Virgilio Barco Vargas

Tomás Cipriano de Mosquera President of Colombia Alfonso López Pumarejo
Virgilio Barco Vargas
President Virgilio Barco.png
Barco in 1991
27th President of Colombia
In office
7 August 1986 (1986-08-07) – 7 August 1990 (1990-08-07)
Preceded byBelisario Betancur Cuartas
Succeeded byCésar Gaviria Trujillo
20th Colombia Ambassador to the United Kingdom
In office
9 November 1990 (1990-11-09) – 1992
PresidentCésar Gaviria Trujillo
Preceded byFernando Cepeda Ulloa
Succeeded byLuis Prieto Ocampo
18th Colombia Ambassador to the United States
In office
24 June 1977 (1977-06-24) – 11 December 1980 (1980-12-11)
PresidentAlfonso López Michelsen
Preceded byJulio César Turbay Ayala
Succeeded byJorge Mario Eastman Robledo
6th Mayor of Bogotá
In office
PresidentCarlos Lleras Restrepo
Preceded byJorge Gaitán Cortés
Succeeded byEmilio Urrea Delgado
15th Minister of Agriculture of Colombia
In office
23 April 1963 (1963-04-23) – 6 October 1963 (1963-10-06)
PresidentGuillermo León Valencia
Preceded byCornelio Reyes Reyes
Succeeded byGustavo Balcázar Monzón
40th Minister of Finance and Public Credit of Colombia
In office
7 August 1962 (1962-08-07) – 5 September 1962 (1962-09-05)
PresidentGuillermo León Valencia
Preceded byJorge Mejía Palacio
Succeeded byCarlos Sanz de Santamaría
8th Colombia Ambassador to the United Kingdom
In office
16 June 1961 (1961-06-16) – 1962
PresidentAlberto Lleras Camargo
Preceded byAlfonso López Pumarejo
Succeeded byAlfredo Araújo Grau
52nd Minister of Public Works of Colombia
In office
7 August 1958 (1958-08-07) – 9 November 1960 (1960-11-09)
PresidentAlberto Lleras Camargo
Preceded byRoberto Salazar Gómez
Succeeded byMisael Pastrana Borrero
Personal details
Born(1921-09-17)17 September 1921
Cúcuta, North Santander, Colombia
Died20 May 1997(1997-05-20) (aged 75)
Bogotá, D.C., Colombia
Resting placeCentral Cemetery of Bogotá
Political partyLiberal
(m. 1950; his death 1997)
Alma mater
ProfessionCivil engineer
WebsiteOfficial website

Virgilio Barco Vargas (17 September 1921 – 20 May 1997) was a Colombian politician and civil engineer who served as the 27th President of Colombia serving from 7 August 1986 to 7 August 1990.

Early life

Barco was born in Cúcuta in the Norte de Santander Department of Colombia to Jorge Enrique Barco Maldonado and Julieta Vargas Durán. He studied Civil Engineering at the National University of Colombia and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from which he graduated in 1943.[1] He entered politics in 1943 when he became a city council member for the Liberal Party in the town of Durania. He was then elected to the lower house of Congress, but went into exile to the US in 1950 because of violence between liberals and conservatives. His daughter, Carolina Barco Isakson (who would later become a Colombian politician herself) was born there. He obtained an M.A. in economics at MIT, where he took classes under Nobel prize winners Robert Solow and Paul Samuelson in 1952. In 1954 he obtained a PhD in economics from Boston University.[2]

Barco is the grandson of Colombian General Virgilio Barco M., who developed one of the country's largest oil concessions in 1905.

Political career

Barco returned to Colombia in 1954 to help negotiate the peace process which allowed the formation of the National Front between liberals and conservatives, which lasted two decades. He became a member of the Senate, the upper house of Congress in 1958, left to become the ambassador to Britain in 1961, and returned to Colombia in 1962. He served another term in the Senate until 1966, when he was elected mayor of Colombia's capital, Bogotá. He served in that position until 1969, when he became a director of the World Bank until 1974. He then served as ambassador to the United States from 1977 until 1980.


Barco was elected president of Colombia with 58% of the vote in 1986. He supported anti-poverty programs, renewed dialogue with leftist guerillas and fought drug traffickers. Though he was popular within the international community, he became less popular in Colombia because the drug traffickers became more violent after he started to move against them. His restrictive economic policies at first doomed the country. After two years of this, The Economic Openness program was initiated by his administration, which would open Colombian markets to the world and recharge the country's economy. He served one 4-year term.

After the Presidency

When he left the Presidency in 1990, he served as ambassador to Britain again until 1992.

Barco was diagnosed with cancer and he died on May 20, 1997, in Bogotá when he was 75. He is now buried in the Central Cemetery of Bogotá.


  1. ^ "Virgilio Barco Vargas". Presidency of the Republic of Colombia. June 2013. Archived from the original on 2013-10-31. Retrieved 2014-01-13.
  2. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)