António Guterres

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António Guterres
António Guterres
Prime Minister of Portugal
Order: 116th (62nd of the Republic, 14th since the Carnation revolution)
Term of Office October 28, 1995 - April 6, 2002
Predecessor: Aníbal Cavaco Silva
Successor: José Manuel Durão Barroso
Date of Birth April 30, 1949
Place of Birth: Lisbon
Wife: (1st) Luísa Amélia Guimarães e Melo (deceased)
(2nd) Catarina de Almeida Vaz Pinto
Occupation: Electrotecnic engineer, Assistant professor, President of the Socialist International, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Political Party: Socialist

António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres, GCC (pron. IPA [ɐ̃'tɔniu gu'tɛʁɨʃ]; b. April 30, 1949) is a Portuguese politician, a former prime minister and president of the Socialist International. Currently he is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

António Guterres was born and raised in Portugal's capital, Lisbon. As a young child he already showed the abilities which would later garner him the award for Best High School Student for the year of 1965. He continued his studies at IST, where he pursued degrees in physics and electronic engineering. During his college years Guterres was never involved in the student opposition to the fascist regime of António de Oliveira Salazar. Instead, he dedicated himself to his studies and to meetings of the JUC (Catholic University Students Movement), eventually becoming a member of Opus Dei, a conservative catholic organization. In 1971 he graduated and started an academic career as Assistant Professor.

His political career started in 1972, when he enrolled as a member of the Socialist Party. Shortly thereafter, he quit academic life and became a full-time politician. In the period following the Carnation Revolution of April 25, 1974 which put an end to the fascist regime, Guterres was very involved in the organization of the Socialist Party, especially in the Lisbon section. Despite some initial mistrust, due to his deep Catholic affinities, Guterres became one of the party leaders and held the following offices:

  • Head of Office of the Secretary of State of Industry (1974 and 1975)
  • Deputy for Lisbon, and later Castelo Branco in the Portuguese National Parliament (1976-1995)
    • During this term he was responsible for several parliamentary commissions
  • Leader of the parliamentary bench of the Socialist Party, succeeding Jorge Sampaio (1988)

In 1992, he became president of the Socialist Party and leader of the opposition against Aníbal Cavaco Silva's government. He was also nominated vice-president of the Socialist International in September of the same year.

Following the retirement of Cavaco Silva in 1995, the Socialist Party won the general election and Guterres became Prime Minister of Portugal. With a style markedly different from that of his predecessor, based on dialogue and discussion with all sections of society, Guterres was a popular prime minister in the first years of his government. Portugal was enjoying a solid economic expansion which allowed the Socialists to increase welfare spending. Also important was the successful staging of Expo´98, which increased Portugal's visibility in the world. Guterres was re-elected in 1999, and from January to July of 2000, he occupied the Presidency of the European Council. This second term in government was not as successful however. Internal party conflicts along with an economic recession damaged his authority and popularity. In 2002, following a disastrous result for the Socialist Party in the local elections, Guterres resigned and put an end to the government, stating that "I will resign to prevent the country from falling into a political swamp". Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues, until then Minister for Social Security, assumed the Socialist Party leadership, but the general election was lost to the Social Democratic Party of José Manuel Durão Barroso, the current President of the European Commission.

Guterres is now retired from the Portuguese political scene but continues his work as President of the Socialist International.

[edit] Work as High Commissioner for Refugees

In May 2005 he was appointed High Commissioner for Refugees. On a 16 February 2007 NPR interview devoted mainly to the refugee plight of Iraqi refugees he said that it was the greatest refugee crisis in the Middle East since 1948. Of poorly publicized refugee crises, he cited refugees in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, nee Zaire. [1]

Preceded by
Aníbal Cavaco Silva
Prime Minister of Portugal
Succeeded by
Durão Barroso
Preceded by
Pierre Mauroy
President of the Socialist International
Succeeded by
George Andreas Papandreou
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