ADOLFO SUAREZ, the first democratically-elected prime minister of Spain after Franco’s dictatorship, died this afternoon at the age of 81.
The former prime minister had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for many years, but was admitted to the Cemtro Clinic in Madrid on Monday with a respiratory infection.
Suarez successfully led the country to democracy after the death of the fascist dictator Francisco Franco, repairing a damaged society left over from the 1936-1939 Civil War with an amnesty for political offenders.
“He was a great statesman,” said King Juan Carlos in a TV address, his voice trembling with emotion.
“Suarez saw with clarity and great generosity that the welfare and the future of everyone depended on consensus.”
Prime Minister Rajoy added: “We have lost one of the great men of our time. Adolfo Suarez was the best bridge for reconciliation between Spaniards.”
Suarez has come to be recognised as one of the founding fathers of modern Spain. A poll in 2007 showed that Spaniards view him as the most respected prime minister since Franco’s death.
PM Rajoy announced three days of official mourning, starting tomorrow.