Three Cheers for Uruguay
By Shlomo Maital
Each year, with much fanfare, TIME magazine chooses its Person of the Year. This year’s choice is justifiably, Pope Francis, who by changing the Catholic world may change the whole world. He has just announced his plans to visit the Holy Land and celebrate mass in Bethlehem. We welcome this humble and courageous man.
Less noticed is The Economist’s choice of The Country of the Year. South Sudan was among the candidates; as the world’s newest country, its GDP has risen, but alas, lately, it has hit a bump in the road, with the recently-fired Vice-President challenging the President (with what the President calls a failed attempted coup), and gunfire echoes in the capital, Juba.
But The Economist’s choice is… Uruguay! Great choice. This tiny country of 3.4 m. people, which suffers collateral damage when its neighbor Argentina implodes (once a decade at least), is strong economically, and has won the World Cup in football twice, and played in the finals several times. Here is why The Economist chose Uruguary for 2013:
“ Uruguay, uniquely, passed a law to legalise 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.
Better yet, the man at the top, President José Mujica, is admirably self-effacing. With unusual frankness for a politician, he referred to the new law as an experiment. He 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.”
Congratulations Uruguary! Let people from other countries come visit you and learn from you. I plan to do so in the coming months, with my wife.