoners of conscience (between 1972 and 1985) within the larger context of the national struggle for political liberation and social transformation in Uruguay between 1967 and 1985, but by analogy it is also the more general story of the struggles for personal survival by prisoners of conscience worldwide, and of the many heartbreaking struggles of oppressed national-identity populations to gain their political liberation and decent and secure socio-economic lives. I also thought that if ever accurate movies were made about the US prisons at Abu Ghraib, Iraq, and at Guantanamo, Cuba, they would look much like ‘A Twelve Year Night’.
‘A Twelve-Year Night’ focussed on three of the nine ’special’ Tupamaros held and abused by the Uruguayan military for 13 years, with José Mujica being one of them. Mujica is an amazing individual. After his release from prison in 1985 and with the restoration of Uruguayan democracy and a new amnesty law, Mujica went on to reenter politics in 1989, become an deputy in the general elections of 1994, a senator in the elections of 1999, appointed Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries in 2005, and was elected the 40th president of Uruguay in 2009, occupying that office from 2010 until 2015.
In his first speech as president-elect before a crowd of supporters, Mujica acknowledged his political adversaries and called for unity, stating that there would be no winners nor losers (“Ni vencidos, ni vencedores”). He added that “it is a mistake to think that power comes from above, when it comes from within the hearts of the masses… it has taken me a lifetime to learn this”. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jos%C3%A9_Mujica)
During Mujica’s term as president: state-controlled sales of marijuana were legalized in order to fight drug-related crimes and address related health issues; laws were passed for same-sex marriage and legalized abortion; in a speech to the UN General Assembly in 2013, he “called on the international community to strengthen efforts to preserve the planet for future generations and highlighted the power of the financial systems and the impact of economic fallout on ordinary people. He urged a return to simplicity, with lives founded on human relationships, love, friendship, adventure, solidarity and family, instead of lives shackled to the economy and the markets.”
Between 2004 and 2014: the share of public expenditures in Uruguay for social needs rose from 60.9% to 75.5%, the national poverty rate was reduced from 18% to 9.7%, the minimum wage was raised from UYU$4,800 to UYU$10,000, and Uruguay became the most advanced country in the Americas in terms of respect for “fundamental labor rights, in particular freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike.” According to BBC correspondent Wyre Davies, “Mujica left office with a relatively healthy economy and with social stability those bigger neighbors could only dream of.”
As president, Mujica chose not to live in the presidential palace (as a waste of money) but on his wife’s farm outside Montevideo, and the presidential limousine during his term was his own blue 1987 Volkswagen Beetle, which he drives himself. That VW was valued at $1,800 in 2010 and was listed as the entirety of his personal wealth in the mandatory annual personal wealth declaration he filed that year. Because of his great popularity and admiration for him, in 2014 he was offered $1M for that car. He said that if he did get that $1M in exchange for his car that the money would be donated to house the homeless through a program that he supports. Mujica donated around 90% of his $12,000 monthly salary to charities that benefit poor people and small entrepreneurs. Mujica and his wife (since 2005, longtime partner Lucía Topolansky, a fellow former Tupamaros member, senator and former vice-president) have no children, live simply (with a three-legged dog), and continue making significant charitable donations to this day.
‘El Pepe, Una Vida Suprema’ is a wonderful documentary about and with Mujica, made in 2018 by Emir Kusturica (https://youtu.be/BsKVKgKuzHY). One of the most delightful scenes in this documentary is of Mujica driving himself from his farm to the transfer-of-presidential-power ceremony in Montevideo in 2015, with the entire route lined by cheering people, and the ceremony itself taking place before a massive throng of jubilant people celebrating him, and with a huge parade float in the shape of his blue VW on display. One point of access to this documentary is given at .
One of the most endearing portrayals of Mujica is that which he gives himself by speaking directly to the viewer, in a 10 minute excerpt from documentary ‘Human’ made by Yann Arthus-Bertrand in 2015 (https://youtu.be/4GX6a2WEA1Q). Of all the web-linked videos I have given in this article, at a minimum see this one. It should make it obvious why I would wish Mujica and people like him to be our political leaders.
 ’State of Siege’ (trailer, en Français)
 ‘A Twelve Year Night’ (more about this movie)
 El Pepe, A Supreme Life (documentary)