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Spain's first post-Franco prime minister, Adolfo Suarez, is dead

By Al Goodman, CNN
March 23, 2014 -- Updated 1731 GMT (0131 HKT)
Adolfo Suarez, pictured here in 1977.
Adolfo Suarez, pictured here in 1977.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • King Juan Carlos appointed Suarez prime minister in 1976
  • The king calls him "a great servant of Spain and was not always well understood"
  • Suarez, 81, died at a Madrid hospital after a long illness, his family says

Madrid (CNN) -- Former Spanish Prime Minister Adolfo Suarez died at a Madrid hospital Sunday after long illness, his family said. Suarez was 81.

Suarez was Spain's first prime minister in the transition to democracy after the long dictatorship of Francisco Franco, who died in November 1975.

King Juan Carlos, who appointed Suarez prime minister in 1976, issued a televised statement calling him "a great servant of Spain and was not always well understood."

"Suarez is the example that we can together overcome the greatest difficulties," King Juan Carlos said.

Suarez convened the first democratic elections in 1977. He resigned in early 1981, just weeks before an unsuccessful coup attempt by military officers.

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