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13 Reasons We'll Miss Uruguay's Weed-Legalizing President José 'Pepe' Mujica

Uruguayan President Jose Mujica speaks during an interview with Agence France-Presse at his house, on the outskirts of Montev
Uruguayan President Jose Mujica speaks during an interview with Agence France-Presse at his house, on the outskirts of Montevideo on July 9, 2014. Mujica told AFP Wednesday that sales of marijuana will be delayed until next year because of difficulties in implementing the controversial law legalizing the drug. The South American country in December became the first in the world to announce that it would regulate the market for cannabis and its derivatives, a bold move by authorities frustrated with losing resources to fighting drug trafficking. Direct marijuana sales to consumers will 'go to next year,' Mujica, 79, said in an interview with AFP. 'There are practical difficulties.' AFP PHOTO / Daniel CASELLI (Photo credit should read DANIEL CASELLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Uruguay's President José "Pepe" Mujica became an instant celebrity in 2012 after the BBC published a feature documenting his austere lifestyle and detailing his past. A former guerrilla fighter who spent 14 years in jail -- more than 10 of them in solitary confinement and two of them in the bottom of a well -- Mujica later swore off violence and became a successful politician of the leftwing Broad Front.

"Years ago, we used to think that there were good wars and bad wars," Mujica told students at American University in May. "Good wars were the ones supported by a just and noble cause, for processes of liberation. Today, with all of our technological and scientific knowledge, war -- whatever its tendency -- ends up becoming a sacrifice for the weakest people in society... The worst negotiation is better than the best war. That's what I think now, because I know the pain and sacrifice of war."

Mujica's international presence was solidified in 2013, as he became famous for legalizing the marijuana trade, a pioneering effort at reining in the power of drug traffickers and transitioning toward treating drug abuse as a public health issue rather than a criminal one.

Even in democracies, few people elected to the presidency live anything like the majority of people whom they are elected to represent. Part of the reason why Mujica gained international celebrity status was that his humble lifestyle and folksy aphorisms struck a nerve in a world where prominent politicians live more luxurious pampered lives than any of us can imagine, while begging for money from people they're supposed to regulate in order to fund their increasingly undemocratic electoral campaigns.

With Sunday's runoff presidential election, Mujica's term in office began winding down.

Here's 13 reasons we'll miss Mujica when he leaves Uruguay's presidency.

  • 1 Because he legalized marijuana sales
    Uruguay's trailblazing president <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/uruguay-legalizes-marijua_n_4415245" target="_blank"
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    Uruguay's trailblazing president signed legislation last year creating the world's first national, government-regulated marijuana market.

    Mujica championed the idea, saying that it would wrest power away from drug cartels and allow the government to focus on the issue as a public health matter rather than a criminal one.

    "We ask the world to help us create this experience," Mujica told Brazilian daily A Folha de São Paulo last year. "It will allow us to adopt a socio-political experiment to address the serious problem of drug trafficking... the effect of the drug traffic is worse than the drug."
  • 2 And he legalized gay marriage
    Though best-known for legalizing weed, <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/uruguay-legalizes-gay-marriage_n_3057458" targ
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Though best-known for legalizing weed, Mujica also presided over Uruguay's legalizing of same-sex marriage in 2013. Uruguay was the 12th country in the world to do so.
  • 3 Because he's actually a public servant
    Dubbed the "world's poorest president" by the BBC, Mujica donates <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/fifa-sons-of-bitche
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Dubbed the "world's poorest president" by the BBC, Mujica donates 90 percent of his salary to charity and lives a modest life. How many U.S. politicians, who claim to serve the public, can say the same?
  • 4 Because he wore sandals to state functions
    That's Mujica on Dec. 26, 2013, at the <a href="http://www.clarin.com/mundo/Pepe-Mujica-sandalias-ministro-Economia_0_1054694
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    That's Mujica on Dec. 26, 2013, at the swearing in ceremony for his new finance minister, Mario Bergara.
  • 5 Because he hates neckties for all the right reasons
    Mujica's lack of formality isn't limited to footwear. In an interview with Spanish journalist Jordi Evole, Mujica raged again
    Getty Images
    Mujica's lack of formality isn't limited to footwear. In an interview with Spanish journalist Jordi Evole, Mujica raged against the necktie, calling it a symbolism of consumerism. "The tie is a useless rag that constrains your neck," Mujica said. "I'm an enemy of consumerism. Because of this hyperconsumerism, we're forgetting about fundamental things and wasting human strength on frivolities that have little to do with human happiness."
  • 6 Because he was so awesomely quotable
    A self-proclaimed "campesino with common sense," Mujica has a way of <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/mujica-quotes_n_
    A self-proclaimed "campesino with common sense," Mujica has a way of spouting off the kind of philosophical nuggets you want to post on your refrigerator.
  • 7 Because he drives a Volkswagen Beetle even though he could afford something way better
    An Arab sheik offered Mujica $1 million for his 1987 Beetle. <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/uruguays-president-beetl
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    An Arab sheik offered Mujica $1 million for his 1987 Beetle. Mujica turned the offer down.

