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Coming Through Crisis: A New Economic Model Emerges in Latin America

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By Brian December 11, 2013

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Presented by the Watson Institute for International Studies

"Coming Through Crisis: A New Economic Model Emerges in Latin America," with Ricardo Lagos Escobar, University Professor at Large and former President of Chile.

As university professor at large, Lagos spends several weeks in residence during the course of each academic year, delivering public lectures, working with students both in class and outside of the classroom, and participating in events and research discussions at the Institute.

Widely regarded as one of Latin America's most important political leaders, Lagos served as president of Chile from 2000-2006. During his term, Lagos was known for aggressively pursuing free-trade agreements, improving healthcare and education legislation, and addressing the crimes of Augusto Pinochets military regime.

Since leaving office, Lagos founded the FundaciĆ³n Democracia y Desarrollo (Foundation for Democracy and Development ) in 2006 and currently serves as its president. He also heads the Club of Madrid, an organization of former presidents whose mission is to promote democracy, and is a UN special envoy for climate change.

Lagos earned a law degree from the University of Chile in 1960 and then attended Duke University, where he received a PhD in economics in 1966. He returned to Chile and served as director of the University of Chile's School of Political and Administrative Sciences and was subsequently appointed secretary general of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences. Prior to the military coup against President Salvador Allende, Lagos had been nominated Chilean ambassador to the Soviet Union. In 1973, however, shortly after the appointment, Allende was overthrown by General Augusto Pinochet, and Lagos was never confirmed.

Following the coup, Lagos lived in the United States and Argentina. He served at the United Nations as consultant and economist in UNESCO and the International Labor Organization. In 1978, he returned to Chile, where he became president of the Democratic Alliance, a coalition of parties opposed to Pinochet. In 1987, Lagos founded the Party for Democracy (Partido por la Democracia). He served as minister of education under the government of President Patricio Aylwin (1990-1994) and as minister of public works under President Eduardo Frei (1994-2000). Elected as president in January 2000, Lagos became the first socialist to hold the office since Allende.