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World’s ‘poorest’ president: ‘I do not need much to live’

May 12th, 2014
03:14 PM ET

By Mick Krever and Claire Calzonetti, CNN

Jose Mujica is often referred to as the world’s “poorest” president.

“I'm not a poor president,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour through an interpreter on Monday. “Poor are the people who need a lot – Seneca said that. I am an austere president.”

He donates 97% of his salary, drives a 1987 Volkwagen Beetle – the original “peoples’ car” – and sells flowers with his wife at their home.

Mujica, a former Marxist guerrilla, lives in the same modest Montevideo house he always has, forgoing the presidential palace.

“I do not need much to live. I live in the same way I used to live when I wasn’t a president and in the same neighborhood, in my same house, and in the same way. And I am a republican” – small ‘r.’

“I live like the majority in my country lives. It was a majority who voted for me. And that's why I identify with them. Morally, I do not have the right to live like a minority in my country.”

“A lot of people like a lot of money. They shouldn't go into politics. That's my way of seeing it. I am not improvising. I don't do marketing. This is my philosophy.”

President Mujica met with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House Monday. What is it like for a former Marxist guerrilla to enter the White House, that most potent of Western’s symbols?

“I cannot deny reality,” he told Amanpour. “I don't know whether I like this planet or not, but I have to accept it.”

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