Guillermo Soberón Acevedo, former rector of UNAM, dies


Protagonist of the last 60 years of the history of health and education in Mexico, Dr. Guillermo Soberón Acevedo, died at 94 years of age.

The former rector of UNAM and former Secretary of Health opened the chapter on the historic decentralization of health services in the country and achieved that Mexicans today have the right to health guaranteed in Article 4 of the Constitution.

During his tenure as Secretary of Health between 1982 and 1988, the National Institute of Respiratory Diseases (INER) was created, which today has become the largest area of ​​intensive therapy to provide care for patients with the new coronavirus. The National Institute of Public Health (INSP) was also born and around 800 health centers and general hospitals were created.

As one of his great contributions to public health, he highlights that he promoted the National Poliomyelitis Vaccination Days that helped eradicate the disease

During his administration he changed the name of the Ministry of Health and Assistance to the Secretary of Health in 1986, becoming the rector of the health sector.

He had to face the HIV epidemic and the 1985 earthquakes

After concluding his rector’s office for two periods at the highest house of studies, Dr. Guillermo Soberón
he coordinated the Health Services of the Presidency of the Republic and a year later he became Secretary of Health and Assistance.

Its first action was to send to the Congress of the Union an initiative to incorporate the right to health in Article 4 of the Constitution that resulted in the modification of the General Health Law in 1983.

As the person in charge of health policy in the country, he had to face the HIV epidemic and the 1985 earthquakes.


Dr. Guillermo Soberón Acevedo is one of the rectors who managed to form a very important academic-political group at UNAM, from which six rectors emerged. He was rector of the highest house of studies, from 1973 to 1981, after a turbulent period that forced the early departure of his predecessors.

Soberón was thus the second to achieve a rectory of eight full years, since 1945, with the stability that the Governing Board fostered in the internal life of the National University.

Head of a group of power that has extended its influence for decades, his alliance with the jurists, led by Jorge Carpizo and the scientists, with José Sarukhán, who were his collaborators, gave rise to his influence being maintained. José Narro Robles began to have a presence at UNAM from the Rector of Soberón.

Octavio Rivero Serrano, although he is a doctor, was not strictly part of the Soberón group; it was the veto of the scientific community, allied with Soberón, which prevented him from being reelected.

Jorge Carpizo MacGregor, a close collaborator of Guillermo Soberón, was supported by him to succeed Octavio Rivero. At the same time, he created his own group at the Institute for Legal Research and José Narro Robles also belongs to him.

José Sarukhán Kermez, director of the Institute of Biology when Soberón was rector, was the coordinator of Jorge Carpizo’s Scientific Research. He was one of the academics who asked the Board not to re-elect Octavo Rivero.

Juan Ramón de la Fuente, son of one of the most recognized psychiatrists at the national level, Ramón de la Fuente, formed his own political group, of which José Narro Robles was also a part, but his political-academic roots are in the arrogance of the Faculty of Medicine.

José Narro Robles, soberonist and carpicista, developed his talent as a political negotiator from his days as a professor at the Faculty of Medicine, in the rector of Soberón; He was the Secretary General of UNAM with Jorge Carpizo and for years he was the most powerful man close to De la Fuente.

Enrique Graue. His origin of internal political activity is with the group of Juan Ramón de la Fuente-José Narro Robles, but as a result of the separation of both, his work remained close to De la Fuente in the first years of his first term of government; now it is closer to Narro Robles.


Identified as a man who was never afraid of words, Guillermo Soberón was not only one of the former rectors of UNAM, but one of the most active university students in the internal life of the institution, even just five years ago he included in his memoirs “The Doctor. The Rector ”, revelations that shook the university community inside and outside the institution.

Behind some internal crises of the UNAM there has been the hand of a President of the Republic, as Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, Luis Echeverría, José López Portillo, Miguel de la Madrid, Carlos Salinas de Gortari and Ernesto Zedillo assumed decisions that led to the national university to have difficult moments, assures Guillermo Soberón Acevedo in his autobiographical book.

In 1999, the inaction of Ernesto Zedillo ended prematurely with the rector of Francisco Barnés de Castro.

“Such passivity in a climate of excessive violence, with the consequent impunity of the aggressors, was a key factor in those resignations, and the same would have happened in 1999 to the rector Francisco Barnés de Castro, when the so-called General Strike Council (CGH ) brutally attacked the UNAM due to the indifference –and perhaps, again, the complicity– of government authorities, ”he says.

It reveals an episode of the way in which the then Secretary of the Interior, and now the incumbent senator of the Federal Eletricity Commission, Manuel Bartlett wanted to interfere in the life of UNAM. Episode that in 2015, the then senator Manuel Bartlett denied and even called Soberón “chief of the UNAM”.

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