World's "Poorest President" Hitches Ride Back Home

The president of Uruguay hitched a ride on Mexico's presidential plane.

ByABC News
January 29, 2013, 1:36 PM

Jan. 29, 2012— -- The president of Uruguay is once again making headlines for his austere ways. This time, he saved himself some airfare money by hitching a ride on Mexico's presidential plane.

Over the weekend, Uruguayan president Jose Mujica and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto were both in Santiago, Chile, to attend an economic summit of Latin American and European leaders. Both men were scheduled to head to Montevideo afterwards for a series of bilateral talks.

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So when the Santiago summit ended on Monday, Mr. Mujica hitched a ride on Mexico's presidential plane, a luxurious Boeing 757 known as the TP-01. The Mexican government said that the ride was a "courtesy" towards Mujica, and afforded the presidents of both countries some extra time to discuss important aspects of the Mexico-Uruguay relationship.

But Mexican media jumped on the occasion to display the stark contrasts between the two presidents, with several papers writing about Mujica's "ride home."

"You'll recognize them by their planes," was the clever headline used by Mexican Daily 24 Horas. This paper pointed out that while Mujica usually travels on commercial flights, in economy class and with no bodyguards, the Mexican government just bought a new Boeing Dreamliner for its president. The plane can carry up to 200 passengers, and cost the government of Mexico more than $400 million, 24 Horas reports.

There are more differences between the two. While Mujica lives in a modest farmhouse that is in under his wife's name, Peña Nieto recently revealed to the Mexican public that he owns four houses, an apartment, and four lots of land. He did not disclose how much these properties were worth.

Peña Nieto earns a salary of approximately $15,000 per month, which is not much greater than Mujica's salary of $12,500. But the Uruguayan president, nicknamed the "world's poorest president," donates 90 percent of his earnings to charitable causes. Mujica eats in cheap restaurants during his holidays, and drives a 1987 Volkswagen Beatle that is valued at $1,900.

Can you imagine Peña Nieto, driving a bocho through the streets of Mexico City?