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Former Salvadoran President Flores Dead at 56

  • Associated Press

Former El Salvador President Francisco Flores (C) walks out of his house while being guarded by Deputy Director of Police Howard Cotto (R) and the elite unit Reaction Police Group (GRP) in San Benito neigborhood, San Salvador, Sept. 19, 2014.

Former El Salvador President Francisco Flores (C) walks out of his house while being guarded by Deputy Director of Police Howard Cotto (R) and the elite unit Reaction Police Group (GRP) in San Benito neigborhood, San Salvador, Sept. 19, 2014.

Former Salvadoran President Francisco Flores died Saturday in a private hospital in the capital after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage, his party confirmed.

Flores, 56, had been in a coma since undergoing emergency surgery.

Flores, who led El Salvador from 1999 to 2004, was under house arrest on charges of embezzlement and illegal enrichment. He was accused of diverting more than $15 million, which had been donated by Taiwan to help the victims of earthquakes in 2001. A court says $10 million of that went to the party backing him and the remainder to him.

The conservative Nationalist Republican Alliance, better known as ARENA, which carried Flores to the presidency, mourned his death and said it would support his family. Current Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez also offered his condolences through his official Twitter account.

Doctors last week said Flores had suffered irreversible neurological damage and that his chances of survival were minimal.

Flores had suffered from thrombosis, the clotting of blood in veins. He was hospitalized for it in October 2014. He was hospitalized again Dec. 22, 2015, for an internal hemorrhage.

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.

Born to a well-off, conservative and anti-communist family, Flores rose quickly through the ranks of Arena, which ruled El Salvador between 1989 and 2009. He started in the government of Arena's first president, Alfredo Cristiani, in 1989, when he was still in his 20s.

Just a few days into his new position, a guerrilla attack killed his wife's father. In the 1990s, he served as an Arena legislator and in 1997 was elected president of the legislature.

He won the presidency in 1999, beating former guerrilla commander Facundo Guardado.

Flores took office at the age of 39 as Arena's third consecutive president. He left office in 2004.

During his time in power, El Salvador was hit with successive natural disasters.

Earthquakes in January and February 2001 killed more than 1,000 people and left 200,000 homeless. Later a severe drought destroyed coffee crops.

The corruption scandal and alleged theft of the earthquake-relief funds sealed his reputation with many. The switch to the U.S. dollar as the country's currency also received a huge popular backlash.

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