Former Spanish prime minister Suarez dies

2014-03-23 20:55
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

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Madrid - Adolfo Suarez, Spain's first democratically elected prime minister after decades of right-wing rule under General Francisco Franco, has died aged 81.

Suarez died on Sunday afternoon in Madrid's Cemtro Clinic hospital, family spokesperson Fermin Urbiola said. Suarez had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease for a decade.

The cause of death was "chronic obstructive pulmonary disease made worse within the context of Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Isabel de la Azuela of Cemtro.

Suarez had been admitted to the hospital on Monday with pneumonia. On Friday, his son Adolfo said his condition had deteriorated and that he was expected to die within days.

King Juan Carlos, in a televised address, expressed his gratitude to Suarez for his "loyalty to the crown" and sadness over his death.

"Suarez was a statesman who put the whole of the Spanish nation ahead of his personal and party interests," the king said.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said "one of the great men of our era has left us", and declared three days of national mourning.

Suarez became secretary general of the National Movement, which was Spain's only party during Franco's rule, and also was director general of state television broadcaster TVE.

He was 43 when he was chosen in 1976 by King Juan Carlos to lead the country toward a democratic parliamentary monarchy after Franco's death a year earlier. Suarez had the king's trust and the two were close.

Born on 25 September 1932, Suarez studied law at Spain's prestigious Salamanca University and went into politics after graduating.

He held several government posts during the Franco regime.

The king granted him the title of Duke of Suarez in 1981. He was awarded Spain's highly regarded Prince of Asturias prize in 1996 for his contribution to democracy.

Suarez is survived by daughter Sonsoles, a former TV news anchor, and son Adolfo, a politician with the conservative Popular Party, and two other children.

His wife, Amparo Illana, and eldest daughter, Marian Suarez Illana, died of cancer in 2001 and 2004, respectively.

- AP
Read more on:    mariano rajoy  |  juan carlos  |  spain
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