Jump to content

José López Portillo

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

José López Portillo
Official portrait, c. 1976–1982
58th President of Mexico
In office
1 December 1976 – 30 November 1982
Preceded byLuis Echeverría
Succeeded byMiguel de la Madrid
Secretary of Finance and Public Credit of Mexico
In office
29 May 1973 – 22 September 1975
PresidentLuis Echeverría
Preceded byHugo B. Margáin
Succeeded byMario Ramón Beteta
Director of the Federal Electricity Commission
In office
18 February 1972 – 29 May 1973
Preceded byGuillermo Villarreal Caravantes
Succeeded byArsenio Farell Cubillas
Personal details
José Guillermo Abel López Portillo y Pacheco

(1920-06-16)16 June 1920
Mexico City, Mexico
Died17 February 2004(2004-02-17) (aged 83)
Mexico City, Mexico
Resting placeCementerio Militar, Mexico City, Mexico
Political partyPRI
(m. 1951; div. 1991)
(m. 1995)
Parent(s)José López Portillo y Weber
Refugio Pacheco Villa-Gordoa
Alma materNational Autonomous University of Mexico (LLB)

José Guillermo Abel López Portillo y Pacheco (Spanish pronunciation: [xoˈse ˈlopes poɾˈtiʝo]; 16 June 1920 – 17 February 2004) was a Mexican writer, lawyer, and politician affiliated with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) who served as the 58th 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.

Politically, the López Portillo administration began a process of partial political openness by passing an electoral reform in 1977 [es] which loosened the requisites for the registration of political parties (thus providing dissidents from the left, many of whom had hitherto been engaged in armed conflict against the government, with a path to legally participate in national politics) and allowed for greater representation of opposition parties in the Chamber of Deputies, as well as granting amnesty to many of the guerrilla fighters from the Dirty War.[1] On the economic front, López Portillo was the last of the so-called economic nationalist Mexican presidents.[2] His tenure was marked by heavy investments in the national oil industry after the discovery of new oil reserves, which propelled initial economic growth, but later gave way to a severe debt crisis after the international oil prices fell in the summer of 1981, leading Mexico to declare a sovereign default in 1982.[3] 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,[4] and by the end of his term Mexico had the highest external debt in the world.[5][6] His presidency was also marked by widespread government corruption and nepotism.[7][8]

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.[9][8] It was revealed after his death that he had been a CIA collaborator before he became president of Mexico.[10]

López Portillo died from complications of pneumonia at his home in Mexico City on 17 February 2004 at the age of 83, and was buried at the Mexico City Military Cemetery.

Early life and education[edit]

López Portillo was born in Mexico City, to his father, José López Portillo y Weber (1888–1974), an engineer, historian, researcher, and academic, and his mother, Refugio Pacheco y Villa-Gordoa. He was the grandson of José López Portillo y Rojas, a lawyer, politician, and man of letters. Another ancestor was a Royal Judge in the Audiencia de Nueva Galicia in the eighteenth century. He was the great-great-great-grandson of José María Narváez (1768–1840), a Spanish explorer who was the first to enter the 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.

Early career[edit]

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.

An ideological centrist, López Portillo frequently asserted that he was "neither of the right or the left".[11]


Domestic policy[edit]

U.S. President Jimmy Carter (left) and Mexican president José López Portillo (right) toast during a luncheon hosted by the president of Mexico.

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.

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.[12]

One of his last acts as president, announced during his annual State of the Nation address on 1 September 1982, was to order the nationalization of the country's banking system.[13]

Heads of State at the Cancún North–South Summit in 1981

During his presidential term, his critics accused him of corruption and nepotism.[14]

An electoral reform conducted during his presidential term increased the number of members of the Chamber of Deputies to 400: 300 being elected single-member districts by plurality voting (uninominales) and 100 being elected according to proportional representation (plurinominales).[15] The reform furthermore opened the electoral process for small opposition parties.[16]

Former Bulgarian leader, Todor Zhivkov (right) and Mexican president José López Portillo (left) official visit in Plovdiv – the second-largest city in Bulgaria.


The López Portillo administration was notorious, more than previous administrations, for the number of relatives of the President who held public office. He appointed his sister Margarita López Portillo head of the General Directorate of Radio, Television and Cinematography (RTC), his cousin Guillermo López Portillo as the first -and only- head of the newly created National Institute of Sport (INDE, which was dissolved in 1981),[17] and his son José Ramón López Portillo (who was described by the President as "the pride of my nepotism")[18] was appointed Subsecretary of Programming and the Budget. His daughter Paulina López Portillo also debuted as a pop singer during his Presidency, and the First Lady Carmen Romano toured Europe with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Mexico City, which was founded and financed by the government of Mexico City through her initiative "to make fine arts education accessible to youths".[19]

Foreign policy[edit]

In 1981, the Cancun Summit, a North-South dialogue, took place.[20] 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.[20] In 1977, after the death of dictator Francisco Franco, Mexico resumed diplomatic relations with Spain. Also, in 1979 Pope John Paul II visited Mexico for the first time.[20]

Presidential succession[edit]

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

In the year leading to the end of his term as president on 1 December 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 1 September 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 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 for his mistakes as president and the economic crisis. He famously broke into tears during his speech after asking for the forgiveness of Mexico's poor.[21] This passionate speech, however, did little to repair his image, and he remains one of the most unpopular Mexican presidents in recent history.[3]

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[edit]

López Portillo's first wife was Carmen Romano. After leaving the presidency, López Portillo divorced Romano and married in 1995 his longtime partner, the Yugoslavian-born actress Sasha Montenegro.[22] They had two children (Nabila and Alejandro) but later separated.

