The former president of El Salvador, Francisco Flores, 56, died on Saturday after suffering a stroke as he waited to face trial over embezzlement charges.
Flores ruled the Central American nation from 1999 to 2004 and he had been operated on last Sunday after suffering a stroke that paralysed the right side of his body.
“We regret the death of President Francisco Flores and we sympathise with his family at this time,” his far-right Nationalist Republican Party (Arena) said in a statement.
Flores was accused of embezzling $15mn of aid from Taiwan that was donated after two devastating earthquakes hit the country in 2001. He had siphoned $10mn to give to his party and kept $5mn, according to prosecutors.
Flores maintained his innocence and was under house arrest for the charges.
“He suffered a terrible health crisis, provoked by this unjust political attack,” his wife Lourdes de Flores told local media.
Loyda Robles, one of the plaintiff lawyers against Flores, said his death would end the criminal prosecution, but that the civil litigation would continue.
Flores had a meteoric rise to the presidency, but once there gained a reputation for being arrogant and distant from his people. He became El Salvador’s first president to be charged and put on trial for acts of corruption during his time in office.
“The people will remember him for the terrible dollarisation, for the Firm Hand (to combat crime) and as corrupt,” said Angelica Rivas, who works with a non-profit organisation promoting women’s rights.
Jeannette Aguilar, of the University Institute of Public Opinion at the Central American University Jose Simeon Canas, said that various studies showed Flores’ presidency to be among the worst based on public opinion.
“He was a leader with an arrogant style, a lot of hubris, not close to the people, who responded to the interests of the economic elite who at that time dominated Arena,” Aguilar said.
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