LISBON, Portugal – Former Portuguese president and one of the leading political figures of his generation, Jorge Sampaio, has died. He was 81 years old.
Incumbent Portuguese President Marcelo Rebello de Sosa announced Sampaio’s death on Friday. He did not give a cause of death, although Sampaio had been in critical condition for several years and had been in hospital for the past two weeks.
Sambayev prepared himself to be a fighter and his banner of freedom was freedom and equality.
He said Sampaio was like a “red-haired hurricane” in the 1960s when, as a young lawyer, he fought the then-Portuguese dictatorship.
But in his six-decade political career in Portugal, as a left-wing socialist and later a UN diplomat, Sampaio praised his less important, underground style. He once said that he always wanted to be an orchestra conductor.
Prime Minister Antonio Costa praised Sampaio as one of the best politicians to defend democracy. “We bow to the memory of a man who has always fought for freedom, democracy and whose moral integrity has given dignity to the political life of our country,” Costa said.
He said Portugal would observe three days of national mourning, when the Portuguese flag would be flown at half-staff on government buildings from Saturday. Details of the funeral were to be announced later.
At home, Sampaio was remembered for controversially overthrowing the center-right government in 2004, when he was head of state.
That was when Social Democratic Party leader Jose Manuel Barroso resigned as prime minister to become president of the European Commission. He was replaced by his party’s vice president, Pedro Santana Lopez.
After months of government battles, public mistakes and contradictions, Sampaio called for early elections, which he called a “serious crisis of credibility and instability.”
Subsequent elections gave a landslide victory to the center-left Socialist Party, led by Sampaio.
Sampaio began his political career studying law at the University of Lisbon in the late 1950s, growing in the ranks of underground student movements that opposed Antonio Salzar’s then dictatorship.
After graduating, he defended prisoners tried by special courts, which deal exclusively with political cases.
He overthrew the dictatorship associated with the far-left movements after the Carnation Revolution of 1974 and introduced democracy.
He took up his first official post as Secretary of State in 1975. He was fluent in English when he was eight years old when his father, a famous Portuguese doctor, went to study at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Sampaio, whose mother was an English teacher, also spent time in England as a young man.
He changed allegiance to the mainstream Socialist Party in 1978 and returned to Parliament five times the following year as a Socialist legislator.
Sampaio successfully ran for mayor of the capital, Lisbon, in 1989, when he became leader of the Socialist Party.
His two terms as mayor of the Portuguese capital provided a platform for his re-election in 1996 and his re-election in 2001, winning both elections by a comfortable margin.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed a special envoy for tuberculosis in 2006. The following year, Annan’s successor, Ban Ki-moon, made him a representative of the United Nations’ superior civilizations.