Humanities 102

20th-Century Genius Award Paper

February 12, 2015

20th-Century Genius Award Paper

My nomination for the 20th-Century Genius Award is Uruguayan president Jose Mujica. He is the world’s poorest and arguably most radical president. Unlike most politicians, he talks the talk and walks the walk. He in no way just pays lip service to humanitarian causes. He is, without a doubt, in the top 5 of the world’s biggest philanthropists.
Before becoming the illustrious, model-setting man he is today, Mujica was a leader of the Tupamaros, the urban guerrilla group that drew inspiration from the Cuban revolution, carrying out armed bank robberies and kidnappings on Montevideo’s streets.
In their war against the Uruguayan state, the Tupamaros gained notoriety through

violence. The filmmaker Constantin Costa-Gavras drew inspiration for his 1972 movie, “State of

Siege,” from their abduction and execution in 1970 of Daniel Mitrione, an American adviser to

Uruguay’s security forces. Mr. Mujica has said that the group “tried by all means to avoid

killings,” but he has also euphemistically acknowledged its “military deviations.”

A brutal counterinsurgency subdued the Tupamaros, and the police captured Mr. Mujica in 1972. He spent 14 years in prison, including more than a decade in solitary confinement, often in a hole in the ground. During that time, he would go more than a year without bathing, and his companions, he said, were a tiny frog and rats with whom he shared crumbs of bread.
A few years after his release from prison, he decided to make this world a better place for

the remainder of his life. He concluded the best way to do that was by entering politics. Elected

as a legislator, he shocked the parking attendants at Parliament by arriving on a Vespa. After the

rise to power in 2004 of the Broad Front, a coalition of leftist parties and more centrist social

democrats, he was named minister of Livestock, Agriculture and...