Former Argentine president Raul Alfonsin, who led the country on its long-awaited return to democracy after the bloody 1976-1983 military dictatorship, has died from cancer at the age of 82.
Alfonsin’s doctor, Alberto Sadler, said the former leader had lung cancer that spread to his bones and had developed pneumonia last weekend before he died on Tuesday.
The mustachioed Alfonsin, who became a symbol of Argentina’s transition to democracy, was elected in October 1983 following the collapse of the military regime in the wake of the Falklands War of April 1982.
“The figure [of Alfonsin] is inextricably linked to the restoration of democracy after a very tragic dictatorship,” Argentine President Cristina Kirchner said in London, where she was to participate in yesterday’s G20 summit.
“He was a strict man who defended his beliefs and that is something very valuable,” said Kirchner, who will not be in Buenos Aires for the wake and burial of the Social Democratic leader.
Her administration has ordered three days of national mourning for Alfonsin.
Alfonsin’s center-left government steered Argentina through an economic depression that saw inflation hit 400 percent in 1983.
He slowly and cautiously dismantled the military’s political power structure and created the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons to record human rights abuses that took place under the previous military leadership, which had ruled the country with an iron grip.
Annulling the blanket amnesty his predecessor Reynaldo Bignone granted those guilty of human rights abuses in the past regime, Alfonsin sponsored the Trial of the Juntas that culminated in December 1985 with life sentences for former president Jorge Videla and former Navy chief Emilio Massera.