Spain began funeral ceremonies for Adolfo Suarez, the prime minister who in the 1970s led the nation into democracy from dictatorship. The government declared three days of mourning with state flags at half mast.
Suarez’s remains were carried through Madrid past thousands of onlookers to a chapel set up in Congress. Official acts of remembrance are being led by King Juan Carlos, with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy attending along with current and former government officials, including ex-Premiers Jose Maria Aznar, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Felipe Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, who served from 1982 to 1996, has lauded Suarez for bringing dialog and compromise to a once-polarized nation.
“The move from a dictatorship to a pluralist democracy, so many times frustrated in our country, was possible through his labor,” Gonzalez said in remarks published today in El Mundo newspaper.
Suarez, who became a consensus figure, was 81 when he died yesterday at Madrid’s Cemtro Clinic hospital, family spokesman Fermin Urbiola said in televised comments. The actual state funeral for Spain’s first elected premier after the death of dictator Francisco Franco is scheduled for March 31.
“Adolfo Suarez was the first president of the Spanish government to be officially received in the White House, by Jimmy Carter in 1977,” said James Costos, current U.S. ambassador to Spain.
That opened the way for “the beginning of a continuous cooperation at the highest levels of government” between the two nations, Costos said in a statement yesterday.
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