LATINO VOICES
12/04/2014 11:53 am ET

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

DANIEL CASELLI via 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.

PHOTO GALLERY
Why We'll Miss Uruguay's Awesome President
CONVERSATIONS