BUENOS AIRES — Former President Nestor Kirchner, the husband of Argentina's current leader and a frequently mentioned possible candidate to succeed her, died suddenly Wednesday (Oct. 27, 2010) from an apparent heart attack. He was 60.
Mr. Kirchner, who guided the country from 2003 to 2007, was a sitting congressman and leader of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's Justicialist Party at the time of his death. He also was secretary-general of the recently formed Union of South American Nations.
Mr. Kirchner collapsed in the early hours Wednesday at the family home in El Calafate, about 1,500 miles south of Buenos Aires, and was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. Fernandez de Kirchner was at his side.
Mr. Kirchner, 60, had undergone an angioplasty after a heart attack in September but was still a likely candidate in next year's presidential elections.
The news shocked Argentines, who by law were staying at home Wednesday to be counted. A mass gathering was planned outside the Casa Rosada, Argentina's presidential palace.
Mr. Kirchner's death prompted an outpouring of condolences from various heads of state. President Barack Obama noted Mr. Kirchner's role in the Union of South American Nations, which was formed in 2008 and modeled after the European Union. And Venezuela's Hugo Chavez said via his Twitter social networking account: "Ah, Cristina, what sadness. Viva Kirchner forever!"
After an intimate ceremony in El Calafate, Mr. Kirchner's body was being flown to Buenos Aires to lie in state in the palace, where a vigil was to begin at noon today.
Mr. Kirchner worked hand-in-hand with his wife to maintain the ruling party's hold on power. Even more than Fernandez, he was seen as the heir to Argentine strongman Juan Domingo Peron and one of the few people capable of managing Argentina's unruly and chaotic political scene.
In addition to Fernandez de Kirchner, the former president is survived by their two adult children, Maximo and Florencia.