MEXICO CITY – Luis Echeverria, who is battling pneumonia at a Mexico City hospital, turned 96 on Wednesday, making him Mexico’s longest living former president.
Echeverria, born in the capital on Jan. 17, 1922, served as Mexico’s president from 1970 to 1976.
The former president was hospitalized over the weekend on his doctor’s orders, said his son, Benito Echeverria.
Echeverria, at 96, has lived longer than Porfirio Diaz, who lived to the age of 85, and his successor, Jose Lopez Portillo, who was 84 when he died in 2004.
The former head of state “enjoys the health normal for a man of 96,” his son said.
The administration of Echeverria, who was in office from Dec. 1, 1970, to Nov. 30, 1976, is known for its control over the economy, dirty war against social movements, repression of the press and push to give Mexico a leading role at the United Nations.
In addition to his activist role on the global stage and decision to take in exiles from the South American military dictatorships, Echeverria will be remembered for his role in the Oct. 2, 1968, Tlatelolco square massacre in Mexico City that left more than 300 students dead.
Echeverria, who was interior minister at the time of the massacre, has been identified in declassified US documents as a CIA source.
In 2006, the National Security Archive, a Washington-based independent research organization, released documents showing that Echeverria and then-President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz provided the CIA with information about the student movement.
While Mexican authorities put the number killed in Tlatelolco at 39, hundreds are believed to have been slain in the square by members of a government-run paramilitary squad known as the Falcons, which also played a role in other acts of repression during the “dirty war” waged by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) against leftists until about 1980.