He was the brother of late Mexican novelist Margarita López Portillo, who died on 8 May 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 pneumonia.[23] He was buried at the Mexico City Military Cemetery.

Public image and opinion[edit]

In a national survey conducted in 2012, 25% of respondents considered that the López Portillo administration was "very good" or "good", 17% responded that it was an "average" administration, and 44% responded that it was a "very bad" or "bad" administration.[24]


  • Génesis y teoría del Estado moderno (1965).
  • Quetzalcóatl (1965).
  • Don Q (1975, reimpresiones en 1976 y 1987).[25][26]
  • Ellos vienen... La conquista de México (1987).
  • Mis tiempos (2 tomos, 1988).
  • Umbrales (1997).
  • El súper PRI (2002).


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Trevizo, Dolores (2014). "Political Repression and the Struggles for Human Rights in Mexico". Social Science History. 38 (3–4): 483–511. doi:10.1017/ssh.2015.22. JSTOR 90017045. S2CID 142189824. Retrieved 23 December 2022.
  2. ^ Sheppard, Randal (2016). A Persistent Revolution. History, Nationalism and Politics in Mexico since 1968. University of New Mexico Press. p. 78.
  3. ^ a b "José López Portillo - Mexico's most reviled president". The Guardian. 20 February 2004. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  4. ^ Kandell, Jonathan (18 February 2004). "MEXICO'S AFFLUENT ELITE SHUDDERS OVER DRIVE ON ECONOMIC 'TRAITORS'". New York Times. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  5. ^ Riding, Alan (11 November 1982). "MEXICO AGREES TO AUSTERITY TERMS FOR $3.84 BILLION IN I.M.F. CREDIT". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 February 2022.
  6. ^ Boughton, James M. (9 October 2001). Silent Revolution: The International Monetary Fund, 1979-89 (PDF). International Monetary Fund. p. 287. ISBN 9781557759719.
  7. ^ "Lopez Portillo Denies He Became Rich as President". LA Times. 24 April 1986. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  8. ^ a b Kandell, Jonathan (18 February 2004). "José López Portillo, President When Mexico's Default Set Off Debt Crisis, Dies at 83". New York Times. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  9. ^ Riding, Alan (16 December 1984). "CORRUPTION, MEXICAN STYLE". New York Times. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  10. ^ Raziel, Zedryk (15 April 2023). "Un documento desclasificado revela que el presidente mexicano José López Portillo fue un informante de la CIA". El País México (in Mexican Spanish).
  11. ^ Redeeming the Revolution The State and Organized Labor in Post-Tlatelolco Mexico By Joseph U. Lenti, 2017
  12. ^ Delgado de Cantú, Gloria M. (2007). Historia de México Vol. II. Pearson Educación. p. 409.
  13. ^ Coerver, Don M. (2004). Mexico: An Encyclopedia of Contemporary Culture and History. ABC-CLIO. pp. 271. ISBN 9781576071328.
  14. ^ Flores Rangel, Juan José (2005). Historia de México. Cengage Learning Editores. p. 519.
  15. ^ "Nuestro siglo - La Reforma política de 1977". Cámara de Diputados. Retrieved 25 October 2013.
  16. ^ Flores Rangel, Juan José (2005). Historia de México. Cengage Learning Editores. p. 507.
  17. ^ Sánchez, Julián (14 August 2005). "Murió Guillermo López Portillo". El Universal (in Spanish).
  18. ^ Riding, Alan (1 December 1982). "MEXICO TO INSTALL NEW CHIEF TODAY". The New York Times.
  19. ^ Delgado, Diana (21 May 2019). "La Orquesta Filarmónica: Una orquesta con identidad chilanga". máspormás. Retrieved 18 September 2022.
  20. ^ a b c Flores Rangel, Juan José (2005). Historia de México. Cengage Learning Editores. p. 525.
  21. ^ "Jose Lopez Portillo". Telegraph. 19 February 2004. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  22. ^ Gunson, Phil (20 February 2004). "José López Portillo Mexico's most reviled president". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 October 2013.
  23. ^ Kandell, Jonathan (18 February 2004). "José López Portillo, President When Mexico's Default Set Off Debt Crisis, Dies at 83". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 October 2013.
  24. ^ Beltran, Ulises (29 October 2012). "Zedillo y Fox los ex presidentes de México más reconocidos". Imagen Radio. Archived from the original on 26 January 2020. Retrieved 26 August 2023.
  25. ^ "Don Q Jose Lopez Portillo - MercadoLibre México" (in Spanish). Articulo.mercadolibre.com.mx. 20 April 2012. Archived from the original on 28 June 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
  26. ^ "El Universal". El Universal. Archived from the original on October 10, 2012. Retrieved August 1, 2013.
  27. ^ Royal Decree 2570/1977
  28. ^ Propuestas, solicitudes y decretos de la Real y muy distinguida Orden de Carlos III

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Guillermo Villarreal Caravantes
Director of the Federal Electricity Commission
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Secretary of Finance and Public Credit
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of Mexico
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by
Luis Echeverría Álvarez
PRI nominee for President of Mexico
1976 (won)
Succeeded by
Miguel de la Madrid