José López Portillo

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José López Portillo
Jose Lopez Portillo new.jpg
51st President of Mexico
In office
December 1, 1976 November 30, 1982
Preceded by Luis Echeverría
Succeeded by Miguel de la Madrid
Secretary of Finance and Public Credit
In office
May 29, 1973 September 22, 1975
President Luis Echeverría Álvarez
Preceded by Hugo B. Margáin
Succeeded by Mario Ramón Beteta
Director of the Comisión Federal de Electricidad
In office
February 18, 1972 May 29, 1973
Preceded byGuillermo Villarreal Caravantes
Succeeded by Arsenio Farell Cubillas
Personal details
José Guillermo Abel López Portillo y Pacheco

(1920-06-16)June 16, 1920
Mexico City, Mexico
DiedFebruary 17, 2004(2004-02-17) (aged 83)
Mexico City, Mexico
Resting placeCemeterio Militar
Mexico City, Mexico
Political party Institutional Revolutionary Party
Carmen Romano
(m. 1951;div. 1991)

Sasha Montenegro
(m. 1995,his death)
Parents José López Portillo y Weber
Refugio Pacheco Villa-Gordoa
Alma mater National Autonomous University of Mexico
Signature FIRMAJLP3.png

José Guillermo Abel López Portillo y Pacheco, (Spanish pronunciation:  [xoˈse ˈlopes poɾˈtiʝo] ; June 16, 1920 – February 17, 2004) was a Mexican lawyer and politician affiliated with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) who served as the 51st President of Mexico from 1976 to 1982. López Portillo was the only official candidate in the 1976 Presidential election, being the only President in recent Mexican history to win an election unopposed.

Mexico Country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometers (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million people, the country is the tenth most populous state and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, a special federal entity that is also the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the state include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana and León.

Institutional Revolutionary Party Mexican political party

The Institutional Revolutionary Party is a Mexican political party founded in 1929 that held uninterrupted power in the country for 71 years from 1929 to 2000, first as the National Revolutionary Party, then as the Party of the Mexican Revolution and finally as the PRI in 1946.

President of Mexico Head of state of the country of Mexico

The President of Mexico, officially known as the President of the United Mexican States, is the head of state and government of Mexico. Under the Constitution, the president is also the Supreme Commander of the Mexican armed forces. The current President is Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who took office on December 1, 2018.


López Portillo was the last of the so-called economic nationalist Mexican presidents. [1] His tenure was marked by heavy investments in the national oil industry after the discovery of new oil reserves, which propitiated initial economic growth, but later gave way to a severe debt crisis after the international oil prices fell down, leading Mexico to declare a sovereign default in 1982. [2] As a result of the crisis, the last months of his administration were plagued by widespread capital flight, leading López Portillo to nationalize the banks three months before leaving office. [3] His presidency was also marked by widespread government corruption and nepotism. [4] [5]

Economic nationalism, or economic patriotism, economic populism, refers to an ideology that favors state interventionism over other market mechanisms, with policies such as domestic control of the economy, labor, and capital formation, even if this requires the imposition of tariffs and other restrictions on the movement of labor, goods and capital. In many cases, economic nationalists oppose globalization or at least question the benefits of unrestricted free trade. Economic nationalism is disputed as the doctrine of mercantilism, and as such favors protectionism.

Economic growth increase in production and consumption in an economy

Economic growth is the increase in the inflation-adjusted market value of the goods and services produced by an economy over time. It is conventionally measured as the percent rate of increase in real gross domestic product, or real GDP.

Latin American debt crisis

The Latin American debt crisis was a financial crisis that originated in the early 1980s, often known as "La Década Perdida", when Latin American countries reached a point where their foreign debt exceeded their earning power, and they were not able to repay it.

Shortly after leaving office, during the presidency of his successor Miguel de la Madrid, numerous officials who had worked under the López Portillo administration were prosecuted for corruption, the most notorious cases being Arturo Durazo and Jorge Díaz Serrano. Although López Portillo himself was suspected of having been involved in corruption as well, he was never charged with any crimes. [6] [5]

Miguel de la Madrid President of Mexico (1982–1988)

Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado was a Mexican politician affiliated with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) who served as the 52nd President of Mexico from 1982 to 1988. During his presidency, de la Madrid introduced sweeping neoliberal economic policies in Mexico, beginning an era of market-oriented presidents in that country. His administration was criticized for its slow response to the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, and the handling of the controversial 1988 Presidential elections in which the PRI candidate Carlos Salinas de Gortari was declared winner, amid accusations of electoral fraud.

