During a visit to perform in Uruguay on Wednesday, Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler praised the leadership of Uruguay’s President José Mujica in attempting to make the country the first to legalize marijuana. “Your president is a freedom fighter,” said Tyler, “And in many ways we fight for freedom ourselves with music.”
Aerosmith performed at the Centenario stadium in Montevideo as part of their South American tour. Tyler called Mujica, “One of the best presidents in the Americas” and cited Mujica’s efforts to legalize marijuana and his selfless devotion to the poor as evidence. Tyler added, “He gives 70% of his salary for people’s homes. Here in this small country, Uruguay, I think he’s doing it the right way, grassroots, and we believe in that.”
Uruguay made international headlines when its legislature’s lower house voted in favor of a marijuana legalization bill supported by Mujica. The bill is now on its way to the upper house for a vote and should it pass there, Mujica is sure to sign it. While countries such as The Netherlands, Portugal and other South American countries like Argentina and Peru have tolerated personal use, Uruguay would become the first country to legalize not only possession but also cultivation and sale.
According to Uruguay’s presidential press office, President Mujica has donated more than $300,000 of his salary to Plan Juntos, a program that provides free homes and medical care to single mothers (mostly). Often referred to as “the world’s poorest president,” Mujica came into office in 2010, claiming his entire personal wealth consisted of a 1987 Volkswagen Beetle. Eschewing the trappings of a world leader, Mujica still lives on a small flower farm owned by his wife.
President Mujica began his political career as a leftist guerilla fighter with Movimiento de Liberación Nacional-Tupamaros, an urban group that staged bank robberies in the 1960s and distributed the proceeds to the poor in Montevideo. After his capture by government forces, Mujica spent 14 years in prison, suffering torture and solitary confinement. During his incarceration, Mujica came to believe armed revolution was not the answer and dedicated himself to systemic political change.
During the uncommon three-hour meeting with the president, Tyler presented Mujica with an electric guitar autographed all the members of Aerosmith. In true Mujica fashion, he plans to auction it off to benefit a charity that provides building materials for the poor.
"Radical" Russ Belville is the host of The Russ Belville Show.