Uruguay has perhaps the most beautiful tennis courts in the world, and they are made of red clay and not grass.
That’s important to note about the second smallest country in South America that has emerged among the most talked about in the modern world when it became the first nation to fully legalize marijuana.
But that’s not all.
Uruguay has a president, Jose Mujica, a former Marxist and guerilla revolutionary who spent more than a decade in jail prior to his release in 1985, who could possibly be described as the Jerry Brown of Latin America.
Remember the Jerry Brown of the 1970s, governor of California for the first time, who disdained the mansion that came with the office as well as limousines and all the fancy perks?
Jose Mujica, a different kind of leader
Jose Mujica, you would swear, is his Latin counterpart who lives frugally and gives most of his monthly salary to charities that benefit the poor.
He has also overseen the legalization of gay marriage, abortion, and now marijuana.
It’s earned him the enmity of many fellow heads of state and the drug cartels – what odd bedfellows – as well as the admiration of liberals thinkers and the intellectual effete however you would describe the editors of The Economist, which in a typical break from conformity has just named Uruguay it “country of the year.”
The Economist says it has done this for the first time so as to not do a year-end judgment based on “the offspring of lone egomaniacs or saints, (but) rather than the joint efforts that characterise most human endeavour.”
“The accomplishments that most deserve commendation, we think, are path-breaking reforms that do not merely improve a single nation but, if emulated, might benefit the world,” The Economist wrote in making the announcement Wednesday.
“Gay marriage is one such border-crossing policy, which has increased the global sum of human happiness at no financial cost. Several countries have implemented it in 2013 — including Uruguay, which also, uniquely, passed a law to legalize and regulate the production, sale and consumption of cannabis.”
“This is a change so obviously sensible, squeezing out the crooks and allowing the authorities to concentrate on graver crimes, that no other country has made it. If others followed suit, and other narcotics were included, the damage such drugs wreak on the world would be drastically reduced.”
Indeed, Uruguay is one of the safest countries in Latin American experiencing little of the drug violence seen in Colombia and Mexico.
While other countries have decriminalized marijuana possession and the Netherlands even allows its sale in coffee houses, Uruguay will become the first to legalize the whole chain from growing the plant to buying and selling its leaves.
In the U.S., voters in Colorado and Washington last year passed ballot initiatives that legalize and regulate the recreational use of marijuana.
Uruguay’s action is being followed closely in Latin America where some leaders wonder if the legalization of some narcotics might not be the way to end the violence created by the cocaine trade.
Uruguay named “Country of the Year”
The Economist singled out the 78-year-old President Jose Mujica, as the self-effacing steward of Uruguay’s dramatic social changes who “lives in a humble cottage, drives himself to work in a Volkswagen Beetle and flies economy class.”
“Modest yet bold, liberal and fun-loving, Uruguay is our country of the year,” says The Economist.
Uruguay’s legalization of the growing, sale and smoking of marijuana last week is an attempt to quell drug trafficking in that nation of 3.3 million.
“We’ve given this market as a gift to the drug traffickers,” Mujica said after the government sponsored marijuana bill was approved in the Uruguay senate, “and that is more destructive socially than the drug itself, because it rots the whole of society.”