Latin America & Caribbean

Former Brazilian President Itamar Franco dies

Itamar Franco in 2000
Image caption Itamar Franco was seen as an unassuming politician

Former Brazilian President Itamar Franco has died in Sao Paulo aged 81 from complications from leukaemia.

Mr Franco, who had been vice-president, took over the presidential role in October 1992, when then-president Fernando Collor de Mello was facing impeachment proceedings.

He remained in the post until January 1995, at a time of hyper-inflation.

His choice as finance minister, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, is widely credited with stabilising the economy.

Mr Franco was elected in 1990 as the running mate of Fernando Collor de Mello.

He was obliged to step in as corruption charges swirled around Mr Collor. He officially assumed the presidency in December 1992 when Mr Collor resigned.

Mr Franco himself was seen as a modest, unassuming politician and he left office with high approval ratings. He also served as governor of his home state of Minas Gerais.

But he hit the headlines in a dramatic way in 1994 when he was watching the Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro alongside model Lilian Ramos.

As she danced next to the president, photographers took pictures that revealed she was not wearing any underwear.

Mr Franco will also be remembered for the Plan Real, a set of economic measures devised to end Brazil's high inflation rate by raising interest rates and controlling government spending.

After his spell as president, he served as ambassador to Portugal and as Brazil's representative to the Organization of American States.

He was still serving as a senator for Minas Gerais at the time of his death.

On Sunday, Mr Itamar's body will be taken to Juiz de Fora in Minas Gerais, where he grew up and started his political career.

There, his body will lie in state before the cremation in the state capital Belo Horizonte on Monday.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has declared seven days of mourning.