Lawyer, university professor and civic educator, Venezuelan political leader and international statesman. Born in Caracas, Venezuela, October 18, 1940, his adoption of Christian Democratic ideals and democratic convictions as a high school student fighting against the Pérez Jiménez dictatorship established the values that have guided him through more than 50 years of Venezuelan and international political struggles. Today, he remains perhaps the most respected leader of the democratic opposition to Chavez authoritarianism in Venezuela. He also continues to serve the cause of peace and international cooperation throughout the hemisphere as the Vice President of the Christian Democratic Organization of the Americas (ODCA).
Eduardo Fernández received a law degree, cum laude, from the Andres Bello Catholic University in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1963. He then completed graduate degrees in economic development at the Institute of Social Studies in the Hague, Netherlands, in 1965, and in political science at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, in 1967. After returning to Venezuela, he became a professor in his alma mater and remains as a distinguished scholar of constitutional law.
Education for civic responsibility, participation in public life and political leadership are lifelong concerns that Eduardo Fernández actively cultivates throughout the Americas as the President of the prestigious Aristides Calvani International Training Center - IFEDEC. Named for the distinguished Venezuelan diplomat who achieved the near global consensus for the landmark Conference in Caracas that established the Law of the Sea Convention, IFEDEC remains one of the most important centers for the promotion of democratic politics in the Hemisphere. Fernández is also the President of the Venezuelan think tank, Fundación Pensamiento y Acción, and served as the President of the important Madrid-based center for political education, Fundación Popular Iberoamericana, for a number of years.
Besides teaching and political education, Eduardo Fernández has also dedicated years of service in support of excellence in higher education in Venezuela. He served many years as a member of Board of Trustees of the Metropolitan University in Caracas, and he continues as a member of the Board of Regents of Venezuela's internationally recognized graduate school of management, the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administración (IESA).
Political action, democratic politics and the well being of his native Venezuela have, however, always been the central concern of Fernández' public life since he joined what was known as the revolutionary youth of the Christian Democratic Party COPEI as a school boy in the 1950s. Known as "El Tigre" (the tiger) for his political prowess, he rapidly rose to the leadership of a remarkable cohort of political activists in his party that was called the Generation of 1958 in honor of the year that the country's democratic forces drove the military dictator into exile.
As a result of his early political activism and party leadership during his college years when the new democracy was fighting to survive, Fernández was elected at the age of 28 in 1968 as a deputy in the lower chamber of the national Congress of Venezuela, and he was re-elected for successive terms until 1989. Soon after his first election to Congress, President Rafael Caldera, the founding leader of COPEI, was inaugurated as President of Venezuela and called on Fernández to take leave from Congress and join his cabinet as the Deputy Secretary General of the Presidency. In 1974, Fernández returned to Congress and was almost immediately chosen as the leader of the COPEI caucus in the House, and continued in that role both with his party in government and as the leader of the opposition for 17 years. In 1979, he was elected Secretary General of COPEI and remained as the leader of the party until 1992.
In 1988, Eduardo Fernández was chosen as the COPEI candidate for the presidency of Venezuela, and in the general election he obtained 42 percent of the votes.
In 1989, Fernández was elected President of the Christian Democratic International (IDC) and moved to Brussels. During the 1990s Fernández emerged as an international political leader committed to the promotion of democratic values and institutions.
He is the author of several books on public policy, including Desafíos y Beneficios de la Modernización Económica, Estrategia para Superar la Pobreza, Tiempo de Cambio, Educación para el Trabajo, and Para Rescatar la Confianza.
Eduardo Fernández returns to the University of the Pacific after a 36-year interval. In 1974, as a member of a Venezuelan delegation to the World Conference of Parliamentarians, he visited Pacific's Elbert Covell College - the forerunner of today's Inter-American Program -to speak about Latin America's progress in developing democracy.