Ricardo Froilán Lagos Escobar is a lawyer, economist and social democrat politician, who served as president of Chile from 2000 to 2006.
He won the 1999-2000 presidential election by a narrow margin in a runoff over Independent Democrat Union (UDI) candidate Joaquín Lavín.
He was Chile's first agnostic president. Lagos was also the third president from the center-left Coalition of Parties for Democracy to have ruled Chile since 1990. He was succeeded on March 11, 2006 by Socialist Michelle Bachelet, from the same coalition.
Since May 2007 he has served as a Special Envoy on Climate Change for the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
During 2004, Lagos faced a series of tensions in his relation with other South American countries, caused by recurring Bolivian aspirations for access to the sea.
This situation was linked with the power crisis taking place in Argentina, an important supplier of natural gas to Chile. In bilateral meetings between Bolivian President Carlos Mesa and Argentine President Néstor Kirchner, the former agreed to the sale of Bolivian gas to Argentina under the condition that "not a single gas molecule be sold to Chile". Additionally, the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chávez, has supported in various instances the Bolivian sea claim, causing a diplomatic impassé between Chile and Venezuela. The tension between both governments had dissipated during July 2004.
Lagos' presidency was characterized by such achievements as the signing of Free Trade Agreements with the European Community, the United States, South Korea, the People's Republic of China and New Zealand, Singapore and Brunei (though some of his supporters in the center-left Coalition of Parties for Democracy consider that these agreements contribute to economic globalization and may have negative effects on the country); improvements in infrastructure and transport; the creation of an unemployment insurance; the AUGE health program guaranteeing coverage for a number of medical conditions; the Chile Barrio housing program; extending compulsory schooling to 12 years; the approval of the first divorce law in Chile; monetary compensation to victims of torture under the Pinochet regime identified in the Valech Report; and, recently, the signing of a recast constitution. He finished his six-year term with historic approval ratings above 70%.
Ricardo Lagos has received the title of Doctor Honoris Causa by many prestigious universities such as the University of Mexico and Universidad de Salamanca, along many others. He has received the Berkeley Medal, the highest distinction from the University of Berkeley, California, and he was named Special Envoy for Climate Change. He was President of the Club of Madrid.
He is currently a professor guest at Brown University (USA) and President of the Foundation for Democracy and Development, which is its creator.