November 14, 2014 / 5:08 PM / 3 years ago

Uruguay's President Mujica declines $1 million offer for beloved Beetle

MONTEVIDEO (Reuters) - The Middle East’s ultra-rich rarely have problems laying their hands on the super car of choice, whether it be a pimped-out Rolls-Royce or a customized Bugatti.

Uruguayan President Jose Mujica drives his Volkswagen Beetle (2nd R) during a Volkswagen Beetle race at the Pinar speedway on the outskirts of Montevideo May 13, 2012. REUTERS/Uruguayan Presidency/Handout

But there is one set of wheels beyond their reach: Uruguayan President José Mujica’s humble Volkswagen Beetle.

Mujica recently revealed that an Arab sheikh had offered $1 million for his sky blue 1987 Beetle, pictures of which flooded social media when the former leftist guerrilla leader rolled up in it to vote in October’s presidential election.

But Mujica on Friday disappointed any hopeful would-be owners of the $3,000 motor.

“We could never sell it. We would offend all those friends who pooled together to buy it for us,” Mujica said on local radio.

Uruguayan President Jose Mujica answers questions for the media before driving his Volkswagen Beetle to participate in a Volkswagen Beetle race at the Pinar's speedway in the outskirts of Montevideo May 13, 2012. REUTERS/Uruguayan Presidency/Handout

The Beetle has become a symbol of the modest lifestyle of the popular outgoing president, who spurned the presidential palace to continue living in his ramshackle farmhouse and donates much of his salary to the country’s social welfare programs.

The sheikh’s offer came on the sidelines of a June summit in Bolivia. Mujica, known to many Uruguayans simply by his nickname “Pepe,” promised to consider the offer.

Months later, Mexico’s Ambassador to Uruguay Felipe Enriquez Hernandez told Mujica the car would fetch the price of 10 four-wheel-drive trucks at auction.

For now, it would seem Mujica’s head is not for turning.

“I don’t know if one day the Beetle will go,” Mujica said. “But what I do know is that while I am alive, it will sleep in the garage.”

Reporting by Malena Castaldi; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by G Crosse

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