BUENOS AIRES – Former Argentine President Fernando de la Rua died on Tuesday in Buenos Aires, a few hours after being hospitalized, President Mauricio Macri said. He was 81.
“I am saddened by the death of ex-President Fernando de la Rua. His commitment to democracy deserves the recognition of all Argentines. We are with his family at this time,” Macri said in a Twitter post.
De la Rua, who governed Argentina from 1999 to 2001, was hospitalized “in very delicate condition” at the Fleni clinic in Escobar, a city in the Buenos Aires metro area, people close to the former head of state said.
The former president, who was forced to resign during modern Argentina’s worst economic, political and social crisis, was hospitalized earlier this year with heart problems.
De la Rua had experienced cardiac problems for many years, undergoing procedures in 2018 and 2014 due to a heart attack and a blocked artery, respectively.
Born on Sept. 15, 1937, in Cordoba, De la Rua earned a law degree at 21 and joined the Radical Civic Union (UCR) party, winning a seat in the Senate in 1973.
He ran for vice president that same year but lost to Juan Domingo Peron.
De la Rua served as a legislator until 1976, when the armed forces staged a coup, seizing power and holding it until 1983.
When democracy was restored, De la Rua forged a career as a member of the lower house of Congress, senator and mayor of Buenos Aires.
On Dec. 10, 1999, the veteran politician was elected president, winning a four-year term and succeeding Peronist Carlos Menem, who governed Argentina from 1989 to 1999.
In late 2001, however, De la Rua resigned amid a severe economic crisis and street protests, leaving the government palace in a helicopter, an exit that garnered coverage around the world.
“Our condolences to the family and friends of ex-President Fernando De La Rua,” former President Cristina Fernandez, who was in office from 2007 to 2015, said in a Twitter post.
Security Minister Patricia Bullrich, who served as labor minister under De la Rua from 2000 to 2001, said the late former president was “a man who always sought to strengthen our country’s democracy.”
The government has declared a three-day official period of national mourning for De la Rua, whose body will lie in state starting Tuesday afternoon in the Salon de los Pasos Perdidos, one of the halls of Congress.