February 19, 2004 by

Jose Lopez Portillo


Categories: Politicians

When the former president of Mexico appeared in public, people mocked him by barking in his direction. He was referred to as “El Perro” (The Dog) and his mansion overlooking Mexico City became known as “Dog Hill.”
From 1976 to 1982, Jose Lopez Portillo y Pachecho ruled Mexico. It became the world’s fourth largest oil producer during this period, but when oil prices fell in the early ’80s, inflation soared. In response, Lopez Portillo promised to defend the peso “like a dog.” In 1982, he devalued it by 41.7 percent.
Lopez Portillo presided over an administration known for its nepotism, graft and corruption. He gave political asylum to foreign exiles and offered amnesty to Mexican political prisoners and leftists. At the same time, he allowed suspected dissidents to be persecuted, kidnapped and murdered in what became known as Mexico’s “dirty war.”
After nationalizing the banking industry, Lopez Portillo left the presidential palace in disgrace, handing over a country in severe economic crisis to his successor Miguel de la Madrid. In his final address to Congress, Lopez Portillo broke down in tears and apologized to the poor people of Mexico.
Born in 1920, Lopez Portillo studied law at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. He practiced for a short time, then returned to his alma mater to teach political science. At 39, he joined the Institutional Revolutionary Party and worked his way up through the administrative ranks. After spending three years as finance minister under former president Luis Echeverria, Lopez Portillo was nominated for the presidency and ran unopposed.
Lopez Portillo died on Feb. 17 from complications of pneumonia. He was 83.

2 Responses to Jose Lopez Portillo

  1. David Howard

    Once I read that President Lopez-Portillo was descendant of a family that could trace its origins back to a Spanish Conqueror of Mexico (then called New Spain) and then furtherback in Europe: in Spain (cousins of the King, by the year 1300) and Italy (during the time of the Roman Empire). Was interesting to learn that there were some illustrious members in such family.
    Rest in peace.
    D H

  2. Roberto Salinas Price

    The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
    It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
    Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
    It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
    I was on my way to a luncheon, at the Champs Elysee, a most elegant restaurant located on Reforma Avenue in down-town Mexico City, when a thought came to me, unbidden, as sometimes thoughts are, that, today, at my station in life, I don’t think I would bark at Jose Lopez Portillo nor spit at his face if I ever had the opportunity.
    I was having a delightful lunch, when, lo, suddenly, at the end of the room, a man, half his body paralized, attempted to say something to friends sitting around a large table… It was the Jolopo, and I felt a great pity for the man… no, I could not bark at him, nor get up from my chair and spit at his face as I has sworn to do years earlier… I thought to myself that the new sound now associated with Jose Lopez Portillo was no longer “bow-wow”, but “oink-oink”, because of his swollen and disfigured face (perhaps due to cortisone).
    Jose Lopez Portillo could have been a very great president… in fact, ALL presidents of Mexico could have been very great presidents, but for the values they espoused. Stupidity is common to all folks, but, to be obtuse and insist 10 years after he expropiated the Mexican banking system on a reexpropiation on the premise that “nationalists are not nationalizing…” is… shal we say… downright ga-ga?
    Dementia praecox.
    Many folks blame the ills that Lopez Portillo wrought on Mexico on his predecessor, Luis Echeverria Alvarez, well, because, LEA’s predesessor, Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, was OK. But, here it goes: ALL Mexican presidents from Miguel de la Madrid backwards, have been cut from the worst possible kind of moral fibre, ALL of them guilty of murder, thievery, homosexuality, drug addiction… the stories are too many and too well known. But the Jolopo is special… so many Mexicans had pinned so many hopes on him, including myself.
    And who am I to speak this way? Look around on the net, learn about my family background, and judge for yourself if I’m qualified to make these statements.
    Roberto Salinas Price

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