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José López Portillo

Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation 1981

Ex-president of the United States of Mexico, José López Portillo (Mexico City, Mexico, 1920 – 2004) studied in the Federal District, meeting in the Benito Suárez official school, while still a boy, the man who was to be, many years later, his predecessor in the presidency of the country, Luis Echeverría Álvarez. After graduating in Law in 1947, he set up an office, where he began to work in his profession of lawyer.

In 1960 he took an active part in the economic and social planning councils of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), the official Mexican party to which he has belonged since 1945, deciding at that time to go into politics full- time. Despite this, he would not interrupt his teaching work, which he had been performing as a lecturer in theory of the State at the Autonomous University of Mexico. From then on, his political career intensified: he occupied the post of head of the Legal Consultancy Office of the Presidential Secretariat, coordinating chairman of the Public Administration Commission and under-secretary to the presidency in the government of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz.

Under President Echeverría he has under- secretary for National Heritage, from where he would pass to be director general of the Federal Electricity Commission, and later Secretary for the Exchequer and Public Credit (Finance Minister), the post he renounced when he was nominated as presidential candidate of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional in September 1975.

For eight months he covered the country in an election campaign until, in July 1976, he was elected President of Mexico. He would occupy his post on the 1st of December of the same year.

His mandate saw the process which culminated in the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Mexico and Spain, which had been broken off after the Spanish Civil War, in 1939. From that year on, successive Mexican presidents had refused to recognise another legitimate government of Spain apart from that of the Second Republic, formed in exile.

In March 1977, López Portillo put an end to relations with the republican government headed by José Maldonado and, in the same year, the then Spanish Prime Minister Adolfo Suárez visited Mexico officially. A few months later, López Portillo would travel to Spain, promptly returning the visit.

One of the main successes of his government was the political reform which culminated in the legalization of any party obtaining a minimum number of votes in legislative elections. In economic matters, Mexico suffered one of the worst crises in its history, set off by the drop in crude-oil prices, the tripling of the interest rates on the foreign debt, and the flight of capital to the United States.

In 1982, López Portillo would decide to nationalize the banks. In foreign policy, one of the most notable events of his mandate was the breaking-off of diplomatic relations with Somoza´s dictatorship in Nicaragua. José López Portillo, whose ancestors came from the small village of Caparroso in Navarre, left his post at the head of the state, the government and the armed forces of Mexico in December 1982.

Despite being known above all as a politician, his work as a writer cannot be left unmentioned. Author of the work Filosofía del Derecho, considered as an essential textbook for legal teaching in Mexico, he also wrote Valoración de lo estatal and Génesis y teoría general del estado moderno. As a literary creator, he has written the novels Quetzalcoat and Don Q. His most recent work was Ellos vienen..., la conquista de México. His biography was published on 1988,titled Mis tiempos.

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