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Galicia's longest serving president dies at 89

Manuel Fraga, president of Galicia between 1990-2005, died on 15 January 2012 of respiratory problems.

Manuel Fraga, president of Galicia between 1990-2005, died on 15 January 2012 of respiratory problems.

One of the most important and yet controversial politicians in modern Spain, Mr Fraga was the last surviving minister from General Francisco Franco's dictatorship.

Born into a working-class catholic family in rural Galicia in 1922, Mr Fraga began his political career in 1945 and became Franco's youngest minister in 1962.

As a minister of dictator Franco, Mr Fraga cultivated his image as a reformer while defending the regime's actions, including the torture and execution of political opponents.

In the post-Franco years, he made an opportunistic transformation by moving towards a modern conservative position and becoming one of the co-authors of the 1978 Constitution for the new democratic Spain.

Founder of right-of-centre parties Alianza Popular and Partido Popular, he repeatedly failed to win an election until in 1986 he set his sights on Galician politics.

After gaining the support of Galicia's centre-right barons and only facing a divided opposition, Mr Fraga won four elections in a row and remained Galician president for 15 years until he lost the 2005 election.

While his supporters hail him as a statesman who transformed Galicia and built much of its modern infrastructure, his critics point out that he failed to lift the country out of poverty and instituted a political culture based on clan politics and corruption.

A state funeral was held at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where politicians and public figures from Galicia and Spain paid tribute to the late president.

The controversial politician, who always refused to apologise for his part in a dictatorship which killed thousands of supporters of Galician home rule, was buried with a Galician flag in Perbes, a small coastal village where he owned a holiday home.

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