(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Former Argentine president Nestor Kirchner – the country’s most powerful politician along with his wife, current leader Cristina Fernández – died suddenly Wednesday after suffering a heart attack, the presidency said.
Kirchner, 60, died after he was rushed in grave condition to the Formenti de Calafate Hospital while having a severe heart attack, according to the presidency.
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Kirchner had undergone an angioplasty after a heart attack in September, but was still a likely candidate in next year’s presidential elections.
He also served as secretary-general of the South American alliance known as Unasur, as a congressman and as leader of the Peronist party.
The news shocked Argentines, who by law were staying at home Wednesday to be counted. Kirchner’s supporters planned a mass gathering for Wednesday night outside the Casa Rosada, Argentina’s presidential palace. Already, dozens of Argentines showed up in the Plaza de Mayo in front of the palace, standing silently in mourning.
Kirchner served as president from 2003-2007, bringing Argentina out of severe economic crisis and encouraging judicial changes that set in motion dozens of human rights trials involving hundreds of dictatorship-era figures who had previously benefited from an amnesty.
Jewish leaders also responded to news of Kirchner’s death. The World Jewish Congress offered condolences to the Argentinean people and the country’s Jewish community, calling the deceased leader an “excellent president.”
“During his term in office, president Kirchner brought Argentina
back on track – not just economically, but also morally, with respect to
the human rights violations of the past, especially under the military
dictatorship in the 1970s,” WJC President Ronald Lauder said.
the late president Kirchner and his wife, current President Cristina
Fernández, have played a tremendous role in ensuring that Argentina
today is one of the world’s foremost democracies where the civil rights
of all religious and ethnic minorities are respected,” he went on.
“Largely thanks to them, Argentina has again become a good place for
Jews to live.”