Hernando de Soto

Founder and President,
Institute for Liberty and Democracy, Peru

Hernando de Soto was chosen one of five leading Latin American innovators of the century by Time Magazine in its special May 1999 edition, “Leaders for the New Millennium”. Additionally, The Economist deemed the Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD) one of the two most important think tanks in the world. Mr. de Soto was born in Arequipa, Peru, in 1941 and did his post-graduate work at the Institut Universitaire de Hautes Etudes Internationales in Geneva. He has served as an economist for the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, as President of the Executive Committee of the Copper Exporting Countries Organization (CIPEC), as Managing Director of Universal Engineering Corporation, as principal of the Swiss Bank Corporation Consultant Group, and as a governor of Peru’s Central Reserve Bank. Mr. de Soto was President Alberto Fujimori’s Personal Representative and Principal Advisor until he resigned two months before the President’s coup d’état. Between 1988 and 1995, he and the ILD were responsible for some 400 initiatives, laws and regulations that modernized Peru’s economic system. In particular, the group designed and ran Peru’s property system which gave titles to more than 1,500,000 families, brought under law some 300,00 firms which previously had been operating in the black market, and streamlined government procedures to open up the legal system to greater participation by the majority. Also, de Soto and ILD initiated the stabilization of Peru’s economy, tamed inflation, and allowed Peru to return to international financial markets. Today, as his principal activity, Mr. de Soto, together with the ILD, is designing and implementing capital formation programs to empower the poor in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. He has published two books about economic and political development: The Other Path in the mid-1980s, and The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else at the end of 2000. Both books have been bestsellers and have been translated into some 20 languages. Among the prizes he has been awarded are The Freedom Prize (Switzerland), and The Fisher Prize (United Kingdom). This year, he has received The Goldwater Award (USA), The Adam Smith Award from the Association of Private Enterprise Education (USA), and The CARE Canada Award for Outstanding Development Thinking (Canada).