In general, corruption is a form of dishonesty or criminal activity undertaken by a person or organization entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire illicit benefit. Corruption may include many activities including bribery and embezzlement, though it may also involve practices that are legal in many countries. Political corruption occurs when an office-holder or other governmental employee acts in an official capacity for personal gain. Corruption is most commonplace in kleptocracies, oligarchies, narco-states and mafia states.

Arturo Durazo Moreno Chief of Police in Mexico City for six years, from 1976 to 1982 and drug trafficker

Arturo "El Negro" Durazo Moreno was the Chief of Police in Mexico City for six years, from 1976 to 1982. He was arrested in 1984 and incarcerated on multiple counts of corruption, extortion, tax evasion, smuggling and possession of illegal weapons and cocaine trade kickbacks.

Early life and education

López Portillo was born in Mexico City, to his father José López Portillo y Weber (1888–1974), an engineer, historian, researcher, and academic, and to Refugio Pacheco y Villa-Gordoa. He was the grandson of José López Portillo y Rojas, a lawyer, politician, and man of letters. He was the great-great-great grandson of José María Narváez (1768–1840), a Spanish explorer who was the first to enter Strait of Georgia, in present-day British Columbia, and the first to view the site now occupied by Vancouver.[ citation needed ] He studied law at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) before beginning his political career.

Mexico City Capital City in Mexico, Mexico

Mexico City, or the City of Mexico, is the capital of Mexico and the most populous city in North America. It is one of the most important cultural and financial centres in the Americas. It is located in the Valley of Mexico, a large valley in the high plateaus in the center of Mexico, at an altitude of 2,240 meters (7,350 ft). The city has 16 boroughs.

José López Portillo y Weber was a Mexican engineer, historian, investigator and academic. He specialized in the history of Nueva Galicia and Jalisco. He was the son of politician José López Portillo y Rojas and father of president José López Portillo.

José López Portillo y Rojas Mexican politician

José López Portillo y Rojas, born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, was a Mexican lawyer, politician and man of letters. He served as Governor of Jalisco in 1911 and as Secretary of Foreign Affairs in 1914 for coup leader and brief Mexican President Victoriano Huerta, during the United States occupation of Veracruz. He served as Director of the Mexican Academy of Language from 1916 to 1923.

Early career

After graduating, he began his political career with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in 1959. He held several positions in the administrations of his two predecessors before being appointed to serve as finance minister under Luis Echeverría, a close friend from childhood, between 1973 and 1975.

Luis Echeverría President of Mexico (1970–1976)

Luis Echeverría Álvarez is a Mexican lawyer, academic and politician affiliated with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), who served as the 50th President of Mexico from 1970 to 1976. Previously, he was Secretary of the Interior (1963–1969). At 97, he is the oldest living former Mexican president.


Domestic policy

López Portillo was elected unopposed in 1976, though in any event the PRI was so entrenched that he was effectively assured of victory when Echeverría chose him as the PRI's candidate. To date, he is the last Mexican president to run unopposed.

1976 Mexican general election

General elections were held in Mexico on 4 July 1976. José López Portillo was the only candidate in the presidential election, and was elected unopposed. In the Chamber of Deputies election, the Institutional Revolutionary Party won 195 of the 237 seats, as well as winning all 64 seats in the Senate election. Voter turnout was 64.6% in the Senate election and 62.0% in the Chamber election.

When he entered office, Mexico was in the midst of an economic crisis. He undertook an ambitious program to promote Mexico's economic development with revenues stemming from the discovery of new petroleum reserves in the states of Veracruz and Tabasco by Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), the country's publicly owned oil company. In 1980, Mexico joined Venezuela in the Pact of San José, a foreign aid project to sell oil at preferential rates to countries in Central America and the Caribbean. The economic confidence that he fostered led to a short-term boost in economic growth, but by the time he left office, the economy had deteriorated and gave way to a severe debt crisis and a sovereign default. [7]

One of his last acts as president, announced during his annual State of the Nation address on September 1, 1982, was to order the nationalization of the country's banking system. [8]

Heads of State at the Cancun North-South Summit in 1981 Heads of State Cancun Summit 1981.jpg
Heads of State at the Cancun North–South Summit in 1981

During his presidential term, his critics accused him of corruption and nepotism. [9]

An electoral reform conducted during his presidential term increased the number of members of the Chamber of Deputies to 400: 300 being elected single-seat constituencies by plurality vote (uninominals) and 100 being elected according to proportional representation (plurinominals). [10] The reform furthermore opened the electoral process for small opposition parties. [11]

Foreign policy

Jose Lopez Portillo and U.S. President Jimmy Carter at the Mexican National Palace presidential office in 1979. Jose Lopez Portillo Jimmy Carter in Mexico.jpg
José López Portillo and U.S. President Jimmy Carter at the Mexican National Palace presidential office in 1979.

