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Former Costa Rica president dies of heart complications

December 4, 2009

Costa Rica lost its 40th president Wednesday, two weeks after he was admitted to the hospital with a heart condition.

Rodrigo Carazo, who led the country from 1978 to 1982, died at 1:30 p.m., following reports that his health was deteriorating. He was 82.

“His heart never fully recovered after the surgery,” said Douglas Montero, director of Hospital Mexico , who said Carazo had undergone a quadruple bypass surgery on Nov. 30.

The former president´s son Mario Carazo, who arrived at the hospital just moments after his father´s death, said the medical personnel and doctors at Hospital Mexico were excellent and could not have done more.

He expects to spend the holidays together with his family in the Caribbean beach town of Puerto Viejo de Limón , which will give them the opportunity to reflect and to mourn.

Carazo stepped into office just as the world was falling into economic recession. Against the advice of the International Monetary Fund and his finance minister, he borrowed heavily to maintain the value of the Costa Rican currency, the colón. The policy failed and eventually resulted in a catastrophic devaluation of the colón.

Carazo is also known for his work in founding the United Nations University for Peace and later for his role in regional peace talks, which current President Oscar Arias highlighted in his words of remembrance on Wednesday.

“Of all the former presidents consulted (during the Central America peace talks in the 1980s), he was the first to give support to the peace plan with the firmness and integrity that characterized him,” Arias said. “He was a man true to his ideas, and that is his greatest legacy.”

Mario Carazo said he wants his father to be remembered for “his integrity, conviction and profound spirituality.”

The funeral is planned for Thursday at 3:30 p.m. at San José´s Metropolitan Cathedral.

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