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Patricio Aylwin Azocar
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AzocarBorn in Viña del Mar, Chile, on November 26, 1918, to Laura Azócar and Miguel Aylwin, Patricio Aylwin Azócar is the eldest of five children. An excellent student, he enrolled in the Law School of the University of Chile where he earned the degree of Bachelor of Juridical, Political and Social Sciences, with the highest distinction, in 1943. He served as professor of administrative law, first at the University of Chile and then also at the Catholic University of Chile. He was also professor of civic education and political economy at the National Institute of Santiago.

Patricio Aylwin’s involvement in politics was motivated by a profound commitment to justice instilled by his father and by a strong social conscience influenced by his mother. He joined the Falange Nacional in 1945. He was elected president of the Falange and later, of the Christian Democratic Party, which he served seven terms as president between 1958 and 1989.

Before his election as president of the Republic of Chile, Patricio Aylwin played key political roles. In 1965 he was elected to the National Congress as senator. During the government of Popular Unity headed by Salvador Allende, he was president of the Senate (1971-1972) and was reelected to the Senate in 1973. Then president of his party, he led the democratic opposition, intending to work with President Allende and others to find a peaceful solution to the country’s political crisis. These attempts were brought to a brutal end on September 11, 1973, by the military coup that installed as president army chief of staff, General Augusto Pinochet.

Patricio Aylwin, president of the Christian Democrats until 1976, led his party during one of the most difficult eras in Chilean history. Laterhe helped establish the "Constitutional Studies Group of 24” to reunite the country’s democratic sectors against the dictatorship. In 1980 he served as a spokesman in the contest against the constitution the military government imposed on the plebiscite.

In 1982 Patricio Aylwin was elected vice president of the Christian Democrats. He was among the first to advocate acceptance of the constitution as a reality in order to facilitate the return to democracy. The opposition eventually met the legal standards imposed by the Pinochet regime and participated in the 1988 plebiscite.

In October 1988 the Chilean people made their historic choice. The call of "no to lies and oppression” resounded victorious. As spokesman for the Coalition of Democratic Parties whose grass-roots campaign was carried out under constant surveillance and harassment, Patricio Aylwin was at the center of the movement that defeated General Pinochet.

After the plebiscite, Patricio Aylwin participated in negotiations that led the government and the opposition to agree on 54 constitutional reforms, thereby making possible a peaceful transition from 16 years of dictatorship to democracy.

Patricio Aylwin was elected president of the Republic on December 14, 1989. He led with wisdom and compassion, guiding the reconstruction of Chile and the reconciliation of its peoples. Since leaving office in 1994, he has continued his lifelong commitment to promoting justice. In 1995 he was the catalyst for a United Nations summit on poverty. He is now president of the Corporation for Justice and Democracy, a nonprofit organization he founded to develop approaches to eliminate poverty and to strengthen ethical values in politics.

Patricio Aylwin has received the Doctor Honoris Causa degree from universities in Australia, Canada, Colombia, France, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Spain, and the United States and from seven Chilean universities. In 1997 the Council of Europe awarded the North-South Prize to Patricio Aylwin and to Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, for their contributions to fostering human rights, democracy, and cooperation between Europe and Latin America.

Patricio Aylwin is married to Leonor Oyarzún Ivanovic. They have five children and 14 grandchildren.