Secretary General’s Biography

José Miguel Insulza


José Miguel Insulza
Secretary General

"The critical test of our democracies no longer lies in their ability to hold free elections or in maintaining stable governments. Rather it lies in demonstrating that democratic governments are able to solve the problems of poverty, exclusion, environmental quality, and public security that beset the majority of people. The test of democracies resides in showing that they are able to improve the standard of living of their citizens, that democracy is also good because it governs best."


José Miguel Insulza was reelected by consensus for a second term as OAS Secretary General on March 24, 2010. The Chilean politician has an accomplished record of public service in his country. At the beginning of his second five-year term as Secretary General, he called on member countries to continue working for democracy, human rights, public security among other common values and pledged to strengthen democratic institutions and governance in the region. Secretary General Insulza has been at the helm of the Organization since May 26,2005.

A lawyer by profession, he has a law degree from the University of Chile, did postgraduate studies at the Latin American Social Sciences Faculty (FLACSO), and has a master’s in political science from the University of Michigan. Until 1973, he was Professor of Political Theory at the University of Chile and of Political Science at Chile’s Catholic University. He also served, until that year, as Political Advisor to the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Director of the Diplomatic Academy of Chile.

He became involved in politics during his student years and served as Vice President of the Chilean Students Association, President of the Center for Law Students of the University of Chile, and President of the Union of University Federations of Chile.

In the early 1970s, Insulza played an active role in Salvador Allende’s Popular Unity government and, following the coup that brought General Augusto Pinochet into power, he went into exile for 15 years, first in Rome (1974-1980) and after that in Mexico (1981-1988). In Mexico City, he was a researcher and then Director of the United States Studies Institute in the Center for Economic Research and Teaching. He also taught at Mexico's National Autonomous University, the Ibero-American University, and the Diplomatic Studies Institute.

Insulza was able to return to Chile in early 1988 and joined the Coalition of Parties for Democracy, the coalition that won the plebiscite against the Pinochet regime in October of that year and that has been victorious in all democratic elections in the country since 1990. A member of the Socialist Party, he has held a large number of high-level posts in the Coalition governments.

Under the presidency of Patricio Aylwin, Insulza served as Chilean Ambassador for International Cooperation, Director of Multilateral Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Vice President of the International Cooperation Agency.

In March 1994, under the administration of President Eduardo Frei, Insulza became Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs and in September of that year was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs. In 1999, he became Minister Secretary General of the Presidency, and the following year he became President Ricardo Lagos’s Minister of the Interior and Vice President of the Republic. When he left that post in May 2005, he had served as a government minister for more than a decade, the longest continuous tenure for a minister in Chilean history.

Born on June 2, 1943, Insulza is married to Georgina Núñez Reyes and has three children: Francisca, Javier and Daniel.