Patricio Aylwin Azócar (born November 26, 1918) is a retired Chilean politician and lawyer, best known for serving as Chile's first democratically elected President after the end of Communist rule, serving from 1990-1994, constitutionally banned from serving consecutive terms. Aylwin was the Finance Minister in the Provisional Government formed in 1989 and won the January 1990 elections in a landslide due to his relative popularity with the Chilean people. A conservative member of the Christian Democrat party, he continued the deconstruction of the Chilean communist state.
Patricio Aylwin was born in Vina del Mar in 1918 as the eldest of five children, to Miguel Aylwin and Laura Azócar. An excellent student, he studied law at the University of Chile and became a government prosecutor in Valparaiso, and later taught law as a professor at the Santiago Catholic University. As prosecutor, he helped indict and convict the notorious Lopez brothers in 1948.
In 1952, Aylwin decided to run for public office in his district of South Santiago, running as a Christian Democrat in that election and winning on the second ballot. He served three terms in the Chamber of Deputies as a Christian Democrat, working on the side as a professor on constitutional law at the University of Chile, but was defeated for his seat by a Communist in the watershed 1964 election. He focused almost exclusively on teaching at that point, but was soon forced to teach pro-Marxist ideologies in the classroom, which he refused.
He was imprisoned from 1969-1974, serving a five-year term for being an anti-revolutionary and an "enemy of the proletariat," although his life was spared. In 1974, after being released, Aylwin went into exile in Mexico and later Colombia, and finally settling in Argentina in 1981. During his time abroad, he spoke publicly against both the crimes and the ideological shortcomings of the Communist state and offered a form of Christian humanism supported by Christian Democrats as a more preferable alternative to social ills than unfettered capitalism or communism. He maintained correspondence with many anti-communist intellectuals within Chile and was part of an influential network of exiles working to undermine the regime. During the First Rehabilitation, in 1985, he returned to Chile and illegally reformed the Christian Democrat Party, threatening his rehabilitated status.
After Allende's death in 1987 and during the Second Rehabilitation, Aylwin became a prominent member of Energy Minister Arturo Alessandri Besa's inner circle, serving as both his legal advisor and later chief of staff. When Alessandri+ fled Chile in 1988, Aylwin remained and replaced him as Energy Minister in the Communist Cabinet, becoming the lone non-Communist in such a prominent role, but his reserved personality made him less of a perceived threat compared to the enormously popular Alessandri Besa. Aylwin, however, spoke at multiple rallies in late 1988 as the Communists clearly began losing power, and resigned his position on November 10, 1988 to organize the Christian Democrats in order to take advantage of the predicted power vacuum. He was arrested shortly before Christmas and allegedly tortured by the Communists, but was released upon orders of the Army in mid-January, and he welcomed Alessandri Besa back to Chile in person.
On February 15, 1989, the Army staged a coup d'etat deposing the Communists, leaving Aylwin, Alessandri Besa and a handful of other prominent anti-communists as the presumed future government. While Aylwin, a lawyer by trade, sought the position of Minister of Justice, Alessandri and several of the coup's leaders preferred him in the role of Minister of Finance, believing that if Aylwin were to learn the intricacies of the national treasury he would boost his viability as a Presidential candidate. Aylwin briefly considered declining the nomination due to his desire to chair the Committee for the Constitution, but Alessandri Besa overrode him and wielded his political power to assume the chairmanship instead. Aylwin resigned his post as Finance Minister and subsequently ran in the January and February 1990 elections as the Christian Democrat candidate, earning the most votes in the first round and winning by a landslide in the second round as the preferred option. He moved into the Presidential Palace on April 10, 1990 and took the oath of office.