The Washington Post
President of Portugal and envoy for U.N.
Jorge Sampaio, a former twoterm president of Portugal and one of the most prominent political figures of his generation, died Sept. 10 at 81.
President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa announced the death but did not provide further information.
During a six-decade political career in Portugal as a center-left Socialist and later as a diplomat for the United Nations, Mr. Sampaio earned praise for his low-key, down-to-earth manner.
At home, Mr. Sampaio was perhaps best remembered for controversially bringing down a center-right government in 2004, when he was head of state. That was when Social Democratic Party leader José Manuel Durão Barroso quit as prime minister to become president of the European Commission. He was replaced by his party’s vice president, Pedro Santana Lopes.
Mr. Sampaio was perhaps best remembered for controversially bringing down a center-right government in 2004.
After several months of government infighting, public gaffes and contradictions, Mr. Sampaio called early elections to end what he called “a grave crisis of credibility and instability.”
The subsequent election delivered a landslide victory to the center-left Socialist Party, which Mr. Sampaio had once headed.
Jorge Fernando Branco de Sampaio was born in Lisbon on Sept. 18, 1939. He began his political career while studying law at the University of Lisbon in the late 1950s, rising through the ranks of underground student movements that opposed the then dictatorship of António Salazar.
After graduating, he defended prisoners tried by special courts that dealt exclusively with political cases. He associated with extreme leftist movements after the 1974 Carnation Revolution toppled the dictatorship and introduced democracy.
He took up his first government post, as secretary of state for foreign cooperation, in 1975. He was fluent in English, having lived for a year in the United States when he was 8 as his father, a renowned Portuguese doctor, went to study at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. His mother was an English teacher.
He switched his allegiance to the mainstream Socialist Party in 1978 and from the following year was returned five times to parliament as a Socialist lawmaker. Mr. Sampaio ran successfully for mayor of Lisbon, the capital, in 1989, when he also became leader of the Socialist Party.
His two-term stint as mayor of the Portuguese capital provided a stage for his election as president in 1996 and his reelection in 2001, and he won both elections by comfortable margins.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed Mr. Sampaio as his special envoy on tuberculosis in 2006. The following year, Annan’s successor, Ban Ki-moon, made him the U.N. High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations.
A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.