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López Portillo (y Pacheco), José 1920-2004

LÓPEZ PORTILLO (y Pacheco), José 1920-2004


See index for CA sketch: Born June 16, 1920, in Mexico City, Mexico; died of pneumonia February 17, 2004, in Mexico City, Mexico. Politician, attorney, educator, and author. López Portillo was the president of Mexico from 1976 to 1982, a time of economic collapse and rampant political corruption. For the first half of his life, López Portillo did not appear to be someone who was destined for politics. The son of an historian and a teacher, he earned a law degree from the National Autonomous University of Mexico in 1946. He then went on to become an attorney and teacher. He had a private practice in Mexico City and was a law professor at his alma mater from 1947 until 1958. López Portillo became involved in politics in 1959 when he joined the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revoluctonario Institucional, or PRI). Rising through the ranks, he served as an undersecretary for various ministries, becoming the finance secretary for Mexico in 1973 and PRI candidate for president three years later. Winning his campaign, López Portillo began to build a reputation as a leader who was independent of American influence, flexing his country's muscle as a major oil supplier to the United States and refusing to support then-presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan in a number of their policies. Relying too heavily on oil income to support his economic initiatives proved to be López Portillo's downfall, however. He borrowed too much money to buy technology to increase oil production, resulting in the dramatic devaluation of the Mexican peso, his country plunged into recession. Corruption within his administration also slashed the president's support, and he was ousted from office in 1982. He wrote about his experience in his autobiography Mis tiempos: biografia y testimonio politico (1988). López Portillo was also the author of the novels La vida al traves de la muerte (1964), Quetzalcoatl (1965), and Don Q: conversaciones sobre la yoeidad y otras trascendentalidades (1969)—the last two were both translated into English in 1976—as well as the nonfiction Valoracion de lo estatal (1946) and Genesis y teoria general del estado moderno (1958).



Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd edition, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.


Chicago Tribune, February 18, 2004, sec. 2, p. 14.

Los Angeles Times, February 18, 2004, p. B10.

New York Times, February 19, 2004, p. C18.

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