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Former President of Guatemala, Who Helped End Country’s Civil War, Dies of Heart Attack

Former President of Guatemala and mayor of Guatemala City, Álvaro Arzú, has died at the age of 72. Arzú was playing golf when he had a heart attack and was transferred to a nearby hospital where he passed away.

[Photo: Álvaro Arzú speaks to the United Nations on September 21, 1999. Source:  Reuters/ Ray Stubblebine ]

[Photo: Álvaro Arzú speaks to the United Nations on September 21, 1999. Source: Reuters/ Ray Stubblebine]

Álvaro Arzú was mayor of Guatemala City for five terms. Although a polemical figure, Arzú had been praised during his time as mayor for helping to improve the infrastructure of Guatemala City.

From 1990 to 1993, Arzú served as Chancellor of Guatemala during which he signed off on Belize’s independence from the United Kingdom.

Arzú served as President of Guatemala from 1996 to 2000 and is most known for signing the peace accords with the guerrilla group, Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unit (Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca), ending a 36-year-long armed conflict. The armed conflict, often referred to as a “la violencia” (the violence), lasted from 1960 to 1996 and resulted in over 200,000 casualties, 45,000 disappeared and 100,000 displaced individuals.

The current president of Guatemala, President Jimmy Morales expressed his condolences via Twitter, “Guatemala has lost a great man who dedicated his life to service. Statesman, leader, and a true friend. Rest in peace Álvaro Arzú. My condolences to his family.”

[Photo: Álvaro Arzú, Source: Twitter  @alvaroarzue ]

[Photo: Álvaro Arzú, Source: Twitter @alvaroarzue]

Arzú son, Álvaro Arzú Escobar posted a photograph via Twitter of his father standing near the Guatemalan flag with the caption: “This is how I will remember you. Defending your country with your head held high. I love very much.”

Furthermore, the embassies of the U.S. and Mexico in Guatemala both expressed their condolences.

President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico commemorated Arzú by acknowledging his efforts in “propelling the relationship between their two countries, fomenting closeness and affection between the peoples of Guatemala and Mexico.”

While serving as mayor, Arzú was accused of illegally using public funds to finance his electoral campaign in 2015. Nonetheless, Arzú was never released from his mayoral duties due to a motion put forth by an appellate court.

The current Prime Councilor, Ricardo Quiñónez Lemus, is set to succeed Arzú as Mayor of Guatemala City as outlined by Guatemalan law.