Buenos Aires: Former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner — the husband of current leader Cristina Fernandez — died suddenly Wednesday after suffering from severe heart trouble, the presidency said.
Kirchner, 60, died after he was rushed in grave condition to the Formenti de Calafate hospital while suffering a severe heart attack, the presidency said.
"It was a sudden death," his personal doctor, Luis Buonomo, told reporters in El Calafate, where Kirchner and his wife had gone to rest and await their turn to be counted in the nation`s census. Buonomo said an official medical report would be released later in the day.
He was accompanied at all times by his wife, the presidency said.
Kirchner, 60, 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.
"A great patriot has died," said Juan Carlos Dante Gullo, a ruling party congressman, to state TV. "This will leave a huge hole in Argentine politics. We will have to follow his example. Argentina has lost one of its greatest men."
The leader of the human rights group Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Estela de Carlotto, said Kirchner "gave his life for his country."
"Our country needed this man so much. He was indispensable," she told radio Continental.
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.
He recently was appointed secretary general of the Union of South American Republics, or Unasur, and was preparing for an intense 2011 election campaign in which either his wife or himself would run again to maintain their hold on power.
Born in the Patagonian province of Santa Cruz, Kirchner and his wife were active in the Young Peronists party as students in La Plata, where he graduated in 1976. With the military firmly ruling the country, the young couple married and worked as private attorneys in the provincial capital. After democracy returned in 1983, Kirchner entered public service, first as the provincial pensions chief, and then as mayor of Rio Gallegos.
In 1991, he became Santa Cruz`s governor and Fernandez was elected to the provincial legislature, pushing through indefinite re-election and filling the provincial courts with sympathetic judges. In 1995 he was re-elected as governor by an overwhelming margin, laying the groundwork for a jump to politics at the national level.