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Cesar  Gaviria

Cesar Gaviria

Former President of Colombia

Cesar Gaviria

Former President of Colombia


Former Colombian President César Gaviria is known in Latin America as a conflict mediator, advocate of democracy, staunch supporter of regional integration, and defender of human rights. Elected OAS Secretary General in 1994 and re-elected for a second term in 1999, he fostered profound institutional changes that reinvigorated the inter-American agenda and prepared the organization to meet the challenges the region faces today. During his tenure, the OAS intensified efforts to improve hemispheric security and combat terrorism, drugs, and corruption.

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. In 1991, through a plebiscite and elected constitutional assembly, Colombia drafted a new, more democratic constitution.

Today, President Gaviria serves on the board of directors of Oceana, the global organization that creates policy changes to reduce pollution and prevent the irreversible collapse of fish populations, marine mammals, and other sea life. He lends his extensive experience to helping Oceana continue to achieve victories in the water and on land and is its only non-American/European board member.

An engaging and insightful speaker, President César Gaviria is in great demand by audiences eager to benefit from his experiences as the key player in the transformation of the OAS and the modernization of Colombia as well as his work in protecting the world’s oceans.

President Gaviria began his career at age 23, immediately after obtaining his degree in economics from the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, when he was elected councilman in his hometown of Pereira. In 1974, he was elected to Colombia’s House of Representatives. He rose to the top position in the House in 1983. In 1986, 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. President Gaviria served in the Barco administration first as Minister of Finance and later as Minister of the Interior. 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 him as its candidate.

After his last OAS term ended, President Gaviria successfully created The Otun Group, an international business advisory firm located in New York City. Returning to Colombia in 2005 after several visits in 2004, he once again became active in politics and was proclaimed as the sole chief of the Colombian Liberal Party in June 2005. He declared that his goal was to promote the party's reunification in order to make it a viable alternative in the upcoming 2006 presidential elections.

Speech Topics

The War on Drugs

The war on drugs has failed. And it's high time to replace an ineffective strategy with more humane and efficient drug policies. This is the central message of the report by the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy presented to the public recently in Rio de Janeiro.

The main proposal is a paradigm shift in drug policies based on three guiding principles: reduce the harm caused by drugs, decrease drug consumption through education, and aggressively combat organized crime. To translate this new paradigm into action, one must start by changing the status of addicts from drug buyers in the illegal market to patients cared for by the public-health system.

Doing Business in Latin America: Understanding the Economic & Political Climate

Conflict Resolution

Challenges Faced by China, India & Latin America

Leadership in an Uncertain World

The Socioeconomic Importance of Protecting Our World’s Oceans

Globalization Through the Political Lens