DR. CESAR GAVIRIA TRUJILLO (15 de septiembre de 1994-)
      
Secretary General of the Organization of American States

 

Former Colombian President César Gaviria—known in Latin America as a conflict mediator, advocate of democracy, staunch supporter of regional integration and defender of human rights—was first elected OAS Secretary General in 1994. He was re-elected by acclamation at the 1999 regular session of the General Assembly, held in June in Guatemala.

Through his strategy for a "New Vision of the OAS," César Gaviria has fostered profound institutional changes that have reinvigorated the inter-American agenda and prepared the Organization to meet the challenges the hemisphere will face in the next millenium. Administrative reforms have made it possible for the OAS to expand its activities, despite the scarcity of resources, and to strengthen its programs to promote democracy and human rights. During his tenure the OAS has become a key player in the Summit of the Americas process, and now serves as its technical secretariat and institutional memory. The Organization has also advanced the concept of integral solidarity and has reformed its technical cooperation programs.

César Gaviria began his political career at age 23, when he was elected councilman in his home town of Pereira. Four years later, he became mayor. In 1974 was elected to Colombia’s House of Representatives. He rose to the top position in the House in 1983, and three years later he became co-chair of the Colombian Liberal Party, a position he held during the successful presidential campaign of the party’s candidate, Virgilio Barco. He served in the Barco administration first as Minister of Finance and later as Minister of the Interior. He played a critical role in beginning peace negotiations with the leftist guerrilla group known as "M-19."

In early 1989, he left the government to manage the presidential campaign of Senator Luis Carlos Galán. Following the brutal murder of Senator Galán by drug traffickers, the Liberal Party chose César Gaviria as its candidate. He was elected President of Colombia in May 1990.

During his four-year term (1990-94) he enacted policies to strengthen democracy, promote peace and reintegrate armed rebels into civilian life. He also carried out a process of constitutional and institutional change, focusing on strengthening the judiciary branch and increasing human rights protection. In 1991, through a plebiscite and elected constitutional assembly, Colombia drafted a new, more democratic constitution. President Gaviria also undertook economic reforms to modernize and enhance Colombia’s competitiveness in the world market. He presided over the signing of free trade agreements between the members of the "Group of Three" (Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela) and between Colombia and CARICOM, and initiated the revitalization of the Andean Pact.

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