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Jose Maza (Chile)

Elected President of the tenth session of the General Assembly

Photo of Jose Maza

A Staunch Internationalist

Jose Maza, elected President of the Tenth Assembly, was born in southern Chile in October, 1889 and Will thus celebrate his sixty-sixth birthday during his tenure of the highest office in the United Nations.

Mr. Maza was the first member of his family, who for long had been farmers, to enter politics. When he did so, in 1920, he pioneered the successful entry of representatives from the middle class into Chilean political life.

Mr. Maza's student days were a precursor of the influence he was to exert later on Chilean national life. At the University of Chile in Santiago he specialized in international and civil law, and was president of the Students' Federation.

Shortly after receiving his Doctorate in Law, Mr. Maza was elected to Chile's House of Representatives from the town of Bio Bio in his native southern Chile. He represented Bio Bio until 1925 when he was elected to the Chilean Senate for the province of Valdivia. He held the seat until 1953.

During his first year as Senator, when he was thirty-six, he was chosen to head the nation's Cabinet as Prime Minister and to be Minister of the Interior. He remained in the Cabinet the following year as Minister of Justice and Minister of Education. Mr. Maza was twice President of the Senate, in 1936 and 1937. He was also president of the Senate's Committee on Foreign Relations from 1937 until 1953.

Freedom of the Press

In the course of his uninterrupted thirty-two years in the Chilean Congress either as representative or senator, he was responsible for a number of legislative measures which influenced not only Chile but in some cases the rest of Latin America. The law on "abuses of information" known as the "Maza Act" which guarantees freedom of reporting and commenting on news without prior censorship as well as free access to all sources of information, was one of his early achievements. The law provides that a newsman in Chile misrepresenting or otherwise distorting news to the injury of third parties, cannot be convicted unless found guilty by unanimous vote of a regular court.

As a lawmaker, Mr. Maza is perhaps most widely known as the author of the revised Chilean Constitution which was adopted in 1925 and included a number of major political and economic reforms. A structural change which he drafted was Chile's conversion from the parliamentary form of government patterned after the French system, to the presidential form similar to that of the United States.

High among the reforms which Mr. Maza blue- printed was a new definition of private property making it compulsory for owners to cultivate their land. Under this law the State won the right to expropriate property, after payment of legal indemnities, where owners failed to comply. The provision ushered in a viable agricultural system with small active farms replacing huge estates.

In 1949 he drafted a law which gave women political rights and which later was incorporated into the, Chilean Constitution.

The new Assembly President is equally famed in his country as a champion of international organization. He was a strong supporter of the League of Nation, I and played a leading role in securing the Chilean Legislature's approval of the United Nations Declaration. He signed the Charter for his country. He is g . strong supporter of Chile's participation in the specialized agencies of the United Nations dating back to the I time of the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944 when the articles of agreement were adopted for the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Fellow Chilean diplomats stress Mr. Maza's role as his country's "most internationally-minded statesman" by pointing out that his services are called upon in the international field by whatever political party holds the reins of government. He, himself, is a member of Chile's Liberal Party, but, his colleagues say his status in international affairs transcends party. Mr. Maza has headed Chile's delegation to the last four sessions of the General Assembly.

Mr. Maza is particularly well known to his diplomatic colleagues from Uruguay, Brazil, Haiti, Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Peru in which countries he served as Chile's Ambassador.

While well aware of the frustrations and disillusionments the United Nations has experienced in its decade of endeavors toward world peace, Mr. Maza believes the world organization is the most practical and effective instrument to achieve results through adherence to the principles and purposes of the Charter.

"The dilemma of our time-so it has been said is that peace must be born of terror, that it cannot materialize except as the result of the universal fear of the possible use of nuclear weapons," Mr. Maza said in his acceptance speech to the Assembly. "That may be so, but the peace which we desire is much more than the mere opposite of war. As the Charter tells us, we are working for a peace based on friendly relations among nations; on respect for human rights, improved standards of living and the right of peoples to self-determination. Never have we had a better opportunity than now to promote the principles of our organization."

Friends and colleagues alike regard as Mr. Maza's outstanding attribute his ability as mediator. Behind this, they say, lies a "deep human sympathy."

This quality combined with his long years of experience in conciliating different points of view for a common end, they declare, will stand him in good stead in his new position.

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