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Sunday, March 23, 2014 - 8:13am

Adolfo Surez, President Who Ushered In Spain's Democracy, Dies

Updated: 9 months ago.
Adolfo Suarez, president of the Spanish government from 1977 to 1981. This picture was taken in Madrid in 1976.

Adolfo Surez, the Spanish president responsible for the country's Democratic transition, died on Sunday.

Surez, the BBC reports, had suffered from Alzheimer's for about a decade.

He was 81.

In its coverage, El Pas calls Surez the "most solitary politician of the democracy."

As Reuters explains, Surez was chosen by King Juan Carlos to organize the country's first democratic elections after the death of dictator Francisco Franco.

"King Juan Carlos called on Surez, a young Francoist minister, to try to unite the two factions who were still in a sense fighting the 1936-1939 civil war, and indeed were further apart than ever after nearly 40 years of fascism exiled thousands of left-wingers," Reuters reports.

El Pas reports that just seven months after Franco's death, Surez was calling for reconciliation. His speeches, the paper reports, were roundly criticized by the ruling class. Still, he continually called for an "accord" and a "common effort."

Reuters adds:

"Decades later, Surez was widely recognized as one of the founding fathers of modern Spain. A 2007 poll showed that Spaniards saw him as the most respected prime minister since Franco's death.

" 'Prime Minister's Surez political career calls to mind the highest spirit of our democratic transition: recognition of dissenting voices, promotion of tolerance and the practice of dialogue. Thanks to that attitude he had the capacity to forge great agreements,' former Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero told Reuters.

"Handsome, charming both in and out of the political arena and acting with a notable sangfroid at potentially explosive times, Surez was made a duke in 1981 and formed a close friendship with the king."

In announcing his death, the Mast Museum, dedicated to the history of the democratic transition, said while the project of Spanish democracy was a "collective action," it's "very likely that without Surez it would not have been possible."

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