Latin America & Caribbean

Former Brazil vice-president Jose Alencar dies

Jose Alencar being visited by President Dilma Rousseff and former President Lula on 23 December 2010
Image caption President Rousseff and former President have led tributes to Mr Alencar

Brazil's former Vice-President, Jose Alencar, has died at the age of 79 after a long battle with cancer.

Mr Alencar served eight years as deputy to former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who left office at the end of last year.

Lula and his successor, President Dilma Rousseff, are cutting short a visit to Portugal to attend his funeral.

Jose Alencar rose from humble origins to become a multi-millionaire businessman before entering politics.

President Rousseff spoke of her "great sadness" at the news of his death.

"It was an honour to have lived and worked with him," she said.

'Brothers'

Lula fought back tears as he paid tribute to his former deputy, calling him "a man of exceptional dimensions".

"Ours was a relationship of brothers and comrades," he said.

Mr Alencar had fought abdominal cancer since 1997, undergoing repeated surgery in Brazil and US.

Born in 1931 in the town of Itamuri in Minas Gerais state as the 11th of 15 children, Mr Alencar worked his way up from poverty to establish a multi-million dollar textile business.

He was elected to the Brazilian senate in 1998.

In 2002 Lula da Silva chose him as his running mate for the presidency in an attempt to win the support of business leaders, who were worried about Lula's left-wing background.

Mr Alencar served two terms as vice-president to Lula, who presided over sustained economic growth and left office in January 2011 as the most popular president in Brazilian history.

More on this story