    "We could never sell it," Mujica said in November. "We would offend all those friends who pooled together to buy it for us."
  • 8 Because he rocks
    Aerosmith met up with Mujica in 2013, offering an autographed guitar as a gift. Mujica put the guitar up for auction to raise
    AP
    Aerosmith met up with Mujica in 2013, offering an autographed guitar as a gift. Mujica put the guitar up for auction to raise money to build housing.

    “It’s signed by all of them and that surely has a lot of value,” Mujica said, noting that he’s not much of a guitar player. “That instrument must have been invented by an anarchist who was also drunk, because it’s very difficult.”
  • 9 Because he lives on a farm, instead of a mansion
    Uruguay's president says he likes to keep his life simple so he can enjoy the things he likes to do, like working on his flow
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Uruguay's president says he likes to keep his life simple so he can enjoy the things he likes to do, like working on his flower farm. He continues to live there, without servants rather than the presidential palace.

    "I've lived like this most of my life," Mujica told the BBC in 2012. "I can live well with what I have."
  • 10 ...With his three-legged dog, Manuela
    Which is sweet.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Which is sweet.
  • 11 Because his wife is also a badass
    In the words of journalist Will Carless, writing for the Global Post, <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/politi
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    In the words of journalist Will Carless, writing for the Global Post, Mujica's wife Lucía Topolansky is a "senator, ex-guerrilla, prison escapee, torture survivor, blonde-bombshell-turned-wild-haired, farm-living, hard-as-nails first lady."
  • 12 Because he gave the U.N. a piece of his mind
    When the president of the International Narcotics Control Board, a U.N. agency, accused Uruguay of refusing to meet with the
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    When the president of the International Narcotics Control Board, a U.N. agency, accused Uruguay of refusing to meet with the board's officials before legalizing weed, Mujica didn't mince his words.

    "Tell this old guy not to lie," Mujica told reporters, referring to INCB president Raymond Yans. "Any guy in the street can meet with me. Let him come to Uruguay and meet with me whenever he wants... He thinks because he's in an international position, he can tell whatever lie he wants."

    For its part, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime criticized Uruguay for legalizing the marijuana trade, while heaping praise on anti-drug efforts in Iran -- a country that executes drug dealers.
  • 13 Not to mention the 'bunch of old sons of bitches' at the FIFA
    Asked by a television reporter how he felt about the FIFA's expulsion of Uruguayan star striker Luis Suárez for biting, Mujica gave an unfiltered response.

    "The FIFA is a bunch of old sons of bitches," Mujica said, then clasping his hand over his mouth as if the words had accidentally slipped out.

    Unsure whether to broadcast the comments, sports journalist Sergio Gorzy asked if Mujica for permission.

    "If it's up to me, publish it," Mujica said.
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