The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The eccentric Uruguayan president’s VW Beetle is for sale. Starting price: $1 million.

Uruguay's President Jose Mujica arrives at a polling station in his Volkswagen beetle. (AP)

For Sale: baby blue 1987 Volkswagen Beetle, good condition, original owner. $1,000,000/OBO. No Carfax.

Let the bidding begin!

Now, it should be noted that the seller of this million-dollar Beetle is the 79-year-old outgoing president of Uruguay, Jose Mujica. He said this week in an interview with the magazine Búsqueda that a wealthy sheik recently offered him $1 million for his old beater, even though the car is worth just $2,800.

This is no ordinary Bug. After the gruff, plain-spoken Mujica listed the '87 Beetle as his only financial asset, the car became a global symbol of modesty and cultivated austerity in an age of extravagant wealth.

Which, naturally, also has a price.

“I was a little surprised at all this, and at first I was doubtful and didn’t give it much thought,” Mujica said in the interview. “But then I received another offer, and I took it a little more seriously.”

That's right -- he's even got multiple bidders. Mexico's ambassador in Uruguay has offered 10 new SUVs for the old Beetle, Mujica said, and floated the idea of helping him organize an auction.

If it sounds like the wily old former leftist guerrilla is trying to gin up a bidding war, he's made clear that it's for a good cause. Mujica said he would donate the proceeds to a housing program for the poor, and he already gives 90 percent of his presidential salary to charity.

On a continent known for presidents who like to pay lip service to the poor while padding their bank accounts, Mujica is widely celebrated as the world's most endearing anti-politician. During his presidential term, he has legalized marijuana and abortion, and he was named one of the world's 100 most influential figures by Time magazine this year.

Having spent years locked in solitary confinement during his imprisonment in the 1970s and '80s, Mujica has eschewed the creature comforts of power. He likes to cook his own meals in the tiny farmhouse where he lives with his wife, refusing to move into Uruguay's presidential residence. He hates business suits and wears rumpled sweaters instead.

If he does sell the Volkswagen "Fusca," as the model is known in Uruguay, it wouldn't leave him with much when he leaves office next year, given that he plans to give away the proceeds. He has another old car from the same year, but its stated worth on his financial declarations is only $1,400.