In 1981, the Cancun Summit, a North-South dialogue, took place. [12] The summit was attended by 22 heads of state and government from industrialized countries (North) and developing nations (South). During López Portillo’s presidential term, Mexico supported the Sandinista National Liberation Front in Nicaragua. [12] In 1977, after the death of dictator Francisco Franco, Mexico resumed diplomatic relations with Spain. Also, Pope John Paul II visited Mexico for the first time. [12]

Presidential succession

In the year leading to the end of his term as president on December 1, 1982, López Portillo personally chose two candidates as possibilities to replace himself, following the succession ritual established by his party. One, Javier García Paniagua, would have been appointed if a man of greater political skill were needed. The other, ultimately his successor, was Miguel de la Madrid, who was chosen for his financial and administrative skills, which were deemed much more necessary after the devaluation of the peso in February 1982 and the subsequent economic crisis.

On September 1, 1982, at his final annual Address to the Congress ("Informe de Gobierno"), López Portillo gave a famous speech where he condemned businessmen and bankers responsible for the capital flight, claimed that the crisis was not his fault ("I'm responsible for the helm, but the storm is not my fault"), announced the nationalization of the banks ("They have looted us, but Mexico is not finished, they won't loot us again!"), and asked for forgiveness over his mistakes as President and the economic crisis. He famously broke in tears during his speech after asking for the forgiveness of Mexico's poor. [13] This passionate speech, however, did little to repair his image, and he remains one of the most unpopular Mexican presidents in recent history. [2]

López Portillo was the last economic nationalist president to emerge from the ranks of the Institutional Revolutionary Party. Subsequent presidents have all been for free trade (librecambismo).

Personal life and death

López Portillo's first wife was Carmen Romano. However, López Portillo after his presidency divorced Carmen and married in 1995 his longtime partner, the Yugoslavian-born actress Sasha Montenegro. [14] They had two children (Nabila and Alejandro) but later separated.

He was the brother of late Mexican novelist Margarita López Portillo, who died on May 8, 2006, of natural causes.

He died in Mexico City when he was 83 years old. He was the victim of a cardiac complication generated by a pneumonia. [15] He was buried at the Pantheon Federal District military.



See also

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  1. Sheppard, Randal (2016). A Persistent Revolution. History, Nationalism and Politics in Mexico since 1968. University of New Mexico Press. p. 78.
  2. 1 2 "José López Portillo - Mexico's most reviled president". The Guardian. Retrieved March 8, 2018.
  4. "Lopez Portillo Denies He Became Rich as President". LA Times. Retrieved March 8, 2018.
  5. 1 2 "José López Portillo, President When Mexico's Default Set Off Debt Crisis, Dies at 83". New York Times. Retrieved March 8, 2018.
  6. "CORRUPTION, MEXICAN STYLE". New York Times. Retrieved March 8, 2018.
  7. Delgado de Cantú, Gloria M. (2007). Historia de México Vol. II. Pearson Educación. p. 409.
  8. Coerver, Don M. (2004). Mexico: An Encyclopedia of Contemporary Culture and History. ABC-CLIO. p. 271.
  9. Flores Rangel, Juan José (2005). Historia de México. Cengage Learning Editores. p. 519.
  10. "Nuestro siglo - La Reforma política de 1977". Cámara de Diputados. Retrieved October 25, 2013.
  11. Flores Rangel, Juan José (2005). Historia de México. Cengage Learning Editores. p. 507.
  12. 1 2 3 Flores Rangel, Juan José (2005). Historia de México. Cengage Learning Editores. p. 525.
  13. "Jose Lopez Portillo". Telegraph. Retrieved March 8, 2018.
  14. Gunson, Phil. "José López Portillo Mexico's most reviled president". The Guardian. Retrieved October 25, 2013.
  15. Kandell, Jonathan. "José López Portillo, President When Mexico's Default Set Off Debt Crisis, Dies at 83". The New York Times. Retrieved October 25, 2013.
  16. "Don Q Jose Lopez Portillo - MercadoLibre México" (in Spanish). April 20, 2012. Archived from the original on June 28, 2012. Retrieved August 1, 2013.
  17. "El Universal". El Universal. Archived from the original on October 10, 2012. Retrieved August 1, 2013.
  18. Royal Decree 2570/1977
  19. Propuestas, solicitudes y decretos de la Real y muy distinguida Orden de Carlos III

Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
Luis Echeverría
President of Mexico
Succeeded by
Miguel de la Madrid
Party political offices
Preceded by
Luis Echeverría Álvarez
PRI presidential candidate
1976 (won)
Succeeded by
Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado