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José Miguel Insulza Salinas (born June 2, 1943) is a Chileanmarker politician and statesman. He is currently (since May 26, 2005) the Secretary General of the Organization of American Statesmarker. He is nicknamed El Panzer, for his tank-like drive and reputation due to his ability to take political heat with little apparent damage. He is married to Mexican Georgina Núñez Reyes and has three children.

Life and career

Early life

While studying law at the University of Chile he was vice president of the students' federation. After graduating from law school, he obtained a graduate degree from the Latin American Social Sciences Faculty (FLACSO) and a Master of Arts in Political Science from the University of Michiganmarker, United Statesmarker. He was professor of Political Theory at the University of Chile and of Political Science at the Catholic University in Chile until 1973. He was also Political Advisor to the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Director of the Diplomatic Academy of Chile until 1973.

Exile in Mexico

Insulza lived in Mexicomarker in exile from 1981 to 1988, doing research and then working as the Director of the United States Studies Institute in the Center for Economic Research and Teaching (CIDE). He was a professor at Mexico's Universidad Nacional Autónomamarker, the Universidad Iberoamericanamarker, and the Diplomatic Studies Institute. He has penned numerous publications in his field.

Return to Chile

Insulza was appointed Chilean Ambassador for International Cooperation in 1990. He became Director of Multilateral Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Vice President of the International Cooperation Agency (AGCI). He was a member of the Chilean Association of Political Science, the Bar Association, and the Chilean Council of International Relations.

On March 11, 1994 Insulza became Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs. On September 20 of that year he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs. On June 22, 1999 he was appointed Minister Secretary General of the Office of the President. On March 11, 2000 he took office as Minister of the Interior of Chile and also became Vice President of the Republic).

OAS chief

Insulza was elected Secretary General of the Organization of American Statesmarker on May 2, 2005 following the withdrawal from the race of Mexico's Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez. (See Organization of American States Secretary General election, 2005.)

On January 5, 2007 Insulza criticized Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez's decision not to renew television channel RCTV's broadcast license (Chávez had accused the station of being a golpista—a coup d'état instigator.) Three days later Chávez responded to Insulza by calling for his resignation and referring to him as a pendejo—a Spanish profanity meaning dumbass. Insulza later received the support of almost all the OAS members, including the US, and Chávez conceded he had gone too far with his words. On April 2008 Chávez congratulated Insulza for stating in a presentation before the United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere that there was no evidence linking Venezuela to terrorist groups.

Insulza was criticized by some Chilean politicians of using his post as OAS Secretary General as a launching pad for his failed pre-candidacy as President of Chile. They claimed his frequent trips to Chile and continuing commentary on Chilean politics were a way to remain visible in the local political scene. Insulza openly stated his intention to run for President of Chile, but on January 5, 2009, he stepped out of the race and vowed to continue as OAS chief until the end of his mandate. He gave his support to Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle as the Concertación candidate for president.


  1. Refereeing the Colombia Standoff - TIME
  2. Embassy of Chile, Washington, DC © 2005
  3. BBC World Service | World Agenda - Global Warning
  4. Chavez to nationalize electric, telecom companies

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