Itamar Franco, who in the early 1990s conquered hyperinflation in Brazil after being thrust into the presidency when his predecessor resigned, died of leukemia today. He was 81.
His death was reported today on the website of Brazil’s Senate, of which he was a member.
Franco was vice president in 1992 when President Fernando Collor, facing impeachment on corruption charges, resigned. Franco was relatively unknown to many Brazilians when he took office amid one of the country’s most severe economic crises, when annual inflation was running at more than 1,000 percent.
To bring down prices, he selected Fernando Henrique Cardoso to become his finance minister. The duo went on to introduce the so-called Plano Real that replaced the country’s currency, the cruzeiro. With the real’s introduction in 1994, and a commitment by the government to reduce spending, inflation was 22 percent by 1995.
The taming of inflation helped consolidate Brazil’s transformation to a democracy from a military government, and made possible the country’s subsequent success, said Edmar Bacha, a former president of the country’s development bank and one of the architects of Plano Real.
“Itamar’s place in Brazilian history is very safe,” Bacha said, speaking by phone from Rio de Janeiro. “There are two Brazils: one before and one after stabilization.”
Franco served as president until 1994. Last year, he was elected to the Senate from his home state of Minas Gerais.
Franco had been in intensive care at the Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein in Sao Paulo, where he was receiving treatment for leukemia. He was a member of the Popular Socialist Party, which opposes President Dilma Rousseff’s government.